Campaign Legal Center Seeks Enforcement of the Ban on Committee Staff Stock Holdings
Washington, D.C. — Campaign Legal Center (CLC) on Thursday, March 17, sent a formal letter to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, asking the committee to disclose whether it authorized senior committee staff members’ stock holdings that appear to violate Senate rules pertaining to conflicts of interest.
While members of Congress have received significant public scrutiny for allegedly trading stock based on nonpublic information they receive in their official capacity, an overlooked rule that bans committee staff from owning certain stock reveals that conflicts of interest are not unique to those sent there by voters.
“Voters have a right to know whether elected officials and their most influential senior staff are prioritizing the needs of the public or their own stock portfolios,” said Kedric Payne, vice president and senior director of Ethics at Campaign Legal Center. “When senior staffers own stock in companies within the jurisdiction of their committee, there is a clear opportunity for conflicts of interest."
Although members of Congress can own any stock, senior level Senate committee staff are restricted in owning stock, under a rule separate from the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.
The Senate committee-staff stock ban — Senate Rule 37.7 — prohibits committee staff from trading stocks in companies that fall under their committee’s jurisdiction. Recent research by CLC found committee staff who may have violated the ban. The Senate Ethics Committee can issue waivers for this rule, but these waivers are not public. Consequently, there is no transparency regarding compliance with this rule, and it appears underenforced.
The lack of transparency and enforcement on these clear conflicts of interest is problematic and should be fixed.
As Congress prepares to hold hearings focused on clarifying and reforming the laws that regulate their own stock trading activities, they must also take steps to ensure congressional staff are also not privately benefitting from their positions.
At Campaign Legal Center, we are advancing democracy through law. Learn more about our work.