In May 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (at podium) invited a group of economic experts to the Capitol for a conference. Among the participants was San Francisco investment banker William Hambrecht (third from left behind Pelosi), who also happened to be a business partner of Pelosis husband.
The Pelosis' son, Paul Pelosi Jr., worked at Hambrecht's company as an investment banker from July 2009 to September 2011, but a source familiar with his employment said, "He did not work on any investments that his family had through the company."
The two families have been friends for many years, and the Hambrechts have donated more than $2 million to Democratic campaigns and causes, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Hambrecht did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
Pelosi's invitation of her family's business partner to participate in occasional economic forums on the Hill does not appear to violate any laws or House rules, and it would not violate the STOCK Act, a bill currently being considered by Congress that would apply to Members and staff.
In August 2009, the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) for inviting a friend who was invested in biofuels projects with the Congressman's wife to testify on renewable fuels issues before the Small Business Committee.
The OCE concluded "there is substantial reason to believe that an appearance of conflict of interest was created" when Graves invited his friend to testify. But the Ethics Committee dismissed the case on the grounds that "No relevant House Rule or other standard of conduct prohibits creation of an appearance of conflict of interest when selecting witnesses for a committee hearing."
Pelosi never called Hambrecht as a witness at a hearing, nor did she name him to any official task force.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said, "Bill Hambrecht has been an intellectual resource on both sides of the Capitol. 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."
Hammill added, "Mr. Hambrecht never discussed topics relating to any joint investments or sole investments of his in these meetings."
Pelosi has advanced at least one bill that would have been beneficial to an investment her husband has with Hambrecht, but that doesn't appear to violate House rules either.
In May 2007, Hambrecht's firm managed an initial public offering of stock in a company called Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which provides liquid natural gas fueling stations for fleet vehicles. On the first day the stock was sold, Paul Pelosi invested $50,000 to $100,000 in the company, an investment that does not appear to have produced any profit for the family so far.
The company said in its 2010 annual report, "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."
The NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) Act would provide a series of tax breaks for natural-gas vehicles and require the Energy Department to create new programs to support natural-gas vehicle research and development. The bill is listed on Pelosi's Democratic leader website as part of the party's "Make It in America" agenda, but her office said she does not support the bill.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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