Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff has up to $ 1.6 million in stock in companies associated with or directly involved in the White House’s response to the corona virus pandemic, it appears.
There have been calls for an investigation into a potential conflict of interest after it emerged that Pence chief Marc Short not only owns the shares, but has publicly praised two of the companies he invested in while speaking to the press.
Short’s boss Pence has headed the White House Coronavirus Task Force since February, leaving Short exposed to decision-making regarding the administration’s response to the outbreak.
However, the law requires employees of executive departments to resolve conflicts of interest before taking part in decisions or deliberations that affect companies in which they have invested.
Still, many of the medical, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing companies Short and his wife are in stock, affected, or directly involved in the pandemic response.
Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, pictured along with the vice president, owns between $ 506,043 and $ 1.64 million in individual stocks in companies related to or directly involved in the White House’s response to the outbreak, according to NPR
According to NPRShort owns between $ 506,043 and $ 1.64 million in individual company shares related to the White House’s response to the outbreak.
The law that states that conflicts of interest must be resolved before any decision-making extends also extends to spouses and children, and violations may involve potential civil and criminal penalties.
It is not yet known whether Short has participated in government policy decisions that could affect the companies or sectors in which he has personal financial interests.
However, in his role as Pence’s chief of staff, he has spoken publicly about some of the companies several times.
These included 3M, to which he publicly responded during an interview with Fox News on March 18.
“The Vice President traveled to 3M Manufacturing, Minnesota, a few weeks ago,” Short said during the interview, before calling them the “primary producers” of masks.
He owns between $ 65,002 and $ 150,000 in production company shares.
Short also praised Honeywell’s work in which he holds between $ 50,001 and $ 100,000 in shares, speaking of their work producing respirators on March 20.
“We are even encouraged that the partnership with the private sector can meet many of these needs,” he told reporters.
“As some of you know, Honeywell is completely tweaking one of their factories to produce more masks.”
Short has spoken publicly about several of the companies in his role as Pence’s chief of staff. He is pictured here on Meet the Press on February 23
Short also informed the press on other occasions, despite owning the shares that could cause the conflict.
He was interrogated by reporters on February 4 and addressed the federal government’s coronavirus response on March 20 and March 24 on CNBC, on March 19 and March 21 on Fox News and on March 25 on CNN, according to NPR.
In addition to holding shares in companies directly involved in the pandemic response, Short also owns shares in companies praised by the administration for their work with the federal government, including CVS, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Walmart, and Roche.
Some of Short’s largest equity investments include $ 53K- $ 145K in Thermo Fisher Scientific, touted by President Trump on March 13 and attending the White House on April 27.
He owns between $ 16K- $ 65K worth of CVS that appeared at a White House Rose Garden event on March 13 and ran coronavirus drive-through testing sites.
He also owns between $ 116,000 and $ 315,000 in Procter & Gamble, which appeared on March 30 during a coronavirus task force briefing, and between $ 51,000 and $ 115,000 in Pfizer, who attended the March 2 meeting at the White House.
A list of the shares that Short holds in companies that are affiliated with or directly involved in the White House’s response to the outbreak. They include 3M and Honeywell, whom he has publicly praised as he spoke to the press in his role as the vice president’s chief of staff
It is now being called for an investigation into Short’s share ownership and whether a conflict of interest has been caused.
Former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub told NPR that he believed an investigation was necessary.
“This is now a red alarm. We have enough information to know that there is a serious potential conflict of interest and a very realistic chance that he has participated in matters that are damaging to his financial interests, ”he said.
“We won’t know unless the FBI or the Department of Public Integrity at the Department of Justice conduct a good investigation.”
Shaub is now with the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who first highlighted the potential conflict of interest.
Short previously listed the shares of approximately 100 companies when he re-entered the Trump administration in March 2019 as Pence chief of staff.
They include companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Gilead Sciences, Procter & Gamble, Medtronic, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson.
Short himself acknowledged that the stock can have a potential conflict of interest when he applies for a tax credit that is often granted to government officials who must sell shares to comply with ethical laws. His application for tax relief was rejected, but he kept the shares
However, he has not divested these shares, despite emphasizing the potential conflict of interest in filing for a tax credit that is often granted to government officials who must sell shares to comply with ethical laws.
The Office of Government Ethics Divestment Certificate allows for capital gains tax deferral and is designed to reduce the burden of compliance with federal ethical laws.
Short was denied the tax break because many shares were in trusts for family members, making them difficult to divest.
“OGE would not issue a divestment certificate for individual shares because, after such divestiture, the shares in irrevocable generation-skipping trusts established for the benefit of his children over which Mr. Short has no independent control will continue to exist,” said Pence spokesman Devin O. Malley.
Despite acknowledging that they had a potential conflict of interest in filing for the tax relief, Short held on to the stock – even those not in trusts – when his filing was rejected.
Refusal of a tax reduction application is not considered a reason not to divest the stock if there is a potential conflict of interest.
“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the government official to take all necessary steps to ensure that they are either free from potential conflicts of interest or to stay away from problems that may conflict with those personal financial interests,” said Don Fox, a former general counsel and acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, at NPR.
Fox added that even to apply for the certificate, federal employees must confirm that they have potential conflicts of interest that require divestiture.
‘Applying for a divestment certificate is not asking for approval. It is looking for a tax cut, “Shaub added.
Not issuing a divestment certificate does not prevent you from divesting. It prevents you from getting a tax break. ‘
Experts have said that Short should repel or withdraw from issues that could affect his personal financial interests.
“It’s not uncommon for someone in those positions to essentially get rid of all common stock … because you really can’t anticipate what kind of information or what kind of decisions their directors – their bosses – will have to make,” Fox said.
“If you are going to do this kind of work, you should be able to do everything without worrying about conflicts of interest or refusals or solutions.”
However, the administration has defended Short’s actions.
“Marc Short has followed all applicable ethical laws and even tried to get rid of potential financial conflicts,” said spokesman O’Malley.
Moreover, mr. Short worked on a number of occasions, including since the founding of the coronavirus task force, with a legal advisor to implement appropriate rejections. ”
The vice president’s office has not commented on why Short did not divest potentially conflicting shares outside of the trusts.
Short has been Pence’s chief of staff since March 2019, and evidence shows that he has been repeatedly implicated in the White House’s response to the corona virus crisis.
According to The Washington PostShort even set the agenda and sent the White House seat card for the coronavirus task force.