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 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.
Hammill said, "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. The legislation is a very large subsidy of up to $9 billion."
In May, Pelosi led other House Democrats in unveiling two energy bills, including one proposed by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) that incorporated some of the provisions of the NAT GAS Act but was less generous to the natural-gas vehicle industry.
Hammill explained, "In our Make It in America initiative, we included a much smaller portion of the NAT GAS Act — only costing $1.4 billion — to make investments so that we have a tax credit for heavy natural-gas vehicles and heavy hybrid vehicles."
Pelosi's endorsement of the bill, and even a vote in favor of it, would not violate House rules either because the House bars Members from voting only on matters in which they have "a direct personal or pecuniary interest." The Ethics Committee has interpreted that prohibition to apply only when a Member would be the sole beneficiary of a Congressional action, not when the Member would profit as part of a group of beneficiaries. In this case, Pelosi is supporting legislation that would boost all natural-gas vehicle companies, and all investors in those companies, not just her family's investment.
Hammill said Pelosi's support of natural-gas vehicles has nothing to do with her husband's investments.
"This investment was made in 2007, and we reject the idea that Leader Pelosi would act in the Congress upon an investment," Hammill said. "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."
The STOCK Act, intended to prevent insider trading by Members of Congress and staff, would apply to stock trades made on the basis of nonpublic information Members have about legislation that would affect the stock price but would not apply to Members advancing legislation that benefits stock they already own.