Jan 24, 2022
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Monday urged the top Democrat and Republican in the House of Representatives to "swiftly bring legislation to prohibit members of Congress from owning or trading stock" to the floor.
"This common-sense, bipartisan legislation is unfortunately necessary in light of recent misconduct."
The call came in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)--who has faced criticism for defending her husband's trades and existing rules--and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is reportedly considering enacting a ban on lawmakers trading if the GOP wins control of the chamber in this year's midterms.
Pointing to proposals such as the Ban Conflicted Trading Act or the TRUST in Congress Act, the letter states that "this common-sense, bipartisan legislation is unfortunately necessary in light of recent misconduct, and is supported by Americans across the political spectrum."
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said that signing the letter--spearheaded by Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine)--was "a no-brainer."
\u201cSigning this letter was a no-brainer. \n\nMembers of Congress should be focused on their constituents \u2014 not advancing their own stock portfolios.\u201d— Rep. Mark Pocan (@Rep. Mark Pocan) 1643049332
While the 2012 STOCK Act was intended to address concerns about stock trading by federal lawmakers, a recent investigation found it has been violated hundreds of times since 2020, the letter highlights, declaring that "it's clear the current rules are not working."
Noting three cases involving senators from both parties, the letter continues:
While those senators apparently did not violate the letter of the law, as the Department of Justice has closed its investigations of these trades, that outcome demonstrates how shamefully narrow the current law is. The law prohibits only those stock trades that members of Congress make or direct because of their nonpublic knowledge. But it can be nearly impossible to determine what counts as "nonpublic knowledge" or how personally involved members are in their stock trades.
Instead, Congress should close these loopholes by simply banning members from owning or trading individual stocks while in office. In addition to ensuring that members' access to information doesn't advantage them over the public when trading stocks, as the STOCK Act sought, this would end the potential corruption of lawmakers pursuing policy outcomes that benefit their portfolios.
"There is no reason that members of Congress need to be allowed to trade stocks when we should be focused on doing our jobs and serving our constituents," the letter asserts. "Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities. We don't care. We came to Congress to serve our country, not turn a quick buck."
There is broad public support for such a ban. As the letter notes, a poll from earlier this month that revealed 76% of voters--including 70% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans, and 80% of Independents--believe members of Congress and their spouses have an unfair advantage and should not be allowed to trade stocks while in office.
Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of Congress have introduced bills to address concerns about trading by lawmakers and their families.
"We view the emergence of multiple bipartisan bills on this issue as a sign of broad rank-and-file support for it across Congress," the lawmakers wrote to Pelosi and McCarthy. "Good-faith differences of opinion between members on the details of this legislation can be resolved through an amendment process."
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