A Democratic Senate candidate quietly unloaded at least $100,000 in stocks in two controversial Chinese tech giants around the same time he pivoted to a tough-on-Beijing stance on the campaign trail—but is declining to say whether he sold his stakes in other companies linked to Chinese forced labor.
Wisconsin Senate candidate Alex Lasry held between $100,000 and $200,000 in corporate securities stock in tech companies Tencent and Alibaba, according to his most recent financial disclosure report in August. The U.S. government has accused both companies of aiding the Chinese military. Lasry also disclosed investments in Inditex and Seagate Technology, which have been accused of profiting off forced labor in Xinjiang, and Chindata, a company that has been active in China’s Belt and Road Initiative—a global infrastructure program that U.S. officials have decried as a national security risk.
The stock sales took place as Lasry has worked to shake off allegations from Republicans that he and his family have profited from business with China. They also coincided with his campaign's rebranding effort. In January, Lasry launched a $1 million campaign advertising blitz in which he promised to "stand up to China" and focus on supporting American businesses. But his investments in additional companies tied to human rights abuses could undercut his rebranding efforts.
A spokesman for Lasry told the Washington Free Beacon that the candidate sold off the Alibaba and Tencent stocks "months ago." The spokesman did not respond when asked if Lasry has also divested from Inditex, Seagate, and Chindata.
French prosecutors have been investigating Inditex, a Spanish fast fashion brand that owns Zara, over allegations that it knowingly profited from Uyghur forced labor in the cotton industry. Seagate Technology also came under fire after the Wall Street Journal reported that it sold hard drives to Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd. The United States blacklisted Hikvision for selling surveillance products that the Chinese government reportedly uses against dissidents and Uyghurs.
Lasry also disclosed an investment in Chindata, a Chinese data center company. Chindata has touted its support and assistance for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive international infrastructure project and the centerpiece of China’s economic and military expansionism.
Lasry has struggled against perceptions that he is soft on China since launching his campaign last year. His father, billionaire hedge-funder Marc Lasry, has been an advocate for investment opportunities in China, telling a business forum in May that "now is a great time to be investing in China" and praising the country’s economic growth as "through the roof."
Lasry’s critics have highlighted his position as a senior vice president at the Milwaukee Bucks—the basketball team owned by his father—noting that the NBA has extensive financial interests in China.
During a lengthy interview with Jewish Insider, Lasry "was somewhat reticent while discussing the NBA’s highly profitable business relationship with China" and "seemed eager to sidestep the matter," the outlet reported.
The Wisconsin Senate race is expected to be one of the most competitive of the 2022 cycle, with Democrats hoping to unseat GOP incumbent Ron Johnson.
Lasry, who has already pumped $2.3 million into his own campaign, is seen as one of several frontrunners for the Democratic nomination. The crowded primary field also includes sitting Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and state treasurer Sarah Godlewski.