Sen. Rand Paul is far from the first member of Congress to violate the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, a law created to give voters real time transparency into the financial interests of their elected officials.
So far this year, Campaign Legal Center has filed multiple complaints against members of Congress from both parties for failure to comply.
Under the STOCK Act, members of Congress must disclose a stock trade within 45 days of the trade with no exceptions. Voters have a right to know information regarding the financial priorities of their elected officials. Failure to comply with such basic transparency measures denies them that opportunity.
In failing to properly disclose for over a year and a half that his wife had purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in Gilead Sciences, maker of the antiviral drug remdesivir, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has given us the clearest example of why a lack of enforcement is so worrying.
In the early spring of 2020 a number of elected officials, most notably senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), received criticism and faced investigations over stock trades that were seemingly influenced by inside knowledge in the early stages of the pandemic.
The trade made by Sen. Paul’s wife happened at roughly the same time.
By failing to properly disclose these trades, Sen. Paul avoided the consequences faced by his colleagues. In addition to facing inquiries, Sen. Burr later announced his decision to not seek reelection and Sen. Loeffler went on to lose her seat.
While Sen. Burr’s retirement and Sen. Loeffler’s loss cannot be solely be contributed to the backlash to their controversial stock trades, it cannot be denied that those trades contributed to voters’ opinions and allowed voters insight into the financial priorities of their elected officials.
Voters in Sen. Paul’s state were denied such transparency for over a year, while remdesivir went on to become the first drug to be approved for treating COVID-19.
It does not matter that Sen. Paul was not up for reelection in 2020, and it does not matter that his wife ultimately lost money on the investment; the fact that remains that his constituents remained unaware of the financial interests he held in Gilead Sciences as the company made headlines.
If elected officials are not held accountable for failing to promptly and properly disclose stock trades, this trend of members failing to comply may continue and worsen, with members delaying disclosure and only facing a nominal fee as a consequence and thus circumventing the STOCK Act.
When elected officials prioritize their own financial self-interest, they are not only hurting their own accountability, but they are diminishing public trust in government. As members of Congress craft laws that directly impact the lives of all Americans, the public must be able to trust that representatives are acting in the public’s interest.