Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) and his wife Cynthia have a six-figure investment in a massive retail shopping complex in Shanghai that is part of a partnership between a Chinese government-controlled business consortium and Disney.
The Blumenthals have an investment of between $100,000 and $250,000 in U.S. Shanghai LLC, according to the senator’s annual financial disclosures. U.S. Shanghai LLC is a subsidiary of Malkin Properties, a company owned by Blumenthal’s brother-in-law, Scott Malkin. The company partnered in 2014 with the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group to build Shanghai Village, a 592,000-square-foot luxury shopping resort next to Shanghai Disneyland. The Blumenthals are also invested in U.S. Suzhou LLC, another Malkin-owned shopping center near Shanghai.
A spokeswoman for Blumenthal said the senator was unaware that he and his wife are invested in the venture until contacted for comment by the Washington Free Beacon. Maria McElwain, a communications director for Blumenthal, said Blumenthal’s wife, Cynthia Malkin Blumenthal, is a passive investor in an investment vehicle controlled by her brother’s company. McElwain said Cynthia Blumenthal "has no control, influence, or discretionary power" over the Shanghai investment. She also said the Blumenthals have not discussed the investment with Malkin.
But the investment could pose a political liability for Blumenthal, who is up for reelection next year. American firms’ investments in China have come under increased scrutiny due to concerns the Chinese government is using its partnerships to exploit the United States. Blumenthal’s apparent lack of awareness of the investment is also a possible testament to his vast wealth. Blumenthal is one of the richest members of the Senate.
Corporate filings in Connecticut show that U.S. Shanghai LLC was formed on Feb. 4, 2014. The Blumenthals bought a stake in the company worth between $15,000 and $50,000 on Aug. 7, 2014. They purchased another stake in 2019, which was disclosed in Blumenthal’s annual financial disclosure report last year.
Former attorney general William Barr criticized Disney last year for its partnership with the Shanghai Shendi Group, the company also working with Malkin Properties. Shanghai Shendi is a consortium of three state-owned companies: Shanghai Radio, Film, and Television Development Company; Jin Jiang Hotels; and the Lujiazui Group. Barr said more than 300 employees at the Disney theme park were part of the Chinese Communist Party.
Disney is one of several American companies that comply with Chinese government edicts in order to continue doing business in China. The New York Times reported in 2016 that the Shanghai Shendi Group met with Disney executives to approve which theme park rides would appear at the resort. The Times reported that Disney opted against deploying classic Disney rides like Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise.
Malkin Properties did not respond to a request for comment.