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Brown scoffs at accusation of graft

U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, who is challenging incumbent Dan Davis for the Berkeley County supervisor's job in next week's GOP primary runoff, scoffed at a Wall Street Journal article Thursday questioning his profit from buying and selling Caterpillar stocks as Congress approved the economic stimulus package.

The article said Brown was one of several congressmen who "placed bets with their own money on the stocks of companies they helped oversee."

"That's a flat lie," Brown said of the article. "It's like I can't strike a match without worrying about who owns the match company."

The article was being e-mailed around the county Thursday, and Davis said his phone had been ringing off the hook.

"At this point, I'd like to reserve comment," he said.

Brown sits on the highways and transit subcommittee of the House transportation and infrastructure committee. He bought Caterpillar shares, "a maker of heavy-construction equipment that benefits from government spending on infrastructure projects," on Jan. 23, 2009, according to the article. The economic-stimulus package was introduced on the House floor three days later. Brown sold his shares Sept. 20 for an estimated profit of about 39 percent, according to the Journal.

The article also lists a number of other congressional committee members "who placed bets with their own money on the stocks of companies they helped oversee." The article noted that no laws or codes of ethics were broken.

Brown said he bought $16,822 worth of Caterpillar stock in January (when it was about $34 a share) and sold it in July for $18,273 (about $37 a share).

The $1,451 profit was 8.6 percent.

The Journal reported the sale as Sept. 20, when Caterpillar stocks were selling at about $50 a share. An accountant apparently wrote down the wrong date on the disclosure form on which the Journal based its article, Brown said. He produced his 2009 tax return as proof of his dates.

"If I had such inside knowledge, I would have held on to them longer, wouldn't I?" Brown said.

Brown also said his committee approved money for road projects but had nothing to do with approving contracts.

"That's a far reach to say I serve on the committee that oversees Caterpillar," Brown said.

Brown also noted that he voted against the stimulus package.