Banking expert praised by Pelosi was also a major family business partner

Will Rahn Senior Editor
Font Size:

During her tenure as speaker of the House, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi invited investment banker William Hambrecht to participate in multiple economic meetings with her party’s leadership without revealing her extensive personal and financial relationship with him.

According to Roll Call, which reported this story, Pelosi never disclose her relationship with Hambrecht, and was not required to do so by House rules.

The links between Hambrecht and Pelosi are a matter of public record, the paper reports. Hambrecht was Pelosi’s son’s boss between July 2009 and September 2011. Pelosi’s husband, Paul, has holdings in a half-dozen companies linked to Hambrecht. The Pelosis purchased a team in Hambrecht’s nascent United Football League for $12 million in 2009, just days before the then-speaker invited Hambrecht to participate in an economic forum and press conference.

At the press conference, Pelosi introduced Hambrecht and several others as “leading economists,” telling reporters they would talk about “some of their forecasts that they told us about — some of the options that we may have in investments, in tax policy, in budgetary overview, on how we create jobs in the most fiscally sound way.”

Not all of the Pelosis’ investments with Hambrecht — a major Democratic donor — were successful. One, however, earned Paul Pelosi between $100,000 and $1 million in 2010, and a brokerage account he held with Hambrecht’s firm is worth somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.

“Bill Hambrecht has been an intellectual resource on both sides of the Capitol,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told Roll Call. “In these meetings, Hambrecht has spoken about the need, in light of the financial crisis, to help keep homeowners in their homes, help small businesses grow and hire, and help small banks gain access to credit — all macroeconomic goals to grow and stabilize our economy and strengthen our competitiveness.”

While Pelosi’s behavior was legal, and although she never illegally called him as a witness at a hearing, Roll Call also reports that the Pelosis invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in a clean energy firm on the first day stock was sold in the company. That company, Clean Energy Fuels Corp., had its initial public offering of stock managed by Hambrecht’s firm.

That investment doesn’t seem to have turned a profit for the Pelosis so far, and part of the reason is because legislation known as the NAT GAS act — a bill that would have provided federal subsidies for natural gas vehicles that could be refueled at stations the company produces — never made its way through Congress.

“We were disappointed in 2010 when the Nat Gas act, which was structured to help promote natural gas vehicle deployment in the United States, failed to move through Congress. … The Legislation would be good since it would accelerate the deployment of vehicles, but our business is not dependent on it and we continue to move forward without it,” Clean Energy Fuels Corp. reported in its 2010 annual statement.

Although the NAT GAS act is listed on Pelosi’s website as part of the Democrats’ “Make It In America” agenda, Hammill told Roll Call that she does not support the legislation.

“Leader Pelosi opposes the larger NAT GAS legislation in its current form because she doesn’t believe we need to subsidize natural gas at this level given that it is so plentiful,” he told Roll Call. “The legislation is a very large subsidy of up to $9 billion.”

Pelosi did, however, vote for a bill that included some of the subsidies included in the NAT GAS act. Again, her support of that bill was legal because House rules only forbid members from voting on bills that would financially benefit only themselves, and in this case, Pelosi’s vote would benefit all investors in natural gas companies — not just her family.

“This investment was made in 2007, and we reject the idea that Leader Pelosi would act in the Congress upon an investment,” Hammill told Roll Call. “Leader Pelosi has long said that our energy independence is critical to our national security and economic security. … Obviously, natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels and will be part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future.”

Follow Will on Twitter