White House senior adviser Anita Dunn is being forced to divest an investment portfolio worth an estimated $16.8 million to $48.2 million that ethics lawyers say amounts to significant conflicts of interest in his new role.
The political and communications strategist will also have to step back from the myriad of domestic and international issues affecting her former clients.
Dunn’s recently published financial disclosures, which run 93 pages, show extensive holdings in stocks, options, bonds and private equity, a fortune she and her husband, veteran attorney Bob Bauer, have amassed over the years. Bauer is a high-powered attorney who served in the White House under the Obama administration; Dunn is a founding member of the SKDK consulting firm where he was paid $738,715 over the past 2 1/2 years, according to the White House. The disclosure form also provides information about your extensive client list to SKDK.
White House spokesman Chris Meagher told CNBC in an email Thursday that Dunn will have to divest her holdings and is recused from all matters involving SKDK and its past clients. He also won’t be able to attend any meetings involving them for two years, in keeping with the Biden-Harris ethics pledge, he said. The form reveals the transactions made during the previous two calendar years his appointment on May 9Meagher added.
“Ethics rules require White House officials to recuse themselves from matters that conflict with their financial interests. When officials have a wide scope of duties and an even larger stock portfolio, the light solar is the best disinfectant,” Kedric Payne, vice president and general counsel of the campaign’s legal center, said after reviewing his disclosure.
Dunn worked for the president as one of his top advisers from January 2021 until that August before returning for a brief stint in March. She was considered a special government employee for both positions who was exempt from publicly disclosing her assets. She wasn’t forced to file a public disclosure form until his latest appointment in May.
It returned as President Joe Biden’s public poll numbers were influx and the administration was grappling with a panoply of nagging global and domestic crises, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, computer chip shortages, rising gas prices and soaring inflation. Biden also announced that he will nominate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court in late February.
The disclosure also shows dozens of stocks acquired by Dunn and her husband, including call and put options linked to the S&P 500, corporate and municipal bonds and a large number of individual stocks in numerous brokerage accounts. These brokerage accounts feature investments in corporate giants such as Amazon, Alphabet, Boeing, Bank of America, Chevron, Dow, KKR and Morgan Stanley. The couple’s portfolio is diverse and includes at least $500,000 tied up in a hedge fund.
The ethical requirements for White House officials and lawmakers do not require precise values, but are based on a fairly broad range. Based on her disclosure form, H. Jude Boudreaux, a senior financial planner at The Planning Center, estimated that she and her husband’s properties were worth between $16.8 million and $48.2 million. Boudreaux is a Certified Financial Planner at The Planning Center. Lee Baker, a certified financial planner with Apex Financial Services, estimated that Dunn and his spouse had a net worth of between $18 million and $38 million in assets. Your properties are not shown on the form or included in the calculation of your net worth.
The couple held between $1,000 and $15,000 in corporate bonds issued by Lockheed Martin, Phillip Morris, Target, Bank of America, Apple and Boeing, among others, all companies that have frequent and multiple problems that require federal oversight. The couple had between $15,001 and $50,000 in debt issued by numerous other corporations, including Cisco Systems, Oracle, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Visa and Amazon. They also have numerous accounts or mutual funds valued at more than $500,000 each. Dunn also had between $1 million and $5 million of stock in marketing firm Stagwell, which he received after it acquired SKDK in 2015.
They also made tens of thousands of dollars by exercising put options on the iShares Core S&P 500 Index, which could create conflicts of interest with “every company” in the S&P 500, according to Walter Shaub, who used to head the Office of Ethics of the Government. in the Obama administration and served briefly in the Trump administration.
“Options are not exempt from the conflict of interest statute under any circumstances. That means he came into government with a conflict of interest with every company whose stock he wrote an option for alas with all benchmark companies,” Shaub said afterward. reviewing Dunn’s financial disclosure. She said she must surrender all options or retire for every issue that “affects any company in the S&P 500 and any other company whose stock is the subject of an option that she held.”
The power couple also had numerous municipal bonds that were used for infrastructure projects and state and local schools across America, including in Burlington County, New Jersey; Clark County, Nevada; the Klein County Independent School District in Texas; and Miami Dade County, Florida to name a few. The Biden administration has been handing out hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to local, municipal and state agencies and schools to improve transportation infrastructure, high-speed Internet access and invest in other projects of public works.
SKDK is among the top 25 paid Democratic political marketers in the country, according to OpenSecrets, the nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog. Data shows that during the 2020 election cycle, SKDK received more than $65 million from Democrat-aligned campaigns. The Biden campaign paid more than $2 million for SKDK’s services last cycle, according to OpenSecrets data.
In an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he advanced the president’s next agenda as the White House scores victories with the long-awaited passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the signing of the CHIPS and Science Act.
“So addressing the ongoing opioid crisis that we have in this country is one of those things that he believes we should work on together and we can work on together,” Dunn said in Thursday’s MSNBC interview. “Cancer, and ending cancer as we know it. Again, a very bipartisan thing that he believes everyone should work together and that he’s going to continue to push. And he’s also going to continue to work for an economy that really works for workers. in this country.”
Micron, one of Dunn’s former clients, announced shortly after the CHIPS bill was signed that it will invest $40 billion between now and 2030 to make chips in the US. Meagher noted that Dunn had nothing to do with his announcement earlier this week and stopped working for Micron before rejoining the White House.
Other clients include AT&T, the American Clean Power Association, Lyft, Pivotal Ventures, Pfizer, Salesforce and Reddit.
Pivotal Ventures is an investment office founded by Melinda French Gates, who divorced billionaire Bill Gates last year. French Gates has repeatedly visited the Biden-led White House, including in April, according to White House visitor records. Meagher said the French Gates meetings were not arranged by Dunn, but noted that his previous work for Pivotal focused on issues related to paid family leave.
Salesforce hasn’t been a Dunn client since 2020, and it was for a media training project, Meagher said. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his family met privately with Biden in mid-March, according to visitor records. Meagher did not respond when asked if Dunn helped arrange that meeting, and Salesforce did not return a request for comment.
Most of the other customers mentioned in this story did not return requests for comment. A Reddit spokeswoman declined to comment.
AT&T spokesman Alexander Byers told CNBC that SKDK “has provided us with strategic communications advice for more than a decade,” but Dunn was not responsible for the account. She gave regular advice, he said.