But Obama's 2005 trades raise questions in that Skyterra Communications and AVI Biopharma are far more speculative and uncommon stocks than those blue-chip staples. They both have much smaller market caps -- less than $700 million -- and lower trading volumes. While there's no evidence that Obama had a role in the contracts for the companies, given his other investments, it seems an unlikely coincidence that the senator would be familiar with either company except through his work as a legislator.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama's presidential campaign, says that in the process of setting up a blind trust for the senator, the stocks were recommended and purchased by a broker at UBS.
"The broker's intention was to hold on to them long-term -- but to avoid any potential conflict, he sold the stock to reinvest the money in mutual funds," says Burton.
Betting on Satellites
Public filings show that Obama bought somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of Skyterra shares in February 2005. Burton says there was a mistake made on the senator's disclosure form and that he actually invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in shares of Skyterra. The discrepancy is in the process of being corrected.Skyterra, based in Reston, Va., is controlled by the New York private equity firm Apollo Management. The company, which didn't return repeated calls seeking comment for this story, holds stakes in several technology companies, including a satellite communications outfit called Mobile Satellite Ventures.