Jill Stein’s Ideology Says One Thing—Her Investment Portfolio Says Another
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein has largely based her campaign on her uncompromising positions on the environment, opposition to big banks and Wall Street, defense contractors, and the pharmaceutical industry. But an analysis of her financial disclosures, which she was required to file as a presidential candidate, show she is heavily invested in the very industries that she maligns the most and as a result of her investments, she has built significant wealth.
According to the financial-disclosure form she filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics on March 30, 2016, Stein and her husband, Richard Rohrer, have investments (with the exception of real estate) valued at anywhere from $3,832,050 to $8,505,000. (Stein told The Daily Beast she inherited “over a half-million dollars” from her parents.) We don’t know their exact net worth because filers are only required to provide a range of the value of their investments as opposed to exact values.
Stein has also voluntarily released the first two pages of her 2015 federal tax return. That return, filed jointly with her husband, shows a total income of $349,088 in 2015 and an effective tax rate of 21 percent. In a video interview, Stein told a reporter for Forbes in 2012 that she does not rely on accountants or lawyers to prepare her tax returns. In the interview, she said she uses the popular do-it-yourself software Turbo Tax. An examination by The Daily Beast of her 2015 tax return confirms that no outside party was involved in preparing her returns.
Stein, a Harvard-educated physician, has run for office seven times, including two unsuccessful races for Massachusetts governor and a run for the White House in 2012. In the 2012 presidential race, Stein received 469,501 votes.
She has made purity a central pillar of her presidential candidacy, and she has held that the Green Party reigns above all others with respect to moral and ethical supremacy. In an interview with CNN last April, she said, “I have long since thrown in the towel on the Democratic and Republican parties because they are really a front group for the 1 percent, for predatory banks, fossil-fuel giants, and war profiteers.”
Most of Stein’s investments are in mutual funds or index funds. Experts suggest these funds, which are usually highly diversified, provide more consistent returns than picking individual stocks.
It’s important to note that politicians from all parties have been held accountable for their mutual- and index-fund investments. Elected officials and candidates like Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, and many members of Congress have had their fund investments called into question and have been pushed to divest for various reasons.
To learn more about the funds Stein has invested in, The Daily Beast did not have to engage in significant research by any definition. A simple Google search of the name of each of the funds she has invested in returned publicly available marketing documents produced by the investment managers that showed where these funds were investing their capital.
Mutual funds often share the top 10 or top 25 largest holdings in their portfolio and we relied only on this data to determine the composition of these funds.
Stein’s controversial investments include:
Big Carbon. On Oct. 26, 2015, Stein’s campaign sent out a statement calling for Exxon to get the death penalty for its “climate-change fraud.” (it should be noted that Stein has called for the abolition of the death penalty for human beings). She has also repeatedly called for public pension funds to divest from companies in the fossil-fuel industry.
Yet Stein has invested $995,011 to $2.2 million in funds such as the Vanguard 500 fund that maintain significant stakes in Exxon and other energy companies like Chevron, Duke Energy, Conoco Phillips, and Toho Gas, a Japanese company that engages in the sale of natural gas, tar, and coke, a fuel made from coal.
Financial Industry. Like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Stein has consistently denounced the banking industry and Wall Street. She has said that big banks should be nationalized or broken up. And she has refused to agree that there is a stark difference between how the Democrats have regulated the financial-services industry and how Republicans have approached the same task.
Yet Stein has invested roughly $1.2 to $2.65 million in funds like the TIAA-CREF Equity Index that have big stakes in the financial-services industry. Holdings in these funds include big banks like JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank as major parts of their investment portfolios. Five of the funds that Stein invests in maintain large positions in Wells Fargo, which has come under fire recently amid charges that its employees were pressured to open up fraudulent new accounts for clients.
One of the funds Stein has invested in maintains a significant position in Goldman Sachs bonds. Stein once referred to Goldman Sachs as Hillary Clinton’s best friend. She has also invested in a fund that contains significant investments in mortgage-backed securities, including subprime mortgage-backed securities, and mortgage-backed derivatives. These financial instruments played a significant role in the financial crisis of 2008.
Big Pharma. Stein has been a stalwart opponent of what she sees as the corrupt influence of the pharmaceutical industry. She posted a tweet that said:
“I believe that healthcare should serve people not the interests of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, unlike the DNC or Hillary.”
In one of the handful of direct stock investments Stein holds, she listed between $50,001 and $100,000 in the pharmaceutical giant Merck, which paid a record fine for overbilling Medicaid. She has also invested $1,130,010 to $2,400,000 in funds that maintain significant stakes in Pfizer, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and Allergan.
Big Tobacco. Investing in the tobacco industry or accepting contributions from the tobacco industry is often seen as a third rail in progressive politics. But Stein has between $500,004 to $1,100,000 invested in funds that maintain significant stakes in Phillip Morris International, the tobacco giant that manufactures Marlboro cigarettes and 17 other tobacco brands.
Defense contractors/drones. Stein has made her opposition to the use of drones by the U.S. military a key message in her campaign. She said, “Increased use of drone warfare under Obama is killing many innocent civilians, over 90 percent of deaths were unintended targets in Afghanistan,” and she has referred to the drone program as a “fabulous recruitment tool for terrorists.”
Yet she has between $50,001-$100,000 invested in a fund that has Raytheon Corp. as its fourth largest holding, a $38 million investment. Raytheon, which is the fourth largest defense contractor in the world and derives 90 percent of its revenue from military contracts, manufactures drone systems, which Stein has committed to ending, and significant missile systems.
In response to detailed questions from The Daily Beast, Stein’s campaign issued a four-point statement of nearly 500 words. “Like many Americans who hold retirement accounts, pension funds, or who invest in the American economy,” the statement begins, “my finances are largely held in index funds or mutual funds over which I have no control in management or decision-making. Sadly, most of these broad investments are as compromised as the American economy—degraded as it is by the fossil-fuel, defense and finance industries.”
While it’s true that Stein would not have control over the investments of the funds she invested in, she did have a choice of whether to invest in these funds to begin with. In the past, political candidates, in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest or have their judgment called into question, have invested their entire portfolios in U.S. Treasuries, cash/cash equivalents, in socially responsible index funds, or clean-energy funds. In her statement, Stein said that she has “explored” more socially responsible funds but “found their investments in fracking and large-scale biofuels not much better than the non-green funds. I have not yet found the mutual funds that represent my goals of advancing the cause of people, planet, and peace.”
While Stein claims that she had difficulty finding funds that aligned with her values, she didn’t explain why she chose to remain in funds that are completely disjointed from her values. Many critics say clean-energy and socially responsible investment funds offer a poor rate of return and should generally be avoided. And with the Fed keeping interest rates below 1 percent, U.S. Treasuries and cash/cash equivalents don’t offer a high rate of return by anyone’s standard.
Which likely explains why Stein chose to invest her wealth in funds that have often offered double-digit returns. Stein, like Ralph Nader, who was the Green Party presidential nominee in 2000, has been steadfast in refusing to be framed as a potential spoiler of the 2016 presidential race. When asked during a CNN Green Party town-hall forum if she was concerned that her candidacy would help usher in a Trump presidency, Stein said, “I will have trouble sleeping at night if Donald Trump is elected. I will also have trouble sleeping at night if Hillary Clinton is elected.”
In 2006, Ms. Stein retired from teaching and medicine to focus full-time on her political activism. There’s little doubt that her decision to retire was made easier by the substantial returns her investments were producing, even if they went against her life’s work.