When Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) came before congressional investigators earlier this year to explain why he hadn’t disclosed hundreds of stock trades in a timely manner, the Long Island congressman currently running for governor had quite the explanation.
Suozzi actually told investigators he was too busy to deal with the “formality” of reporting hundreds of trades—and actually pinned the blame on the ethics office for not sending him constant reminders or issuing him a dedicated staffer devoted to compliance.
“Quite frankly, we have a lot going on in Congress. I have a lot of other stuff going on. And it’s just not—ethics is a big priority for me. But… the… some of the formalities are not necessarily something I make a priority of,” the congressman said, according to a deposition transcript.
Besides, he hired someone else to trade stocks for him, so he didn’t believe he needed to report every time he bought and sold shares of dozens of corporations.
“I was under the impression that because I had [broker-directed] accounts that they traded at their discretion, that my requirement was to fill out an annual disclosure. And I did fill out an annual disclosure every year,” he told congressional investigators this year.
In his deposition, Suozzi told investigators he left the trading to an independent stock broker, which—he believed—somehow excused him from the requirement of showing when he bought or sold stock.
For example, when Suozzi’s stockbroker purchased more than $50,000 of Tesla stock in March 2021—and when the broker sold the very next month, just as fellow congressmen began to raise concerns over the car company’s autopilot feature—Suozzi was obligated to disclose that information within 45 days. He didn’t.
Suozzi was one of three congressmen who were let off the hook last week when the House Ethics Committee—notorious for not taking action in all but the most egregious violations—chalked up their failure to report stock trades as innocent mistakes.
In a statement on July 29, the bipartisan Ethics Committee officially declared that “there was not clear evidence that the errors and omissions… were knowing or willful, and that the members were generally unclear on the requirements.”
When it actually published investigative documents three days later, it became clear that Suozzi remained defiant when he was forced to face his mistakes earlier this year—and offered some novel defenses.
During a virtual sit down with House ethics lawyers on Jan. 12, attorney Omar Ashmawy asked the congressman whether changes could be made to help politicians file their disclosures when they’re supposed to.
Suozzi suggested each member of Congress should have their own ethics adviser.
“Well, I think that, you know, there is [sic] only 435 members of Congress,” Suozzi replied. “And so I think that every single member of Congress should have someone from the Ethics Office that is responsible for that member. So like everybody has got their staff member. And that staff member should be, you know, responsible for saying, ‘Hey, you know, you didn’t take your class, you didn’t file your reports, you didn’t do…