Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King arrive for a closed-door hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Both of Maine’s U.S. senators report household ownership of dozens of stocks in individual companies, according to their most recent personal financial disclosures required of members of Congress.
Holding stock in individual companies is legal and within Congress’ ethics rules for its members. No allegations have been made of improper conduct by either senator.
But some government watchdogs consider Congress’ personal finance rules overly permissive, and some within Congress – including Maine’s two U.S. House members – have pushed in recent years to ban members from owning stakes in individual companies, saying the practice can present a conflict of interest on a range of issues.
Congressional ethics rules do require all members to disclose their assets worth more than $1,000. Members are not required to report specific amounts, only value ranges that give some sense of their financial interests.
States Newsroom reviewed the most recent disclosures of Maine’s congressional delegation, filed between May and August and covering calendar year 2022, and found the state’s U.S. House and U.S. Senate delegations split on holding individual stocks.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, reported household assets of at least $1.2 million worth of corporate stock in companies including Apple, UnitedHealth Group and Union Pacific Railroad. All stock assets in Collins’ report were attributed to her spouse, the retired Senate staffer and lobbyist Thomas Daffron.
Annie Clark, a spokesperson for Collins, said in a written statement that Daffron’s investments were managed by an adviser. Daffron and Collins married in 2012.
“Tom Daffron has no involvement in the purchase or sale of any of the stocks in his diversified portfolio,” Clark wrote. “These investment decisions are made solely by a third-party advisor. Senator Collins herself does not own any stocks.”
U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also reported owning individual corporate stocks. His and his spouse’s stock holdings amount to at least $243,000 in companies including Marriott, Amazon and UPS.
Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, a senior government affairs manager at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit that investigates corruption and similar issues in the federal government, said Congress’ power to pass legislation or conduct investigations should preclude members from holding individual corporate stocks.
“There’s a lot of things that individual members of Congress and Congress broadly as an institution can do that will directly impact, say, for example, the share price of the individual company or the overall well-being of an industry or sector,” he said in an interview.
Collins, as the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is one of the most powerful members of the chamber. The panel is responsible for directing almost all discretionary federal spending.
Appropriators don’t make decisions about specific government contracts, but do set the amounts federal departments and agencies can spend on programs that might benefit specific companies.
The defense industry can present particular conflicts, Hedtler-Gaudette said.
“They get hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded contracts every year,” he said. “And the people who make the decisions about how much is going to be spent in that area are, of course, members of Congress.”
Defense contractors make up relatively little of Daffron’s portfolio, but their household does own between $30,000 and $100,000 total in Boeing and Raytheon stock.
Daffron has held the Boeing stock since before their marriage, according to Collins’ reports. She has not reported any new stock purchases since she took the top GOP spot on the Appropriations panel in January.
House members’ holdings
Neither of Maine’s U.S. House members, Democrats Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, reported investments in individual corporate stocks.
Golden and Pingree are among the 64 bipartisan co-sponsors of a House bill that would require members of Congress to place their assets in a blind trust.
Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, reintroduced a similar Senate bill last week. The eight original co-sponsors, all Democrats, included Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
A July poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 87% of respondents favored banning Congress from trading individual stocks.
Golden, a Blue Dog Democrat sometimes at odds with his party leadership, has been among the most outspoken members of Congress advocating for a ban on stock trading. He signed onto multiple letters from bipartisan members to House leadership last year asking for votes on bills to address the issue.
Democratic leaders in the last Congress did not bring the measures to a vote and the Republicans now in control of the chamber have not acted either.
Golden, the youngest member of the Maine delegation at 41, is also the only member who falls short of millionaire status. He reported total assets between $102,000 and $356,000.
Collins’ assets total between $2.9 million and $7.5 million, King’s are between $3.9 million and $13.2 million and Pingree’s are between $2.7 million and $11.7 million.
Pingree holds two assets of between $1 million and $5 million. One is Nebo Lodge, an inn and restaurant on North Haven, where Pingree occasionally pours stiff cocktails for patrons, according to a 2013 review on NewEngland.com, and hosts cooking classes, according to a post on the lodge’s Instagram account. The other is an account with Paloma Partners, an investment firm founded and co-led by her former spouse S. Donald Sussman.
Asked to comment for this story, a spokesperson for Golden said the representative’s record spoke for itself.
A spokesperson for Pingree declined to comment. Spokespeople for King did not respond to a request for comment.
Many of King’s stocks are part of a managed portfolio overseen by a professional third party.
But holding stocks in a managed account, where the beneficiary is not generally involved in the day-to-day management, still doesn’t provide enough insulation from potential conflicts of interest, Hedtler-Gaudette said.
While stipulating there was no evidence members of Maine’s delegation have abused their positions, the watchdog said members with managed accounts still have decision-making power over those accounts.
“That’s too much of a risk, and it provides too much of a temptation or opportunity for an unscrupulous member,” Hedtler-Gaudette said.
Editor’s note: This report has been updated to reflect that Collins’ stock assets are attributable to her spouse.
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