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Gaetz and AOC join forces in calling for Congress stock trading ban: ‘The current rules are not working’

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-01-24

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A motley assortment of House members — including the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a member currently under federal investigation for alleged child sex trafficking, and a member who is under investigation for failing to report stock trades — are calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring legislation banning members from owning or trading individual stocks to the House floor for a vote.

The group of 27 representatives, including Florida Republican Matt Gaetz and New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski, are urging Ms Pelosi and Mr McCarthy to “swiftly” take action on either the Ban Conflicted Trading Act or the TRUST in Congress Act, both of which would prohibit individual stock ownership and trading by member of the House and Senate.

Mr Malinowski’s inclusion among the signatories is notable because he is currently under investigation for violating the STOCK Act — a 2012 law requiring disclosure of stock trades by members — while Mr Gaetz is reportedly the target of a long-running investigation into whether he paid underage girls for sex.

Yet on the subject of stock trades by members of Congress, both embattled members have joined the ideologically diverse group 25 of their colleagues, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, Pennsylvania Representatives Conor Lamb (a Democrat) and Brian Fitzpatrick (a Republican) to call for action on either of the bills.

“This common-sense, bipartisan legislation is unfortunately necessary in light of recent misconduct, and is supported by Americans across the political spectrum,” they said in the letter, which was released by Maine Representative Jared Golden and obtained by The Independent .

The BTCA is sponsored by Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , and Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, and would prohibit members of Congress and any congressional “officer or employee” who files yearly ethics financial disclosures from trading securities or futures contracts, or owning either outside of an approved blind trust.

The TRUST — Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust — in Congress Act is co-sponsored by another of the letter’s signatories — Representative Abigal Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, and Texas Republican Chip Roy — and would go even further by also requiring members’ spouses and dependent children to put such assets in a blind trust during the entirety of their spouse’s or parent’s service in the House or Senate.

The members said the fact that there are multiple competing proposals for addressing the issue of members’ stock trading “should be no excuse for stalling a House floor vote” on the matter.

“[W]e view the emergence of multiple bipartisan bills on this issue as a sign of broad rank-and-file support for it across Congress. Good-faith differences of opinion between members on the details of this legislation can be resolved through an amendment process,” they added.

Although a recent Gallup poll found that more than three quarters of Americans support such a ban, Congress has been slow to act on the matter even after multiple members have been found to have violated the same 2012 law that ensnared Mr Malinowski. The members noted that a 2021 investigation by Insider found that members had violated the STOCK Act hundreds of times in just the last year.

“It’s clear the current rules are not working,” they observed.

Noting that current law makes it “nearly impossible” to determine whether members abused “nonpublic knowledge” to make stock transactions, they said Congress should “close these loopholes” with a trading ban and institute a blind trust requirement to “end the potential corruption of lawmakers pursuing policy outcomes that benefit their portfolios”.

“Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities. We don’t care,” they wrote. “We came to Congress to serve our country, not turn a quick buck.”

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