Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who is expected to become chairman of the House
Telecommunications Subcommittee Wednesday, owns stock worth thousands of dollars
in a slew of media and telecommunications companies held in family trusts and
According to Upton's latest financial disclosure, filed last May, the
47-year-old lawmaker owns stock valued at between $450,000 and $1.1 million in
such companies as General Electric Co., AT&T Corp. and The Walt Disney
Precise figures were not available because House financial-disclosure forms
permit lawmakers to disclose the value of financial assets within broad dollar
Upton spokesman Mike Waldron said some of the stock holdings are within a
trust established long ago for Upton's mother and within trusts set up for Upton
and his brothers and sisters. A bank in Chicago manages assets within the
trusts, he added.
'The family has no control over the trust itself,' Waldron said. 'They know
what's in it, but they don't control what's in it, so it's almost like a blind
However, Upton owns thousands of dollars in media and telecommunications
stocks in accounts not labeled trusts in his financial disclosure.
Waldron stressed that Upton's stock holdings would not influence his
decision-making as subcommittee chairman.
Jeff Chester, president of the Center for Media Education -- which lobbies
Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to reduce the influence of
special interests -- said it was inappropriate for Upton to hold stock in
companies that fall within the jurisdiction of the subcommittee.
'He is in an especially sensitive position because of the role the
subcommittee chairman has,' Chester said. 'He should divest these holdings,
creating a blind trust or investing in stocks where he doesn't have an oversight
Upton, an eight-term moderate Republican from southwest Michigan, will have
broad jurisdiction over the cable, broadcasting and telecommunications
industries, many of which are anxious to see new laws passed designed to ease
The major television networks are likely to seek Upton's help in urging the
FCC to relax a rule that caps their reach at 35 percent of TV households, and
the four Baby Bell phone companies are pressing for a new law that would
deregulate their high-speed Internet-access services.
According to his disclosure, Upton owns stock worth between $30,000 and
$100,000 each in AT&T, Verizon Communications and SBC Communications Inc. He
also owns stock worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in Hughes Electronics Corp.
(parent of DirecTV Inc.), between $100,000 and $250,000 in GE (parent of NBC)
and between $100,000 and $250,000 in Disney (parent of ABC and cable network
Upton also owns between $50,000 and $100,000 in newspaper publisher Gannett
Co. Inc. stock. Last year, the newspaper industry urged Congress to pass a law
that would eliminate the FCC's rule banning the common ownership of newspapers
and TV stations in the same market.
Upton, a multimillionaire, has his largest stock holdings outside of the
media and telecommunications universe. He owns between $1 million and $5 million
in stock of appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. and between $500,000 and $1 million
in the stock of chewing gum maker William Wrigley Jr. Co.
The House Commerce Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon to
appoint its subcommittee chairmen. On Jan. 11, Commerce Committee chairman Rep.
Billy Tauzin (R-La.) announced his support for Upton to be chairman of the
Telecommunications Subcommittee -- a step that all but assured Upton the
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