GOP congressman with investments in China wants to stop others from investing in China


Rep. Jim Banks is pushing to divest Chinese and Russian holdings from federal retirement accounts.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) is pushing to stop federal employees' retirement funds from being invested in Chinese and Russian businesses, over their "malicious activity against the United States." However, his own financial disclosures show Banks himself may be invested in at least some Chinese companies.

Back in May, Banks introduced a bill to bar $550 billion in federal Thrift Savings Plan funds from being invested in companies from China or Russia. Thrift Savings Plans, or TSPs, are similar to private sector 401k plans and are used by federal workers and military members.

"The governments of Russia and China have a long history of malicious activity against the United States," Banks said in a press release at that time. "If we are to confront the growing threats from these hostile countries, we should not be supporting their economies financially."

"This common-sense legislation would prevent federal money from entering countries that are actively attempting to undermine our global leadership," he added.

According to his most recent personal financial disclosure form, filed May 14, Banks has several retirement fund investments of his own. His Roth and Traditional IRA accounts include thousands of dollars worth of mutual funds.

A review of those holdings revealed that at least three (AMG Yachtman Focused Fund, T Rowe Price New Horizons, and New World Fund) are invested in at least some Chinese companies, including Hengan International, Zai Lab, and Alibaba.

More than 13% of the New World Fund's holdings as of June 30, 2019, were in China proper. Another 4.3% were in Hong Kong and 2.1% were in the Russian Federation.

Banks did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the contradiction between his public stance regarding foreign investments and his own private investments, or whether he planned to divest his holdings in funds with Russian and Chinese investments.

In recent days, Banks has been among the more vocal critics of the NBA for its reaction to comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last week.

On Sunday, the league tried to apologize on Morey's behalf, claiming his comments "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China."

Banks replied in a tweet on Sunday, saying the league had "no backbone" and sold out Hong Kong "for the $$."

Banks responded to the controversy in a tweet that same day. "Why is an American-owned franchise having to succumb to Chinese Communist Party censuring after [Morey] used his 1A rights to stand up for the persecuted people of #HongKong? This is wrong," he wrote.

In another tweet on Tuesday, he added, "The @NBA employs an egregious double standard. They're ok when members of the league are critical of America. But not ok when members are critical of #China."

Though Donald Trump has so far done little to support the protesters in Hong Kong and reportedly promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would say silent on the matter to ensure smoother trade talks, the White House has since apparently decided to embrace Banks' earlier proposal from May — for China only. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the Trump administration may move to get Chinese companies out of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board's international investment fund offerings.

Banks cheered the news in a press release Tuesday morning.

"I am encouraged to see the Trump administration considering taking executive action to protect U.S. government workers from having to support the Chinese Communist Party with their retirement funds," he wrote. "China commits human-rights violations and threatens U.S. national security through economic and military actions every single day. We’ve been asleep at the wheel for too long, and I’m glad the U.S. is finally waking up to this threat."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.