Should members of Congress be allowed to trade stocks? Missouri Senator says no

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ST. LOUIS-Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley is among several members introducing legislation that would heavily restrict the ability of members of Congress to own stocks. The idea picked up bipartisan speed this week when Hawley, a Republican, and Georgia Senator Jon Ossof, a Democrat, both announced competing bills.

Hawley’s Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act would keep members of their spouses “from holding, acquiring or selling stocks or equivalent economic interests” while in office. Investments in mutual funds, exchange-traded bonds or U.S. Treasury bonds would be exempted. Those impacted would have six months from starting in office to either divest or put the holdings in a blind trust. Violators would lose any profits gained in office to the Treasury and wouldn’t be able to deduct losses on income taxes.

The 2012 Stock Act already bars members from using inside information to make investment decisions and requires that all stock trades be reported to Congress within 45 days.

The 2012 law was passed with bipartisan support in the wake of a stock trading scandal. Yet in the nearly 10 years since it was enacted, no one has been prosecuted under it even as many members continue to conspicuously trade.

In some recent cases, lawmakers have failed to report their trades altogether, as required by the law.

“Year after year, politicians somehow manage to outperform the market, buying and selling millions in stocks of companies they’re supposed to be regulating. Wall Street and Big Tech work hand-in-hand with elected officials to enrich each other at the expense of the country,” Hawley said in announcing the legislation. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to Washington profiteering.” 

Hawley took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to task for her investments and her opposition to legislation that would ban investment trading. Pelosi said last month that lawmakers and their spouses shouldn’t be prohibited from trading while in office, citing “a free market”

Pelosi’s most recent financial disclosure shows her husband has millions of dollars worth of holdings. That includes stock in Amazon and Apple that are each worth between $5 million and $25 million. Other assets she reported include stock options held in Google’s parent company worth between $1 million and $5 million, Comcast stock worth between $1 million and $5 million and stock in Visa worth between $5 million and $25 million.

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