Q: Is Nancy Pelosi heavily invested in T. Boone Pickens' alternative energy company?
A: No, but her husband bought stock in Clean Energy Fuels Corp. last year. It amounted to a tiny fraction of the couple's assets.
"Heavily invested" is a relative term, and so we'll just state the facts and leave it to our readers to decide whether that characterization fits or not.
Pelosi's personal financial disclosure forms show that her husband purchased stock in the company valued at somewhere between $50,001 and $100,000 on May 25, 2007.
The notation "SP" in the left-hand column indicates the purchase was by her spouse, Paul Pelosi, a successful San Francisco businessman and financier. The exact number of shares and their precise value are not known, because members of Congress are only required to disclose their family assets within broad ranges of value.
For the wealthy Pelosis, it was not a major purchase, however. Nancy Pelosi reported that the couple's total assets at the end of 2007 totaled somewhere between $35.5 million and $156.2 million, as tabulated for us by researcher Dan Auble at the Center for Responsive Politics (where Pelosi's entire disclosure form may be viewed online.) So the Clean Energy purchase amounted to, at the very most, only 0.3 percent of their holdings at the time of purchase, and probably much less than that.
It has been a profitable investment, at least on paper. May 25 was the first day the stock was publicly traded. Shares were initially offered at $12 and traded hands that day on the open market at prices ranging from $11.97 to $13.00. The stock price has since gone up. It closed at $15.14 per share on the last day of 2007 – a 26 percent increase over the initial offering price. Pelosi valued her husband's shares at $100,001 or more at the end of 2007. This year the price of the stock has fluctuated. Her husband still owned the stock as of Aug. 20 when we spoke to the speaker's spokesman Brendan Daly. On that day it closed at $14.67 per share.
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. markets compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas as a fuel for motor vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. The company was founded in 1997 and, as mentioned, became a publicly traded company last year. One of the company's founders is T. Boone Pickens.
Pickens is running a nationwide advertising campaign to promote his plans for wind-powered electricity and the wider use of natural gas as a fuel. In it, he says the problem of imported oil is "one emergency we can't drill our way out of," which echoes what Pelosi and other Democrats have been saying. His ads also urge Congress and the next president to make reduction of oil imports "a top priority."
However, Pickens' ads started running July 8, 2008, well over a year after the stock purchase.
The company is a major backer of California Proposition 10, an initiative that will appear on the November ballot in the state. It would require the state to float a $5 billion bond offering, most of which would go to subsidize consumer purchase of high-mileage and "alternative" fuel vehicles. Clean Energy Fuels supplied nearly all the $3.2 million in donations reported through June 30 to the group supporting the ballot initiative, "Californians for Energy Independence." Opponents of the measure call it a boondoggle that will profit Pickens at great expense to California taxpayers.
The Consumer Federation of California said "it's about greed, not green," and added that Pickens' company "will reap a bonanza if Prop 10 passes." And the San Jose Mercury News editorialized against the measure on July 28, saying that buyers already are lining up to buy hybrid, high-mileage cars even without government subsidies and that "[t]axpayers would be paying the interest on bonds long after the cars that got rebates ended up in junkyards." Indeed, state officials estimate the total cost to state taxpayers would be $9.8 billion by the time 30 years of interest payments are factored in.
Pelosi spokesman Daly told us that the speaker has not voiced public support for Proposition 10, contrary to what has been reported elsewhere. Daly said Speaker Pelosi met Pickens last month when he met with House Democrats, but so far as he knows the two had not met previously. News accounts said the House meeting was at the invitation of caucus chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.
Update Aug. 20: In our first version of this story we said it was not known whether Paul Pelosi still owned the stock. We updated after Daly checked and told us that Mr. Pelosi still holds it. We also quoted Daly as saying he didn't think Speaker Pelosi had voiced support for Prop 10 but wasn't sure. He checked, and told us she has not. We have updated this item accordingly.
Pelosi, Nancy "Financial Disclosure Report for Calendar Year 2007," 15 May 2008.
Wildemuth, John "Pelosi's husband prefers a low profile; Successful investor has taken care to avoid causing controversy," San Francisco Chronicle 1 Jan 2007.
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. "Prospectus" on file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 21 May 2008.
Consumer Federation of California "CFC Opposes Proposition 10 – Vote No on this $10 billion dollar boondoggle" undated position paper. Accessed 20 Aug 2008.
Editorial:"Prop. 10 looks 'green' but it's the wrong shade" San Jose Mercury News 28 July 2008.