Another View: Banning Members of Congress from Playing Stocks Could Restore Public Confidence | Columnists

Ballotpedia tracks what it calls a “personal gain index” showing how much each congressman’s personal wealth has changed during their tenure. For the top 20, the average increase in net worth was 422% per year. Data like this helps explain why ordinary Americans hold Congress in such low regard, when they see their supposed officials personally benefit from their positions. Bipartisan legislation in Congress barring its members from buying and selling stocks while in office could help restore that trust.

In January 2020, when most of America had no idea what the coronavirus would soon do to the economy, many members of Congress did so because they were getting inside information from experts. . Several of these members began dumping stocks they owned – this during a booming stock market that most people didn’t know was about to crash in the first place. arrival of the pandemic.

Sen. Richard Burr, RN.C., sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million, including hotel assets that would later lose value due to the closures. So-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., sold even more doomed stocks — while buying one for a tech company that would rise in value due to the impending need for teleconferencing for many other workers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, D-California, sold at least $1.5 million worth of stock before the market plunged. The wife of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., bought stock in February 2020 in a pharmaceutical company that developed an antiviral treatment for the coronavirus, long before most ordinary Americans knew it would be needed.

They and others have all denied wrongdoing, and the Justice Department has dropped its investigations into these and other transactions (though the Securities and Exchange Commission is still reviewing Burr’s case). But whether they were mere happy coincidences for these lawmakers or something more sinister, they looked awful and eroded public confidence in the honesty of Congress.

A recent Business Insider investigation found that dozens of members of Congress violated the requirement to disclose stock trades within 45 days of the trade. Worse still, when the website sought comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (whose husband is a major stock trader), she dismissed the idea of ​​forcing lawmakers to place their assets in trusts. blind while serving – a response that has angered reformers on both sides of the aisle. and reinvigorated efforts to meet such a requirement. Among the various pieces of legislation that currently exist, there are proposals from sources as disparate as Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Congressional service is supposed to be just that – service – not a chance for the rich to get rich on games that could land them in jail if they were anyone else. Pelosi and other leaders of both parties should support these reforms and make them happen.

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