The Double Life of a FL. Congressman

  Hello Ethics Committee….

Email Shows Concern About Alan Grayson’s Hedge Fund

Alan Grayson’s Double Life: Congressman and Hedge Fund Manager

WASHINGTON — The hedge fund manager boasted that he had traveled to “every country” in the world, studying overseas stock markets as he fine-tuned an investment strategy to capitalize on global companies’ suffering because of economic or political turmoil.

But the fund manager had an even more distinctive credential to showcase in his marketing material in June 2013: He was a “U.S. congressman,” Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Now he is also among the leading Democratic candidates for one of Florida’s United States Senate seats.

This highly unusual dual role — a sitting House lawmaker running a hedge fund, which until recently had operations in the Cayman Islands — has led to an investigation of Mr. Grayson by the House Committee on Ethics.

The inquiry has become public, but emails and marketing documents obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which Mr. Grayson’s roles as a hedge fund manager and a member of Congress were intertwined, and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business.

Interviews and the documents show that Mr. Grayson told potential investors in his hedge fund that they should contribute money to the fund to capitalize on the unrest he observed around the world, and to take particular advantage when there was “blood in the streets.”

The emails also show how Mr. Grayson’s work for the hedge fund — which had $16.4 million in assets as of October and only for investors since it was established — at times interfered with his other duties. In August 2015, after Mr. Grayson introduced legislation calling for larger annual increases in Social Security benefits, he signed off on a plan to highlight the proposal at an event in Tampa, Fla., emails obtained by The Times show. But the plan was scuttled, two former aides said, when economic turmoil in China sent stock markets tumbling globally and Mr. Grayson had to turn his attention to the fund.

Ken Scudder, a spokesman for Mr. Grayson, disputed that account. “There has never been any time when Representative Grayson’s investment activities have disrupted any of his work, whether official or campaign-related,” he said.

Mr. Grayson says he has done nothing wrong. “Here is something that is not true: that I somehow traded on my membership as a U.S. congressman to get clients for this fund,” Mr. Grayson said in an interview. He added that in the last year he had refunded the full original investments put in by his two outside investors in a fund that had faced steep losses — leaving only Mr. Grayson and a family trust invested in the fund.

Mr. Grayson has closed the Cayman Islands branches of the hedge fund, and in September, after the ethics complaint was filed, he changed the name of the fund from the Grayson Fund to the Sibylline Fund, LP. He did so, he said, to try to assuage critics who said he was violating congressional ethics rules by naming a professional business after himself. Although Mr. Grayson said he did not agree that the name was a violation, “there was no point in arguing about it any longer.”

But Mr. Grayson’s activities have long concerned his campaign aides. In private emails in June, Mr. Grayson’s aides pleaded with him to close the hedge fund, convinced that its focus on investing in nations hit by political or economic strife, and its ties to the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven, sharply conflicted with his image as a scold of Wall Street — even if he had not done anything wrong.

“This is going to be the drip, drip, drip story that never goes away,” Doug Dodson, Mr. Grayson’s Senate campaign manager until the end of 2015, wrote in a June email to Mr. Grayson, saying his political opponents would “try to make you look like a hypocrite and a fraud and not the populist you claim to be.” Read the whole summary here.

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Denise Simon