Some Americans still believe the federal government is working in the public’s best interest. If anything can disabuse these naive holdouts of this notion, it will be the bombshell Wall Street Journal investigation that just dropped—revealing runaway corruption among the federal bureaucracy.
The Journal reviewed more than 31,000 financial disclosure forms and analyzed more than 850,000 financial assets and 315,000 trades to shed light on any conflicts of interest among more than 12,000 senior career bureaucrats and political appointees. Its investigation found that “thousands of officials across the U.S. government’s executive branch disclosed owning or trading stocks that stood to rise or fall with decisions their agencies made.”
“Across 50 federal agencies ranging from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department, more than 2,600 officials reported stock investments in companies while those companies were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies, during both Republican and Democratic administrations,” the Journal reports. “When the financial holdings caused a conflict, the agencies sometimes simply waived the rules.”
The federal employees weren’t even subtle about it. Per the Journal, “More than five dozen officials at five agencies reported trading stocks of companies shortly before their departments announced enforcement actions against those companies, such as charges or settlements.”
To get an understanding of how shady this behavior is, consider examples from a few specific agencies. At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, the Journal found that “more than 200 senior officials… or nearly one in three, reported that they or their family members held investments in companies that were lobbying the agency.”
Similar corruption plagues the Department of Defense, where, per the investigation, “officials in the office of the secretary or their family members collectively owned between $1.2 million and $3.4 million of stock in aerospace and defense companies, on average, during years the Journal examined. Some owned stock in Chinese companies while the U.S. considered blacklisting the companies.”
But at least they’re transparent about it all, right?
Ha! The Journal notes that the federal government “doesn’t maintain a comprehensive public database of the mandatory financial disclosures of all senior executive-branch officials” so they literally had to “buil[d] their own.”
I’m sure there are lots of good-hearted people who work in the federal government and genuinely do try to serve the public. (Unfortunately, very similar conflicts of interest hang over Congress, as well). But the rampant financial conflicts of interest plaguing so many top officials create a cloud of suspicion over the entire federal bureaucracy.
Federal employees are already paid quite well, more than the average private sector employee, in fact. Surely they do not need to also trade stocks in their agency’s industries. To have such suspicious activity occurring among those given vast power yet not accountable to voters is simply unacceptable.
We should prohibit this kind of stock trading among federal bureaucrats, and, even better, drastically scale back the power these bureaucracies have to begin with.