By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — Josh Mandel has a secret nuclear weapon he plans to detonate to win a $5 bar bet.
That’s not true, but the left-wing news blog ThinkProgress is contributing this sort of story to the Ohio Senate race.
ThinkProgress writer Scott Keyes is pushing the theory that Mandel might someday try to bankrupt the country to make what amounts to a couple hundred bucks. The plot involves getting elected to the U.S. Senate and voting against an increase in the national debt limit, all to cash in on a mysterious financial instrument called the “ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury.”
“If a default were to occur, the desirability of Treasury bills would plummet and Mandel’s (investment) would skyrocket in value,” Keyes writes. Mandel would “reap a significant financial windfall if the government defaults by not raising the debt ceiling, a move he opposed last year and has indicated he would vote against if elected to the Senate.”
The theory has more holes than a Bilderberg conspiracy rant.
First, there’s the size of the potential benefit. Using last year’s disclosure records Keyes identifies one holding of up to $1,000, and another apparent holding of between $1,001 and $15,000. This is in a portfolio valued somewhere between $2 million and $7 million.
The current disclosure records show just the holding between $1,001 and $15,000, but clarifies that it is ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury.
Keyes ignores specifics about how much Mandel could profit, instead using words like “skyrocket” and “soar.” Actually, the upside is limited to 200 percent of any negative returns on a bond index. For example, if 20-year Treasury bonds had dropped 10 percent in value, Mandel would have made between $200 and $3,000. Like everyone else’s, Mandel’s portfolio would be devastated by a national default.
Next, there’s Keyes’ characterization of the holding as “profiting off a default.” That’s like calling a can of chili a nuclear-holocaust survival device. It might be, but it’s probably just dinner.
Most of the portfolio is invested in individual equities, balanced by commercial and municipal bonds.
Mandel’s campaign declined to comment on the matter.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Mandel’s wife’s trust no longer held shares of the ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury fund, due to a reporter’s oversight. The JMS Trust held a stake between $1,001 and $15,000 in the fund at the time of the family’s most recent disclosure records.)