In recent days, Enrique Gonzalez, an immigration lawyer who in January became Rubio’s immigration policy counsel, has answered questions about the bill over the phone with a financial analyst, according to the senator’s spokesman. Another staffer met last week with an analyst from the investment bank Barclays Capital, who quickly revised his assessment of the bill’s potential cost to a major outsourcing firm.
A number of current and former congressional staffers said talking with investors and research analysts is common, akin to answering questions from lobbyists and reporters about intricate pieces of legislation. In March, a top staffer for Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) spent half an hour talking to investors on a private conference call about health-care policy.
But the ways investors acquire “political intelligence” are facing public scrutiny since federal investigators issued subpoenas last month in a case in which a Washington brokerage advised clients about a Medicare funding decision before the administration announced it, triggering a surge in health-care stock trading.
Such information is often distributed to narrow audiences, whether in an analyst report that’s given to clients and those with special subscriptions or, as in the call with Hatch’s staffer, information in a private call given straight to big investors such as hedge funds.
The Barclays analyst, for instance, issued a report to investors titled “Meetings in Washington Provide Incremental Insights on Immigration Bill.” The analyst described “key takeaways” from his sessions with not only Rubio’s staff but also the offices of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), another sponsor of the bill, as well as Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and other House staffers.
Most notably, the analyst said he gained a “new understanding” of the scope of regulations that would apply to outsourcing firms — that he was mistaken about the bill, and that the impact would not be as negative as had been anticipated. He thought that the market, too, misunderstood the bill, and that the market’s pricing “overstates the negative impact of the legislation for the first several years.”
Congressional staffers argue that the information is accessible to the public. A Barclays spokesperson said its published reports are distributed to clients and are available to the media upon request. And in the case of the immigration bill, there is no evidence that improper trading has resulted from these meetings or calls.
“Our office’s policy is to be as transparent and open as possible when people ask us questions about issues we’re working on,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio. “Our staff have had dozens of meetings and calls in recent weeks with dozens of individuals and groups to discuss immigration reform. We welcome people’s input, and work hard to answer questions about the legislation.”