Many Happy Returns

Lazio Took a Smart Pill, His Tax Records Show

1997-1998 Going into 1997, Lazio must have been a little rusty when it came to the market. He had made no short-term trades for at least the previous three years. But in 1997, he made 12 acquisitions and sales of usually risky stock option calls in eight different companies and made a profit in every deal. Among those were the Quick & Reilly deals, which in seven months earned him more than $14,000 at a cost of only about $2300. (He made nearly $7500 more off Q&R in January 1998 when he sold his remaining shares.) He also sold 1100 shares of stock in four different companies and made a small profit in every one of those deals.

In 1998, he pumped more than $100,000 into the stock market, which he helps regulate as a powerful Republican on the House Banking Committee.

By this time, he was master of his domain, and he has continued to play the market. Lazio and his aides have already denied that he spoke with Q&R officials or otherwise procured inside information. He definitely has friends in high market places. Longtime supporter and current Lazio finance chairman Lewie Ranieri is a Wall Street legend for practically inventing the multibillion-dollar market in mortgage securities. That's not to suggest that Ranieri was picking losers or winners for Lazio.

The congressman has said that he consulted with his own broker. So while the reporters were jammed into that conference room last week at Lazio headquarters, trying to figure out the congressman's tax returns, the Voice asked spokesman McLagan: Who's the congressman's broker? McLagan said, "First Albany, I think."

A company? The whole company? Like in the old E.F. Hutton commercials? Hillary Clinton's extremely lucrative and even more suspicious foray into stocks (in her case, cattle futures) a few years ago was steered by a broker named "Red" Bone. Maybe Lazio had an equally colorful guide to steer him to stock market wealth. But when the Voice asked McLagan a second time for the name of Lazio's broker, McLagan replied, "I don't have to tell you." Why not? "Because I don't have to," he replied. "Because it's going to piss you off. And that makes me happy."

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