Seems Like He Wanted It to Be True: Slate's Yglesias Runs With Unsupported Ryan Insider Trading Accusations

Matthew Yglesias has been posting at Slate.com, supposedly a paragon of online establishment press journalism, as a business and economics correspondent since November of last year. His background is unmistakably leftist: ThinkProgress, the Atlantic, TPM Media, and the American Prospect.

On Saturday, a Yglesias found a blog post which was apparently too good to check at The Richmonder, a lefty enterprise run by Jerel Wilmore. The Richmonder's post claimed that "Paul Ryan traded on insider information to avoid 2008 crash" (post has been retracted; excerpt was obtained at democraticunderground.com; some of what follows is also here):


It should probably come as no surprise to anyone that someone like Paul Ryan would trade on inside information gained through his position as a congressman to line his pockets, but this particular instance is especially egregious. Ryan attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on September 18, 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to disclose the coming economic meltdown and beg Congress to pass legislation to help collapsing banks.

Instead of doing anything to help, Ryan left the meeting and on that very same day Paul Ryan sold shares of stock he owned in several troubled banks and reinvested the proceeds in Goldman Sachs, a bank that the meeting had disclosed was not in trouble. This is the guy Republicans want one heartbeat away from the presidency? He seems more than a little shady to me.

Have a look at Ryan's financial disclosure form for 2008--you can click on each page to enlarge them. The "Transactions" section begins on page 12--scroll through and look at all the trades Paul Ryan made on "9-18-08"

Yglesias ran with it (currently found in strikethrough mode here; bold is mine):

This kind of trading might be illegal now but was definitely kosher back then when insider trading rules didn't apply to Congress at all. My guess is that it's probably fine even under today's rules, since even though it fits the ordinary language meaning of "insider information," it doesn't actually make Ryan an insider to the companies in question in a legal sense. But it's about as clear an example of a public official trying to use his office to obtain personal benefits as you're likely to find.

Well, not really clear at all, as Yglesiasacknowledged on Monday:

Let me apologize. I originally had a too-credulous item here linking to a piece at The Richmonder alleging that Paul Ryan has sold bank shares after a closed door meeting with Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke on the financial crisis in 2008. As Eric Platt explains he certainly seems to have sold the shares on the same day as the meeting, but the meeting happened in the evening by which time the markets would have been closed. One can perhaps construct a scenario by which the Richmonder's theory of the case holds up, but they don't have the goods and I shouldn't have passed their analysis on with no qualification and so little scrutiny of my own.

But shoot, man, why apply scrutiny when the narrative is so good? As seen above, Yglesias is still holding out a little hope.

It's not a stretch at all to contend that Yglesias would never have originally posted such a "too-credulous item" if such accusations had related to a liberal -- say, oh, I don't know, maybe Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. As Prof. Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection notes, "the timing (of his fall 2008 trades) is a lot more suspicious than that of Paul Ryan." Here's a non-surprise: A search on "Sheldon Whitehouse Yglesias" (not in quotes) at Slate.com returns nothing relating to those accusations.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.