Moran’s dual focus illustrates the latitude that every lawmaker has under congressional rules to invest largely as each chooses, a much less regulated approach than what Congress has required for other government officials and private-sector executives.
Moran’s trading has evolved over the years. Between 1995 and 2003, while representing bustling Northern Virginia, Moran made more than 537 options trades, potentially worth more than $3 million in all, according to a Washington Post review of records compiled by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. In 1999, after the congressman lost about $120,000 over two years through options investments, attorneys for Moran’s second wife described his behavior as “stock market gambling” in court papers filed as part of a divorce.
Since Moran’s remarriage in 2004 to a wealthy entrepreneur, his disclosure statements show one of the most actively traded portfolios in Congress, with assets owned by his wife. In early 2005, he personally made more than two dozen risky, short-term investments designed to profit on the rise or fall of stock indices, his disclosure forms show.
Austin Durrer, Moran’s chief of staff, said Moran has not made stock trades himself in five years. Durrer played down the significance of the congressman’s investing activity in the 1990s, saying it had been addressed in his personal financial disclosures and written about in media accounts.
Moran and his wife did not respond to a request for an interview.
In recent years, his forms show that his wife’s holdings have been managed by professional brokers. The sprawling nature of those investments has caused them on occasion to intersect with Moran’s role as a legislator. Recently, the holdings included small investments in two companies for which Moran requested earmarks in 2008, the Post review found. Recently adopted congressional ethics rules require members of Congress to certify that they have no financial interest in the companies that receive their earmarks.
In the case of Moran’s earmarks, Durrer said, there was no conflict of interest because the holdings were modest and placed in diversified accounts managed by professional brokers for Moran’s wife, LuAnn Bennett, an entrepreneur and developer in the Washington region.
“The congressman had no concerns signing the certification,” Durrer said. “The 85 shares worth less than $4,200 were only a small fraction of a broadly diversified account managed outside of her control.”
Not alone in the markets
The type of trading detailed in Moran’s disclosure reports used to be relatively rare on Capitol Hill. But as the number of wealthy lawmakers grew over the past decade, so too did the number of lawmakers who owned stocks or engaged in speculative or sophisticated trades.