WASHINGTON, DC – During his formal campaign kickoff announcement earlier this month, Boulder-based investment banker Eric Weissman joked that he would not be able to “out Jared Jared” in his effort to unseat the incumbent, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis.
Though the comment was a subtle dig at Polis’s self-financing abilities—the sixth richest member of Congress, the tech entrepreneur has an estimated worth of nearly $66 million dollars according to Roll Call—the issue of wealth has new significance for this year’s race. A recent insider trading scandal has tied Polis to a widespread practice among Congressmen who use their exclusive access to non-public information to make investments.
The practice is illegal for most Americans, but not for Members of Congress – a little known fact. That is, until recently, when a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and Peter Schweizer of Stanford University’s Hoover Foundation uncovered multiple incidents that would normally be classified as insider trading by lawmakers.
Schweizer, the author of “Throw Them All Out,” his book detailing the extent of insider trading in Congress on both sides of the aisle, found that during the contentious health care debates, Polis made investments that coincided with Congressional action.
In one case, Schweizer said, Polis invested “between $700,000 and $1.5 million” in multiple biotech firms after his committee passed clauses protecting biotech drug exclusivity for longer periods of time than traditionally-branded prescription drugs. After the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, the price of his stock jumped 25%.
In another case, Polis invested heavily in BridgeHealth, a medical tourism company that would benefit should health care reforms drive people to seek cheaper health care abroad.
“It’s really the way the rules have been defined,” said Schweizer in the 60 Minutes interview. “And the people who make the rules are the political class in Washington. And they’ve conveniently written them in such a way that they don’t apply to themselves.”
Polis denied wrongdoing in a Denver Post op-ed, and ultimately joined more than 200 congressman is cosponsoring legislation designed to limit insider trading by lawmakers.
Previous races to represent the Boulder-based Congressional district have been expensive affairs. According to OpenSecrets.com, Polis contributed nearly $6 million dollars to his own campaign when he made his first successful Congressional bid in 2008.
Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg is also seeking the seat.