by Chris White
One of the regulators pegged to oversee the coronavirus stimulus is married to a corporate attorney who touts her history of defending companies in civil and criminal enforcement cases before the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), public records show.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tapped attorney Bharat Ramamurti to sit on the Congressional Oversight Commission, a five-member panel Congress created in March to oversee the $2.2 trillion stimulus package. The commission’s statute does not explicitly require members to disclose their finances, though three of the members are obligated to provide disclosures as they are lawmakers.
Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, argues transparency is key in scrutinizing how the Treasury Department and Fed distribute money. He sent a letter to the Fed in April, for instance, requesting that the agency disclose detailed information about lending transactions, and published an op-ed in The New York Times demanding more strings be attached to the loans.
But he hasn’t disclosed his personal assets.
In 2011, Ramamurti married Paige Ammons, a corporate lawyer whose Linkedin page touts her experience “navigating investigations brought forth by government agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).”
She is a counsel at the law firm Buckley Sandler, whose “clients include 21 of the 25 largest banks in the U.S., as well mortgage and auto lenders, and loan servicers,” according to the Washington, D.C., firm’s website.
A 2017 obituary of Paige’s brother, shows the Ramamurtis were still married as of three years ago, and a deed they signed on their $749,000 home in 2012 has not been altered, according to a copy reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Paige’s donations to the Warren campaign in February show her address matches that shown on Ramamurti’s voter identification.
Paige’s legal work came up in May 2017 when Warren was pushing Bharat for an SEC position.
Congressional rules stipulate that if lawmakers, aides, and other congressional employees earn more than $131,239, then they must disclose personal assets.
Ramamurti earned roughly $37,000 when he worked in Warren’s office from October to January 2019, according to data from Legistorm, a website that tracks congressional salaries. The disclosure threshold that year was $127,914.
Neither Paige nor Bharat have responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
The DCNF reached out to Bharat through the Roosevelt Institute where he is a managing director of corporate power. The left-leaning think tank’s board members include union bosses from the American Federation of Teachers and the Teamsters’s James Hoffa, among other notable labor heavyweights.
The oversight commission includes two Republicans — Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rep. French Hill of Arkansas — neither of whom believe in the kind of conditions Ramamurti is proposing. Toomey, unlike the former Warren aide, believes there should be fewer strings attached to whatever loans the Federal Reserve distributes.
“The Fed’s role is to comply with the statute,” Toomey told Politico on April 28. “If Congress had wanted those restrictions to be in place, it would’ve been in the statute.”
The third member is Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Florida, who faced calls for her removal after she failed to disclose stock sales in 2019. She was required to report her assets under the Stock Act, a law former President Barack Obama signed to prevent insider trading.
Shalala told The Miami Herald in April that she sold stocks in 2019 to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, though she neglected to publicly report the transactions as required under the 2012 law. Pelosi decided Shalala could stay on the committee despite the lack of disclosure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for their part, are homing in on who will chair the watchdog group. The chair has one main responsibility: He or she will act as a tie-breaker for the commission’s toughest decisions. Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all had a hand in choosing the other commissioners.
Neither Pelosi nor McConnell have responded to the DCNF’s request for comment for this article.
Neither responded to the DCNF’s previous request in April to address reports that a Republican who backed Warren’s presidential bid and sat on the board of a China-owned commercial bank in 2017 is the top candidate to head up the watchdog group.
Businesswoman Sheila Bair’s past as a Republican and support for the Massachusetts Democrat is catapulting her to the top of the heap of potential candidates for the position, VICE reported in April.
She was appointed to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s board in 2017 before leaving in March, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Volcker Institute told the DCNF. Bair is the group’s director.
Bair, a former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has been complimentary in the past of China’s approach to business.
“Some of our rules are too complicated. We should learn from China,” Bair told world leaders in June 2019 at the plenary session of the 11th Lujiazui Forum, a platform formed to help government officials, world financial leaders and academics discuss ways to open the market to China.
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