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Group urges scrutiny of Sen. Bob Corker for hedge fund ties

Group urges scrutiny of Sen. Bob Corker for hedge fund ties
© Greg Nash

A watchdog group has filed complaints against Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Dem Senator: Congress will act on death of Saudi journalist Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (Tenn.) with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee, claiming the Republican may have broken the law by failing to disclose hedge fund investments.

The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) on Monday said that Corker, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a senior member of the Senate’s banking panel, “concealed information about his stake in hedge funds that are managed by his campaign donors.”

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“Sen. Corker hasn’t just made a mockery of Senate disclosure rules, he may have committed a crime,” said the group’s executive director, Anne Weismann, in a statement. “Authorities should investigate why Sen. Corker was so intent on hiding the underlying assets of these funds that he filed inaccurate disclosure forms year after year.”

The Tennessee senator rejected the complaints as part of smear campaign by the group.

“This is yet another baseless accusation by this political special interest group. These claims are categorically false and nothing more than a smear campaign,” a Corker spokesman told The Hill.

“When amending the senator's financial disclosure report, our office worked directly with the Senate Ethics Committee to ensure items were reported accurately and in line with Senate guidelines.” 

In the most recent complaint, the CfA says that in addition to not properly disclosing the underlying assets of each hedge fund, enforcement officials should probe the relationship the senator has with the hedge funds in which he is invested.

The group said that, since 2004, Corker has received more than $204,000 in campaign contribution from top employees or family members of the Tennessee-based hedge funds in his portfolio: Gerber/Taylor Management Company, TSWII Management Company and Pointer Management.  

CfA also said the founder of TSWII, L. H. Caldwell III, was one of the co-chairs to Corker’s campaign committee during the 2006 election cycle. Caldwell and his family have given a total of $93,280 to the Tennessee Republican’s fundraising vehicles, including 13 contributions by Caldwell’s children, who listed their occupations as “students” on federal forms.

On those donations, “the address provided was for the Caldwell family home in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, even when they had jobs and lived elsewhere, raising questions about whether Mr. Caldwell was the real donor,” CfA said.

“It’s clear Sen. Corker has made a fortune investing with his top campaign contributors and has broken ethics rules to avoid scrutiny of these relationships,” said Weismann, who formerly served as the chief counsel of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “The SEC, the Senate ethics committee and the Department of Justice should all take a long, hard look and see what, exactly, the senator has been working so hard to hide.”

The group has made allegations to congressional ethics and federal enforcement officials against the senator before. 

Following a Wall Street Journal report last year that examined how Corker purchased and sold stock in a real estate investment company, sometimes in close proximity to announcements by the firm, CfA called for an investigation into the lack of disclosure around those trades.

Corker amended forms going back to 2007 — which had also omitted millions of dollars in income — and called the misfiling and irregularities an “oversight” that he chalked up to “filing errors.”

“I am extremely disappointed in the filing errors that were made in earlier financial disclosure reports,” he told the Wall Street Journal through a spokesman in December. “After completing a full, third-party review, we have corrected this oversight.”