WASHINGTON- Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee, defended his decision Tuesday to purchase stock as a sitting member of Congress and fought back against allegations of failing to disclose certain financial information.
“Everything that I did was ethical, above board, legal, and transparent. The reason that you know about these things is because we have made that information available in real time as required by the House Ethics Committee,” Price said in response to a question from Ranking Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) during his official confirmation hearing. “There isn’t anything that you have divulged here that hasn’t been public knowledge.”
Wyden rejected Price’s explanation.
“Your stake in Innate [Immunotherapeutics] is more than five times larger than the figure you reported to ethics officials when you became the nominee,” Wyden interjected.
“And if you had listened to your committee staff I believe you would know that our belief is that that was a clerical error at the time the 278e (Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure report) was filed. We don’t know where it happened, whether it was on our end or whether it was on the end of the individuals…” Price explained.
“Congressman you also reported it in the questionnaire to the committee and you had to revise it yesterday because it was wrong,” Wyden said.
“And the reason for that is because when asked about the value I thought it meant the value at the time that I purchased the stock,” Price shot back.
Wyden’s questions were in reference to Price’s investments in the Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics, which the Oregon senior senator had described in his opening statement.
Last week Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) questioned Price during his preliminary confirmation hearing as to whether he had “made these purchases based on conversations with Representative” Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who is a member of the Trump transition team, and also is a board member as well as the largest investor in that company.
Price told Murray he had learned about Innate Immunotherapeutics from Collins but did not purchase stock based on advice from his New York colleague.
Price, 62, is the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and is also an orthopedic surgeon.
Trump chose Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services in late November and his selection was met with harsh criticism from many Democrats who expressed concern over Price’s opposition to both the Affordable Care Act and abortion.
Price faces criticism stemming from a December Wall Street Journal article that suggested the Georgia congressman traded in excess of $300,000 in medical stocks during the past four years while working to pass legislation that could have had an impact on those investments.
CNN also reported that Price purchased about $15,000 of Zimmer Biomet stock in March and then about a week later introduced legislation that would have stalled the implementation of a new regulation that could have had a negative impact on the company’s products.
A spokesperson for Price told CNN last Tuesday that the Congressman was not at the time privy to his broker’s decision to purchase the Zimmer Biomet shares.
Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.) in his opening statement expressed his contention that Price and other Trump nominees have been subjected to unprecedented scrutiny from Democrats.
“I have never seen this level of partisan rancor,” Hatch said.