‘Legalized Corruption’: Democrats’ Delay On Stock Trading Ban Is ‘Disappointing,’ Watchdogs Say

  • Senate Democrats’ move to delay a bill banning members of Congress from trading stocks is “disappointing,” watchdogs that backed ban proposals told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 
  • Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley made the stock ban delay revelation to Insider Thursday, telling the outlet lawmakers are prioritizing “other bills and judicial nominations.”
  • “In order to have a government that truly works for the people, voters need to trust that lawmakers have their best interests at heart,” said Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO of RepresentUs, a nonpartisan anti-corruption group. “But by continuing to allow themselves to benefit financially from their positions of power, members of Congress are condoning legalized corruption.”

Democratic senators’ decision to delay a stock trading ban until after the November midterm elections is “disappointing,” watchdog groups that supported ban proposals told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This is incredibly disappointing,” said Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO of RepresentUs, a nonpartisan anti-corruption group. “In order to have a government that truly works for the people, voters need to trust that lawmakers have their best interests at heart. But by continuing to allow themselves to benefit financially from their positions of power, members of Congress are condoning legalized corruption.”

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley made the stock ban delay revelation to Insider Thursday, telling the outlet lawmakers are prioritizing “other bills and judicial nominations.”

There have been increased calls from activist groups and lawmakers for members to be prohibited from trading, especially in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband buying millions of computer chips stock before the passage of the CHIPS Plus Act in August, which hands $52 billion to chip manufacturers, the DCNF reported.

Pelosi said in a press conference Wednesday that Democrats think they can bring a ban bill to the House floor later in September. Merkley and the House speaker “haven’t spoken,” a Pelosi spokesman told the DCNF in response to a question on whether Merkley briefed her prior to the presser on Senate Democrats’ decision.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in February asked members to form a group aimed toward putting forth a ban bill. Lawmakers later that month introduced the Bipartisan Ban on Congressional Stock Ownership Act of 2022 — which would fully prohibit trading.

Merkley’s announcement is “deeply disappointing” given members “have the power to affect the fortunes of the companies in which they own shares,” said Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a progressive ethics group.

“Sen. Schumer must commit to bringing a strong bill forward in the first week of the lame duck or risk further eroding Americans’ confidence in the Senate,” Libowitz told the DCNF. “Americans should never have to wonder whose interests their representatives are acting in.”

Gary Kalman, executive director of the anti-corruption nonpartisan group Transparency International U.S., told the DCNF it is “disappointing” a stock ban bill “keeps getting put off.”

“This is not a new idea,” said Kalman. “It’s a common sense ethics rule they should pass. With all the stories of potential conflicts and general distrust of Congress at this time, this is a step they can take to counter the perception that members are acting in their own self-interest.”

There have been a handful of stock ban proposals, including the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, which Merkley sponsored in March 2021 and bars members and senior congressional staffers from buying or selling stocks. Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff in January sponsored the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act, which would require members and their families to divest their holdings within 120 days of the legislation being approved or place certain investments in a qualified blind trust.

Merkley’s announcement also comes on the heels of a New York Times report Tuesday detailing possible conflicts of interest among lawmakers who traded stocks between 2019 and 2021 while sitting on committees that may have given them key financial insight. The senator tweeted out the Times report Wednesday, claiming, “This is why I’ve been leading the charge in the Senate to ban congressional trading. We need to get it done.”

“There is no excuse for any further delay on this legislation,” Dan Savickas, director of tech policy at Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan group focused on lowering federal spending, told the DCNF. “Congress has had ample to time to consider and pass this bill a number of times already.”

“Congressional leadership dragging its feet on this issue sadly reveals where their true priorities lie,” Savickas added.

Spokespeople for Merkley and Schumer did not respond to requests for comment. A Pelosi spokesman pointed the DCNF to her Wednesday presser remarks.

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