Greg Orman, an Olathe businessman running against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, said Wednesday that he has a professional and personal relationship with Rajat Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs board member who is serving a prison sentence for insider training.
Gupta was convicted on three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy in 2012 and sentenced to two years in federal prison after leaking boardroom secrets to hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. He began serving his sentence in June after his appeal was rejected in federal court.
A 2012 article from Bloomberg lists Orman as a defense witness at Gupta’s trial and refers him as Gupta’s financial adviser.
Orman’s name was on the list of witnesses submitted by Gupta’s defense attorneys, according to federal court records, but his campaign said he was not called to the witness stand.
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Orman confirmed that he maintains a friendship with Gupta while speaking to reporters after a campaign event at Washburn University.
“Rajat Gupta is a friend of mine and ultimately he made a mistake and he’s paying the price for it,” Orman said.
“In Kansas, I don’t think when a friend makes a mistake you abandon them and run away from them. I think maybe that’s what you do in Washington because you’re more focused on personal gain and getting ahead.”
Orman said he still has business dealings with Gupta; he gave relatively few details about an investment he said is connected to Gupta.
“I have a very, very small investment that still is consistent with that. And when my financial reports come out, I think you’ll see that it’s an under $50,000 investment,” Orman said. “So it’s a very small, very modest (investment), but again I’m someone who believes in forgiveness and redemption. I’m not someone who when a friend makes a mistake I just throw them away.”
Gupta and Orman are both listed as owners of Exemplar Wealth Management, according to the Olathe company’s annual report filed with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office in March. In late 2012, according to federal court records, Orman replaced Gupta’s representative on the board of New Silk Route, a billion-dollar fund focusing on investments in Asia, the Associated Press reported.
Orman has not filed his personal financial disclosure to the U.S. Senate. He sought an extension in June, and the disclosure is due Sunday.
He unveiled a campaign finance reform plan this week that would prevent lobbyists and political action committees from donating to senators and representatives while Congress is in session, a practice he called “legalized bribery.”
The Roberts campaign accused Orman of hypocrisy for calling for reforms before making his own finances public.
“If Mr. Orman really wants to talk about transparency, he should concentrate on filing his own financial disclosures and start being honest with Kansas voters,” Roberts’ campaign manager, Corry Bliss, said in a statement.
Orman pointed out that Roberts has also asked for extensions for his financial disclosures in the past, including this year, and said he sought an extension because he was not sure his name would be in the ballot until August.
He declined to state his net worth when asked Wednesday. He said that would be included in his disclosures.
“We’re going to report it. There are very specific ways that we’re required to report this as part of the financial disclosure rules,” Orman said.
Orman, an independent, has repeatedly touted his business experience on the campaign trail.
“My first company I started nine months after graduating from college,” said Orman, who graduated from Princeton University in 1991. The business, Environmental Light Concepts, designed energy-efficient lighting systems for industrial companies. “We grew that business over four years and we were fortunate enough to have Kansas City Power and Light approach us and ask to buy our company … and I moved to Kansas to work for them.”
Since then Orman has amassed a diverse portfolio of investments – the full extent of those investments will be known when he files his disclosure.
Orman is a defendant in a pending $30 million federal suit for trademark infringement brought by boxing equipment giant Everlast because of his stake in a Lenexa sporting goods company called Combat Brands.
The Roberts campaign has tried to use the suit, which was first reported by the Associated Press, as a weapon against Orman on the campaign trail.
“The more we learn about Mr. Orman’s business record the more he looks like another millionaire politician trying to deceive voters and hide his past,” Bliss said in an e-mail.
A poll from Public Policy Polling released Tuesday had Orman up 7 points on the three-term Republican incumbent.
The website FiveThirtyEight called the Kansas race the closest in the nation this week, giving Roberts a 51 percent chance of victory. The website has correctly predicted the winner of the last two presidential elections and the winner in 67 of 70 Senate races since 2010.
Orman addressed a class of political science students at Washburn University at Wednesday. Roberts has been given the same invitation but has not yet accepted, said Bob Beatty, one of the professors organizing the event.
“It was really valuable just to have him talk about Congress and his argument about why it’s not working … these are things we are talking about in our classes,” Beatty said.
“So what is politics?” Orman said to the students. “Politics is the peaceful reconciliation of competing interests … and that’s what we’re not doing today.”
“The parties have sort of broken into warring ideological camps,” he said.
The message resonated with the students.
“He seems to really have genuine intentions, I think, because he’s not coming from a background in politics,” said Alexis Simmons, a freshman from Wichita majoring in legal studies. She said she is a registered Republican but considers herself an independent.
Twayne Bledsoe, a 54-year-old Democrat who attends Washburn as a nontraditional student, said he plans to vote for Orman and cited his business background as one of the reasons.
“Somebody needs to know how to get the country back on track and he being a self-made, I don’t know if he’s a millionaire or not, yeah, I could trust him,” Bledsoe said.