The current Congress has a laughably low approval rating of just 17%. It seems near impossible for the public view of our elected officials to drop any lower.
A recent New York Times investigation should do the trick. The Times dug into the stock trades that members of Congress made from 2019 to 2021. They found many cases in which politicians or their close family members made stock trades in circumstances in which they could have had insider knowledge.
“From 2019 to 2021, 183 current senators or representatives reported a trade of a stock or another financial asset by themselves or an immediate family member,” the Times reports . “More than half of them sat on congressional committees that potentially gave them insight into the companies whose shares they reported buying or selling.” The Times investigation also revealed that “44 of the 50 members of Congress who were most active in the markets bought or sold securities in companies over which their committee assignments could give them some degree of knowledge or influence.”
This investigation is not exhaustive. Other cases of suspected corruption, such as the widely followed trading carried out by the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, aren’t captured in the results. That’s because the speaker does not technically sit on any committees. In turn, the full measure of possible conflict-of-interests is even broader than the Times results suggest.
It’s difficult to tell in any specific case if criminal insider trading actually occurred. In some cases, the members claim that the trades were executed without their knowledge or input. But when there’s this much smoke, there has to be some fire somewhere. Why not take some simple bipartisan steps to clear this cloud of suspicion?
Prominent Democrats and Republicans are both coming forward with plans to limit or outright ban stock trading by members of Congress. Outright bans, such as the plan Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is advancing, seem like overkill. An alternative plan put forward by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) makes the most sense. Their ” TRUST in Congress Act ” would require members of Congress, their spouses, and dependent children to put relevant investments in “a qualified blind trust during their entire tenure in Congress.” The lawmakers say their bill would “make sure Members of Congress cannot use their positions in the U.S. House or U.S. Senate to unethically inform investment decisions or influence the value of their existing investments.”
Shouldn’t that be the bare minimum?
If members of Congress want to improve on their pathetically low collective approval rating, they need to clear up this enormous ethical cloud and commit to using their office to pursue public service, not self-enrichment. Any member who refuses to do so is telling on themselves — and raising some serious questions about their real motivations.