It’s curious that members of Congress who live and work in one of the most expensive U.S. cities and make $170,000 a year in pay seem to fight for that job. We’re told by their frequent motions for personal pay increases they cannot afford to work and live in D.C. And they expect us to bow and thank them for their working for government sacrifice for Americans. Yeah, Right!
They all start at the same salary, and they almost all end their Congressional careers as multi-millionaires.
Their secret? Job “fringe benefits.”
Let’s look at how just one member of the House of Representatives “brings home the bacon:” Nancy Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi married into bucks. She came from bucks herself. But none of those “bucks” amounted to near what the Pelosi family is worth today. And Nancy opened the door to those big dollars — maybe ALL legally. After all, it seems that Congress is the place to go if one wants to become powerful and enjoy all the perks that go with that job in Congress.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of wonderful and honest people who are serving the nation and their constituents honestly in Congress. Then there are plenty of others who maybe don’t cross the line when it comes to the Law, but they certainly get as close to the line as they can without stepping over.
I’ll put Speaker Pelosi in the latter. How so?
Before becoming Speaker, Nancy steered more than a billion dollars in subsidies to a light rail project that benefitted a company run by a high-dollar Democratic donor and in which her husband is a major investor. When cloud computing giant Salesforce sold a large plot of land to the Golden State Warriors, it had House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to thank for helping to swell real estate prices in the area.
Pelosi worked for more than a decade to steer taxpayer funds to a light rail project in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, where Salesforce had planned a new campus. Experts say the project boosted the value of Mission Bay real estate. The company’s CEO, Marc Benioff, is a high-dollar Democratic donor. Pelosi and her leadership PAC are among the recipients of his generous campaign contributions. Pelosi’s husband is also a major Salesforce investor. Pelosi’s tireless advocacy for federal support for San Francisco’s light rail system has come under scrutiny for potentially enriching another liberal billionaire, hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. (Does that name sound familiar? Like, in the impeachment of Donald Trump)
In Salesforce’s case, Pelosi’s work appears to have financially benefitted not just a Democratic mega-donor, but also a company in which Pelosi’s direct family owns a large stake as well as valuable real estate holdings in her husband’s portfolio. Salesforce paid $278 million for 14 acres in Mission Bay in 2010. It bought the land from a group called Alexandria Real Estate Equities, which had purchased it from FOCIL-MB, a division of Democratic financier Tom Steyer’s hedge fund. The exact dollar figure of its sale to the Warriors was not released. “We paid a very pretty penny,” the team’s co-owner said.
Real estate values in Mission Bay have skyrocketed over the past decade as the city works to transform the former industrial neighborhood. “From a decrepit and seemingly abandoned old rail yard 15 years ago, Mission Bay has sprouted into San Francisco’s fastest-growing neighborhood,” the San Francisco Business Times reported. San Francisco real estate is some of the most expensive in the nation, and Mission Bay has seen some of the fastest-growing property values in the city in recent years.
Contributing to that rise has been the expansion of the city’s Third Street Light Rail line. Studies on the financial effects of public transit projects, including one that looked specifically at the Third Street expansion, have found that they increase property values in surrounding areas. Pelosi has been the expansion’s champion at the federal level. Starting in 2003 and since, she has secured well over a billion dollars for the project in the form of earmarks, federal funding agreements, and stimulus disbursements. That work has come under scrutiny since it was revealed that Farallon was a major landholder in Mission Bay as Pelosi, a recipient of Steyer campaign contributions and an ally of the billionaire environmentalist, steered taxpayer money to the light rail extension.
A 2004 real estate deal gave Farallon ownership of roughly two million square feet of commercial space in Mission Bay. Salesforce’s planned campus in the area was a bit smaller but still significant: according to documents submitted to the San Francisco Planning Department, its four buildings would have comprised nearly 1.5 million square feet. An increase in the value of Salesforce’s real estate from 2010 to its sale would mean a financial gain for the company and its investors, one of whom is Pelosi’s husband. According to her most recent personal financial disclosures, filed in May of this year, Paul Pelosi owns a stake in Salesforce worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Pelosi first invested in the company in 2000, when he purchased between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock. According to financial news service Motley Fool, “Pelosi seems to have acquired shares in a private offering” prior to the company’s 2004 initial public offering. Its stock has soared since then. It debuted at $3.75 a share on June 23, 2004. As of last Thursday, July 18, 2019, it was trading near $153!
Does that sound at all to you like a bit of a conflict of interest? The Democratic leader’s investments in companies with business before the House came under intense scrutiny in 2011 and 2012 when Congress debated measures governing “insider trading” by members of Congress. An eventual law imposing stricter regulations on members’ financial activities even included language informally dubbed the “Pelosi provision” due to her and her husband’s participation in IPOs of companies actively lobbying for or against federal legislation.
Much of the information and Pelosi’s and other members’ “insider trading” came to light in Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out, which investigated cronyism and self-serving financial deals by members of Congress. In addition to his reporting on Pelosi’s IPO participation, Schweizer revealed that her husband owns property in San Francisco that will likely benefit from the Third Street light rail extension. Two stops on the extended light rail line are about three blocks from a four-story office building owned by Paul Pelosi. According to disclosure forms, the property, at 45 Belden Place, is worth between $1 million and $5 million. He made between $100,000 and $1 million in rent from the property last year.
“The National Association of Realtors says that high-quality mass transit (like [the Third Street light rail]) can increase property values by ‘over 150 percent,’” Schweizer noted. “There’s a sweet spot for obtaining the maximum transit premium: two to four blocks away is ideal.”
That was roughly the distance from Salesforce’s planned campus to a Mission Bay stop on the light rail line as well.
In addition to the potential financial benefits of that “transit premium” for investors such as Pelosi, the light rail extension worked to the advantage of Salesforce itself. The company, which would not say whether it realized a gain on its sale to the Warriors, is aided financially by several high-dollar Democratic donors.
CEO Marc Benioff bundled half-a-million dollars for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He donated an additional $300,000 to Democratic candidates according to data compiled by CQ Moneyline. Benioff is more bipartisan in his contributions than many prominent Obama supporters, but his Democratic donations dwarf the $62,000 he’s given to Republicans. One of Benioff contributions before the 2012 election was Pelosi, to whom the Salesforce CEO maxed out with two $2,500 payments. He gave another $5,000 to Pelosi’s leadership PAC and $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee the same day.
Those contributions came just four months after Pelosi secured $967 million in federal funding for the Third Street light rail project.
This all sounds amazingly secretive and certainly disingenuous. Think about it: those who work for us and have the exclusive right to craft and implement every federal law in existence are very obviously stretching the parameters of their own regulations — like “conflict of interest” — to personally enrich themselves using that power. All the while they are preaching to Americans the government needs more and more tax revenue to “take care of the business and personal needs of ALL Americans.”
Don’t think this story is complete. There are several more instances of Pelosi led financial wrongdoing that we have uncovered. We’re going to come back to you with one you’ve heard of on a broader scale, but I bet you didn’t know Pelosi and her family were right in the middle of it. Do you remember that $792 Billion Obama stimulus? It was actually called the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” It should have been called instead the “American 2009 Porkulous Investment Act for Political Elites.” (Yes, I invented the word Porkulous)
By the way, it probably comes as no surprise to you that we reached out to the House Speaker’s office for comment on this story — four phone calls over two weeks and no response. Are you shocked!?
The meat of the exposed Pelosi conflicts is far too extensive to restrict to this one story. We’ll have a second part tomorrow. If you think today’s story was a really deep narrative about things that most Americans have expected for decades but had never been revealed, wait until you see Part II of this! It’s worse. Don’t miss it!