Members of Congress have access to information that the average American does not. They meet with executives, read classified intelligence reports, and help establish the rules that run the economy.
That level of knowledge could give them an edge if they or their families want to invest in the stock market – and many of them do: Nearly a fifth of members of Congress, from both two parties, in recent years have bought shares assigned to the work of congressional committees, a Times investigation found. And that’s probably an understatement because the legislators’ work goes beyond the mandate of the committee, my colleague Kate Kelly, who reported the story, told me.
Among the detected conflicts:
The wife of Representative Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat, sold Boeing stock a day before the House committee he sits on released a report revealing the company’s mishandling of 737 jets. Max, involved in two fatal accidents.
Representative John Rose, a Republican from Tennessee, sold $100,000 to $250,000 in Wells Fargo stock months before a committee he was on released a report critical of the bank.
Senator Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and his wife sold binding options to Microsoft less than two weeks before the company lost a $10 billion contract with the Department Naitional defense.
(You can see if your representative or senator Make the list.)
In many of these cases, little or no evidence directly links congressional work to the purchase. Most legislators questioned about potential conflicts of interest said they followed the law or that a relative or broker uninformed of their congressional work made a purchase or sale.
But it proves the point: Lawmakers can profit from their inside knowledge while staying within the bounds of the law but with a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest.
These transactions exacerbate the sense among many voters that politicians put their own interests ahead of the interests of the public or the country. That in turn helped fuel Americans’ distrust of their government. Parliament in particular keep getting bad grades in surveys of trust in organizations.
Each of the three previous presidents has promised to restore that trust, in his own way. Barack Obama campaigned on his anti-corruption record and later signed a law attempting to stop Congressional insider trading. Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of corruption and tackle himself (although his administration has been plagued by ethics scandals). President Biden has called on Congress to demonstrate that “democracy works” and that government “can benefit our people.”
Scholars distrust institutions that pose a threat to democracy warning. If Americans don’t believe the government is working for them, they are more likely to support alternatives, even undemocratic ones. In other countries, dictators have used public distrust to justify more extreme measures and changes that undermine democracy. around the world.
Lawmakers have proposed bills to restrict trading in their own stocks. Some proposals would ban members of Congress and their spouses from buying stocks, a measure majority of voters. Other laws would force legislators and their spouses to invest in trusts blindly.
On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a House vote on the congressional stock trading bill this month. But not that bill or any other seems to have the bipartisan support needed to pass the Senate.
Why? For one, trading congressional shares can be a really complicated affair. Some proposals could force a spouse to give up a career that spans years before a legislator’s time in Congress. That would be the case, for example, of Pelosi and Senator Tina Smith, whose husbands are professional investors.
It’s also not obvious to draw lines. For example, should the children of legislators be banned from buying stocks? (Some members of Congress think so: Representative Angie Craig said her college-age son bought the stock without her knowledge. She told The Times she did not approve of his purchase.) himself and wanted to pass a law “forcing him to obey his mother. . . . )
And despite the optics, members of Congress may not be making much of a profit. Legislators’ stock purchases and sales from 2012 to 2020 did not outperform other similar stocks, a recent study found.
However, there may be a simpler explanation for why lawmakers didn’t pass the bill, Kate said: “It’s not in their personal interest.”
Other great stories
America is something like 2,160,000 hours old. One and a half of them under the direction of a woman, Gail Collins write.
Mahomes and Chiefs win the battle early: Kansas City Win 27-24 in Los Angeles last night felt like a Week 2 playoff game, a boon for overall viewership and Amazon Prime’s first NFL broadcast. Jaylen Watson’s 99-yard intercept for a touchdown broke a back-and-forth fight. The rematch round of these teams, takes place on November 20.
Excluding the sun: Alyssa Thomas scored her first triple double in a WNBA Finals game in Connecticut wins 105-76 over Las Vegas. Game 4 is Sunday, with the Aces still one more win for a title.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A tragic debut
Perhat Tursun’s book “The Backstreets” was released this week, the first Uyghur novel to be published in English. The book tells the story of a man who goes insane in an oppressive environment. The real life story of its creation Tiffany May writes in The Times.
Soon after the English translation was completed, China escalated its persecution of the Uyghurs – including the detention of intellectuals – and Darren Byler, its translator, suspended its release. However, Tursun and Byler’s Uyghur co-translator disappeared into the camp in 2018. After learning that Tursun was sentenced to 16 years in prison, Byler decided to publish the book.
“They deserve their voice and their work,” he said.
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