The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Under the heading of “How is this not already illegal?” comes the latest effort in Congress to prohibit sitting lawmakers from trading stocks.
It’s an old issue that has taken on added relevance since early 2020, when the U.S. began descending into a pandemic that most Americans didn’t know would be the economic tsunami it became. But members of Congress had better information, getting closed-door briefings about the approaching public health catastrophe and the society-altering response that would be necessary.
Several sitting members dumped investments just before a stock market plunge that they were in a position to see coming while most other investors weren’t.
People have gone to prison for circumstances that look this much like insider trading. But none of these pandemic profiteers did. Some are still in office. Ethics probes by their own colleagues were ultimately dropped. No wonder Congress’ approval rating is under 20 percent these days. The only mystery, in fact, is how it is that almost one-fifth of Americans still give these shameless self-dealers the benefit of the doubt.
It’s not that no one in Congress has proposed stock-trading bans. They’ve actually become a relatively popular idea, drawing support from such politically disparate voices as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
And yet it keeps not happening.
The latest effort is a public letter from a bipartisan group of House members pressing congressional leaders to embrace a set of reform “first principles.” The letter pulls no punches, stating bluntly that the goal is to ultimately pass legislation “to end insider trading by Members of Congress.”
These now-familiar ideas are such common sense that to find a member of Congress today willing to openly oppose them would be difficult. But as long as congressional leaders offer platitudes toward reform without actually bringing it to the floor, Americans are justified in assuming they’re still putting their portfolios above their duty.