A California Democrat running for Congress has not disclosed his investments in Moderna and Pfizer stocks

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A California Democrat running for U.S. Congress has not reported his investments in two pharmaceutical giants behind key COVID-19 vaccines, Insider found.

Jay Chen, who is running against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in California’s 45th congressional district, only revealed on July 26 that he owned thousands of dollars worth of stock in both Moderna and Pfizer hours later. that Insider contacted him with documents showing he owned his investments.

Federal law requires congressional candidates to publicly disclose their stock holdings in a certified public report shortly after their candidacies are announced.

Chen’s campaign manager, Lindsay Barnes, told Insider in an email that the error was the result of an “honest misunderstanding” of the disclosure requirements, and that Chen had sold his shares in the two companies to the beginning of 2021.

Chen previously disclosed his Pfizer and Moderna stock holdings in an obscure state-level document known as “California Form 700,” which he filed because of its service on Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees.

Chen’s California disclosure, which was filed in April 2021 and obtained by Insider, noted that he personally invested between $2,000 and $10,000 in Pfizer and Moderna stock in late 2020, just before the two companies started. to ship millions of dozens of their COVID-19 vaccines. .

When Chen, as a congressional candidate, submitted his annual federal financial statement to Congress in August 2021, he included every one of his 31 investments listed on the California Form 700, except Moderna and Pfizer stocks. Nor did he mention it in his 2022 disclosure.

“Due to an honest misunderstanding regarding the shift from state to federal disclosure requirements, the campaign unwittingly omitted the transaction from its federal disclosure,” Barnes said. “As soon as the campaign became aware of this discrepancy, we immediately amended the report.

A congressional candidate could be fined if he “knowingly and willfully falsifies a statement or fails to file a statement” under US House guidelines, though officials rarely conduct such investigations.

While candidates and members of Congress are required to submit financial information to the House Ethics Committee, the committee does not proactively check to ensure documents are complete and error-free.

Compare that to the campaign finance sector of the federal government, where the Federal Election Commission has workers who investigate the details of each campaign’s financial disclosures to ensure they comply with federal laws and rules.

The discovery of Chen’s mistake comes as members of Congress debate whether they and their spouses should even be allowed to trade stocks.

When asked, Chen’s campaign manager told Insider that Chen believes members of Congress should “not be allowed to trade individual stocks” and that he would “place his investments in a blind trust s he was elected”.

Donald Sherman, senior vice president and chief counsel at the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Insider that Chen’s failure to disclose Moderna and Pfizer’s investments further underscores the need for a Congressional Trade Ban.

“The fact that members and candidates, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally, withhold information on these forms is exactly the reason why it makes more sense to outright ban members of Congress from buying, exchanging or own individual stocks,” Sherman said.

According to research body OpenSecrets, Chen trails Steel in terms of money raised. Chen raised $3 million to Steel’s $4.7 million, although the two campaigns had nearly the same amount of cash, around $2 million.

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