“60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft surprised House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at their separate weekly news conferences Thursday with pointed questions exploring potential conflicts of interest arising from the leaders’ personal stocks and their participation crafting legislation that could have impacted the value of those investments.
Kroft called into question “a number of trades” he said Boehner made going back to the health care debate, including purchasing “insurance stock right before you declared the public option dead.”
“Did you make those trades based on nonpublic information?” Kroft asked the speaker.
“I have not made any decisions on day-to-day trading activities in my account and haven’t for years,” Boehner, R-Ohio, answered. “I do not do it, haven’t done it and wouldn’t do it.”
About 30 minutes earlier, Kroft asked Pelosi whether she considered it a conflict of interest for she and her husband to participate “in a very large IPO deal from Visa at a time there was major legislation affecting the credit card companies” making its way through Congress.
“What you’re contending is not true,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The fact is your basic premise is a false one.”
At issue is whether then-Speaker Pelosi blocked an alternative measure on credit card swipe fees just months after her husband had purchased stock valued between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000. Visa, which is based in San Francisco, had an initial public offering that was the largest in U.S. history at the time, with about 406 million shares sold and investors paying more than $17 billion for the stock.
Pelosi told Kroft that she was not acting in her own financial interests, pointing out that the House passed a tougher measure in Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, which she says was opposed by the credit card industry so strongly that “they spent $3 million trying to defeat [Maloney] last time.”
“I will hold my record in terms of fighting the credit card companies as a speaker of the House or as a member of Congress up against anyone’s,” she added. “We had passed the Credit Cardholder Bill of Rights. I don’t know what your point is. You like one bill better than another bill? No, this was the big, powerful bill, and in fact, we were able to achieve both once we were able to have a Democratic president.”
Another bill to protect consumers written by then-Judiciary chairman John Conyers, which Kroft called “very unfavorable to the credit card companies,” passed out of committee in October but was never brought to the floor of the House for a vote. At any rate, the House had already passed Maloney’s legislation back in Sept. 2008, although it stalled in the Senate until it was reintroduced in the next session of Congress after President Obama took office.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, in a phone call with ABC News this afternoon, said that “60 Minutes” proposed two alternative dates for an interview with the leader, but Pelosi’s staff was unable to grant the request due to the her busy schedule.
Hammill also said that producers told him that the investigation is based on a forthcoming book written by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author who has advised former Gov. Sarah Palin and GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Boehner’s press secretary, Michael Steel, said a “60 Minutes” producer contacted the speaker’s office twice about the matter but the speaker had not planned to do a formal sit-down interview with Kroft either.
“Each time, we have given essentially the same response the speaker gave on-camera today,” Steel said. “We do not plan to do an interview. We did not know Mr. Kroft would be at the press conference beforehand, but the speaker was obviously happy to answer his questions.”
The report is expected to air Nov. 13.