Bipartisan Bill Aims to End Congressional Stock Trading - Will It Succeed?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Here’s an example of proposed legislation that should pass, but probably won’t.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are collaborating on legislation to prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks. They argue that the ability to individually trade stock erodes public trust in government. The bill would prohibit members of Congress, their spouses, and dependents from engaging in stock trading while they are in office.

Gaetz stated that they should disallow congressional stock trading for the same reason that referees are not allowed to bet on games. Ocasio-Cortez claimed that when members of Congress have access to classified information, they should not be trading on it.

This is not the first time such a measure has been introduced. Indeed, a bipartisan group of lawmakers put forth similar legislation last year.

Several high-profile incidents in recent years have brought attention to the push to ban congressional stock trading, such as former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is under scrutiny over her husband’s trades and former Sen. Richard Burr facing an investigation over his trading activities.

The measure comes from the unlikely pairing of Gaetz and Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.

Axios reported:

Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) introduced the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act Tuesday, a bill that would restrict trading and ownership of financial investments by members of Congress, as well as by their spouses and dependents.

The push to stop lawmakers from trading stocks is coming primarily from younger members of Congress, especially those who adopt more anti-establishment stances. Rep. Fitzpatrick released a statement noting that “Members of the Progressive Caucus, the Freedom Caucus, and the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, reflecting the entirety of the political spectrum, can find common ground on key issues like this should send a powerful message to America.”

“Members of Congress, including their dependents, must be prohibited from trading in stocks while they are serving in Congress and have access to sensitive, inside information,” the lawmaker continued. “This is basic common sense and basic Integrity 101.”

Ocasio-Cortez released a statement arguing that lawmakers who can access classified information “should not be trading on the stock market on it.”

Each of these lawmakers is right. Members of the legislature should have been prohibited from trading on the stock market a long time ago.

For starters, it creates a conflict of interest. Members of Congress have access to confidential information about companies that could affect their stock prices. If they were allowed to trade stocks, they could, and do, use this information to their advantage and make a profit, which is a clear conflict of interest. This could also lead to insider trading, which is illegal for us peasants.

The second reason is that, as Gaetz argued, it undermines trust in government. Members of Congress are supposed to serve the public, and allowing them to trade stocks could create the perception that they are serving their own interests instead. Indeed, this is not just a perception, it is a reality, as Pelosi has shown us. This could further erode public trust in government, which is already at an all-time low in many countries. By prohibiting lawmakers from trading stocks, they could avoid even the appearance of impropriety and restore some of the public’s trust.

The third reason is that it would promote a level playing field. If members of Congress are allowed to trade stocks, they have an unfair advantage over the general public. They have access to information that the general public does not, and this could allow them to make more informed trades that are not available to the public. By prohibiting lawmakers from trading stocks, it would ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules.

Nevertheless, this bill will likely die a quick death on the floor for one reason: Our government is corrupt. As much as I would love to be wrong about this, I see no scenario in which members of Congress would willingly vote away the advantages they enjoy by being in their position. It would be akin to lawmakers voting to slash their own salaries.

However, a silver lining in this story is that it will further show how corrupt our government actors are. The fact that they will kill a bill that should be a no-brainer illustrates that these folks are not working for the people, but for their own enrichment.

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