The idea of banning stock trading by sitting members of Congress has been gaining momentum recently, as reports of abuse and self-dealing have become more prevalent. A bipartisan group of lawmakers are now pressing forward and demanding that a ban on stock trading cover lawmakers’ spouses.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) is one example of recent ethical investigations regarding securities trading. He is being investigated due to his wife’s stock purchase in an Ohio steel company suffering financially. The purchase came soon after the Trump Administration advised Kelly that it provided additional tariff protections to help the company.
Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) have joined in introducing a House bill designed to ban stock trading for lawmakers and their immediate family members during their active service in Congress. The bill has more than 50 co-sponsors and is the first such restriction to include spouses and dependent children in the restrictions on trading.
Spanberger said recently at an event hosted by the National Taxpayers Union that a ban that doesn’t include spouses is a “slap in the face” to Americans. Roy said that excluding family members “defies logic,” and everyone can “see that for what it is.”
The new bill would require Congress and covered family members to place their stocks into a blind trust before taking office. That arrangement would altogether remove them from decision-making about what stocks to buy or sell while in office. Any lawmaker who violates the rules could face a fine up to the entire amount of their congressional salary.
After initially opposing a ban on congressional stock trading, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has changed her position. She faced substantial pressure from the Democratic caucus following reports that her husband has made millions of dollars in stock trades while she has been in Congress. Pelosi has now asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to draft legislation requiring greater financial transparency for justices on the Supreme Court.
Spanberger said last week that she is open to expansions of trading restrictions beyond members of Congress but insisted that lawmakers must “police ourselves first.”
Members of both parties are likely to press financial and ethical accountability as a campaign issue in this year’s crucial midterm election cycle.