On June 23rd this year, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), sold between $50,001 and $100,000 of Lockheed Martin [LMT] stock held in a joint account, according to a Senate financial disclosure form.
At an April 7th hearing of SASC on the DoD fiscal 2023 budget, Fischer had questioned planned reductions in U.S. Air Force and Navy force structure.
“Under this budget, the Air Force is divesting 369 aircraft this year and buying 87—a net loss of 282,” she told Austin. “The five-year plan projects buying 467 aircraft and divesting 1,468 aircraft, a loss of 1,001 aircraft. And the Navy’s battle force shrinks as well under this budget, dropping from 298 ships today to 280 in FY 2027. I’m open to the concept of divesting from legacy platforms, but I think that is a dangerous way to put stress on the force that we have. So how are we planning to deal with that dilemma? Are we expecting operational demands to fall, and how realistic is that?”
Austin replied that “in terms of divestment and investment, we are investing in those capabilities that will enable us to be decisive in the future fight.”
“And those capabilities that are not survivable in that fight, we have to divest of them,” he said. “And also because they are expensive to maintain, we can use those resources to invest in future capabilities, the kind that we need in the next fight. That’s our strategy. So as you match the budget to the strategy, you’ll find a direct match.”
Fischer then thanked Austin for his testimony and said, “I hope you remember it has to be matched to the will of the American people as well.”
A 2021 financial disclosure form filed by Fischer in May said that she inherited the Lockheed Martin stock from her mother on Dec. 26 last year.
Walter Shaub, Jr., the head of the Project on Government Oversight’s government ethics initiative and the former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics between January 2013 and July 2017, said this week during a podcast that he had “found a video of one senator complaining to the secretary of defense about him reducing the number of aircraft in our arsenal while she held Lockheed Martin stock.”
“And, of course, Lockheed Martin makes many of the planes that we fly and so reducing the arsenal could lower the value of her stock,” Shaub said. “She didn’t break any laws, but the public had no way of knowing that she had stock in Lockheed Martin, while she’s pressing the defense secretary about a budget request that would cut the number of aircraft in our arsenal.”
Shaub said that the “numerous stocks” held and traded by members of Congress “has to have an effect on public confidence” in Congress.
“Let’s be clear that their spouses’ interests are identical to theirs,” Shaub said of congressional members. “The conflict of interest law that applies to 2.1 million federal civilian employees treats their own interest the same as their spouses because, first of all, even in a court proceeding, marital communications are privileged, and you could never get at that. And, second of all, we just have no way of knowing anyways what anybody says to their spouse.”
Leading proponents of bi-partisan legislation to ban congressional stock trading include Reps. Abigal Spanberger (D-Va.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).
In February, Warren and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), introduced S. 3631, the Bipartisan Ban on Congressional Stock Ownership Act, which would forbid stock trading and ownership by members of Congress and their spouses. Co-sponsors include Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).