Al Franken Criticizes Tom Price for Holding Tobacco Stocks He Owns Too

January 19, 2017

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) came to the defense of Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), during his Wednesday confirmation hearing after Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) criticized Price for owning stock in tobacco companies that he also owns.

Franken informed Price during the Wednesday hearing that smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, which led Price to note that he lost his father, a lifelong smoker, to emphysema.

Franken continued with his questioning by asking Price why he would choose to hold stock in tobacco companies knowing the health risks that come from smoking.

"You personally benefited from tobacco sales," Franken said to Price. "How do you square reaping personal financial gain from the sale of an addictive product that kills millions of Americans every decade?"

Price defended himself from Franken's accusations, noting that his financial holdings are mostly organized through mutual funds which contain a variety of stocks from across a spectrum of industries. Price then suggested that Franken most likely holds stock in a tobacco company through pension funds or mutual funds.

"I find it very hard to believe that you did not know you had tobacco stocks. I find it a little hard to believe in the questions of your stock portfolio that you did not know things," Franken said, interrupting Price's answer.

Later in the hearing, Isakson used his time for questioning to inform Franken that he owned stocks in tobacco-related companies.

"Any of us could make the mistakes that are being alleged," Isakson said. "I'm sure Sen. Franken had no idea that he owned part of Philip Morris when he made the statement he made about tobacco companies."

Isakson referenced Franken's own financial disclosure, which shows that the Minnesota Democrat has a Wisdom Tree equity fund as part of his investment portfolio. This fund includes holdings in Philip Morris, the same tobacco company that Franken criticized Price for owning stock in.

Isakson explained that because most members of Congress invest in mutual funds through financial advisers, they might not know what specific industries they hold investments in.