Congress Finally Gets Serious About Stock Trading Oversight

Issues
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A magnifying glass hovering over a $100 bill

Nearly two years ago, news about members of Congress trading stock based on nonpublic information they received during a COVID-19 briefing brought congressional stock trading into the spotlight. The attention, thankfully, has not let up.

Americans from both sides of the aisle have long been suspicious of members trading stock, as it creates a clear conflict between serving the public’s interests and a member prioritizing their own wallet.

Since January 2022 alone, dozens of news articles have included quotes or data from Campaign Legal Center (CLC) in coverage of congressional stock trading and discussions about whether Congress should pass legislation to limit or fully prevent members of Congress from trading stock.

One of those articles included a poll from CLC, which found that 67% of Americans believe that members of Congress should not be able to trade stocks in specific companies.

There’s a good reason why the public wants members to stop trading: “Permitting members of Congress to trade individual stocks while they essentially pick winners and losers in the market every day through legislation and all the other work they do is very damaging to the public’s trust,” said Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at CLC, speaking to The Spokesman-Review.

This is particularly damaging given the amount of money lawmakers are putting into the stock market. In 2021, 113 lawmakers disclosed stock transactions worth $355 million.

As Kedric Payne, director of ethics and general counsel at CLC, noted in an interview with MarketWatch, “When the public sees a large volume of trades by members of Congress, it just raises the question of why that is occurring, and if it is without conflicts of interests.”

Fortunately, some in Congress have already begun to act to prevent lawmakers from stock trading, ensuring that our elected officials act ethically and transparently when it comes to their personal finances, which is critical for our democracy.

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) has introduced legislation that would require members of Congress to put their assets in a blind trust. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) have introduced a similar bill in the House.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has introduced other legislation that would allow all members to keep their assets while in office, but it would not allow them to buy or sell until leaving office.

Voters have a right to know that their representatives are fulfilling their duty as a public official and not using their position to make money instead. Passing legislation that would prohibit members of Congress from trading individual stock would do just that.

CLC will continue its work to help achieve this and ensure that in the meantime, Congress follows the current laws surrounding stock trading. 

Danielle is a legal counsel on CLC's ethics team.
Should We Ban Members of Congress from Trading Stocks?