Stock trading ban in Congress gains momentum

Several pieces of legislation are in motion on Capitol Hill to stop lawmakers from profiting in the stock market while in office.
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 11:14 AM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Profiting in the stock market while serving in public office. It’s allowed right now, but a growing number of lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle say it needs to stop because it makes Congress look untrustworthy.

Proponents of a stock trading ban, like Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette from the Project on Government Oversight, say federal lawmakers have access to nonpublic information, and that lawmakers consistently find themselves on the right side significant stock market moves.

Hedtler-Gaudette said, “We don’t have a smoking gun to say that they definitely engaged in insider trading, but at the very least it looks very bad.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is a cosponsor of one of the several pieces of legislation moving around Capitol Hill which would ban members from trading individual stocks.

Gillibrand said, “It’s embarrassing as a member of Congress that that members of our body have created this appearance of impropriety.”

While there are separate Democratic and Republican proposals in the Senate to create a trading ban, the message from supporters on either side sounds similar.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said, “Members of Congress shouldn’t be day trading while they’re here. They ought to be focused on what the people of Missouri or the people of whatever state sent them here to do.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) originally opposed a trading ban. She also captured attention on social media for her investment portfolio consistently beating the market averages. She has since shifted her position, citing building support from Democratic members.

During a press briefing, Pelosi said, “Members will figure it out, and then we’ll go forward with what the consensus is.”

But some opposition remains. Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) office pointed to comments from the senator where Tuberville said, “This is a free country; this is a citizen legislative body that should be free to do what you want to do. And it looks like because you have two or three bad apples, that you want to limit everybody. And that’s not what you do….But if we’re going to do this, we need to look at it very closely..”

Public opinion surveys conducted in the past six months show that most Americans support a stock trading ban for members

George Washington University professor Dr. Casey Burgat notes that Congress already faces trust issues among Americans

Burgat said, “It seems like members of Congress recognize where the public stands on this, and it’s a simple signal that banning themselves from trading on their knowledge is something that they can do it willingly to show members of the public that they are not all as corrupt as we might think that they are.”

Members in the House and Senate are still working on finalizing details on a trading ban. Most proposals would still allow members to invest their money, but not in a way where they have control over individual stock trades.

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