Things may be busy on Capitol Hill with the budget deal and all, but Scott Hinkle, acting legislative director for freshman Democratic congressman Juan Vargas, still managed to get away for two days in Manhattan earlier this month, one of them paid for by Wall Street's Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation.
According to an itinerary filed by Hinkle with the House ethics office, the December 6 tour featured a trip to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to witness the closing bell, as well as discussions about "strengthening global derivatives markets," "cash markets and financial benchmarks," and "shortening the settlement cycle."
"We note that this trip includes one day at your personal expense," says a November 12 letter to Hinkle from House ethics committee chairman K. Michael Conway. "We also remind you that, because the trip sponsor employs a federal lobbyist, you may participate in officially-connected activity on one calendar day only."
The total transportation cost for Hinkle picked up by the corporation was $332, along with free food valued at $47.
The clearing corporation, a multibillion-dollar creature of the Street, has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, in particular the transparency of naked short sales. Board members include powerful financial-industry insiders such as Paul Compton, chief administrator officer of JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America corporate treasurer Mark Linsz.
Federal disclosures show that Hinkle, who previously worked for Vargas during his time as a state senator, was a consultant to the Vargas 2012 congressional campaign.
"I am the Acting Legislative Director for Congressman Vargas," Hinkle said on his House ethics committee disclosure filing. "I handle his Agriculture Committee assignment, as well as his financial services and tax portfolios."
Hinkle's boss, Vargas chief of staff and longtime political intimate Tim Walsh, took a leave of absence to serve as campaign manager of this fall's failed San Diego mayoral bid of ex-Republican assemblyman–turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher.
Among his previous endeavors, Walsh was a partner at Elevate, LLC, a San Diego–based campaign-consulting outfit composed of Vargas regulars — including close friend Colin Rice — that has done work for Democratic assemblyman Ben Hueso, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, and Vargas's state-senate campaign, among others.
An independent campaign fund calling itself "Restoring Trust in San Diego - A Committee to Support Nathan Fletcher for Mayor 2013" has so far paid Elevate a reported total of $35,231 in consulting fees this year, according to city disclosure records.
From the beginning of this year through August 31, according to salary data posted online by Legistorm.com, Walsh has received $99,166 as Vargas's congressional chief of staff. Hinkle has made $49,505 from January thorough the end of September, the data shows.
A receptionist in Vargas's capitol office said that Hinkle was in a meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment.