The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is in deep water again after Democrats on the Senate raised doubts over the condition of his finances, and asked for more scrutiny into the matter.
The move comes after the Democrats enlisted the service of the Department of Commerce’s internal watchdog to investigate Ross’ financial holdings. They believe that Ross was not completely honest about the status of his holdings during his confirmation earlier in the year.
The Democrats have enlisted the services of the agency’s inspector general. The lawmakers have asked the inspector general to look into Ross’ chief of staff, Wendy Teramoto, over any possible conflicts.
The investigation call comes shortly after a siren call was heard over Ross’ financial investments. A group of investigative journalists came across information that connected one of Ross’ shipping assets to a company known as Navigator. The company in question was found to have links to a Kremlin company.
The revelations all came on the back of the leaked Paradise Papers, which provided a deeply telling expose on how many governments, organizations, and individuals have managed to avoid taxes by using offshore tax havens.
Commenting on the issue, the U.S. Commerce Department stated that Ross was not involved with the Navigator’s decision to “engage” with the Kremlin-linked company. A spokesperson for the Department added that Ross was working closely with the agency’s “ethics officials,” and was abiding by the “highest ethical standards”.
However, the Democrats sing a different tune. According to the Democrats, Ross was asked a number of questions about any offshore accounts in a written questionnaire in the days before his confirmation hearing. They state that Ross misled them during that time.
Speaking of the issue, one Senator stated that Ross’ responses only revealed a bit of “stock, a board membership in Arcelor Mittal, and a bank account in Ireland with the equivalent of about $58,000”.
At the beginning of the year, Ross underwent the government’s standard vetting procedure before coming into office. He even pledged to sell nearly 80 of his personal assets to resolve any potential conflict areas.
At the time, the Democrats had praised Ross for making such a substantial “personal sacrifice” in the name of transparency.