Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are bringing forward a new bill to block their fellow U.S. lawmakers, senior officials in the executive branch, and their spouses and dependents from owning stocks while in office.
On Wednesday, the two Senators announced they intend to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill, to be named the Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act, to heavily regulate investing by members of government.
The act bans buying and selling stocks, including in blind trusts, and raises penalties for violating financial disclosure rules by lawmakers, executive branch officials like the president and vice president, and their family members.
Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Hawley have supported efforts to regulate government officials’ financial activities over the years. In 2012, Ms. Gillibrand helped pass the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. In the past two years, Mr. Hawley has proposed three new bills to increase regulations on stock trading among members of Congress and to place similar regulations over the executive branch.
Ms. Gillibrand said the bill she is now cosponsoring with Mr. Hawley “is the most substantive bipartisan effort to date.”
“I’m going to work hard alongside Senator Hawley to get it signed into law,” she added.
This bipartisan effort bill comes amid concerns that government members have a unique advantage in the stock market because they can set laws and policies and are privy to other non-public information that can impact the economy.
Several senators drew scrutiny for their stock trading activities near the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some senators disclosed selling stocks in the hospitality industry, which was negatively impacted by the pandemic. Others reported buying stock in biotechnology companies and companies that market work-from-home technology, which became popular during lockdowns.
“Politicians and civil servants shouldn’t spend their time day-trading and trying to make a profit at the expense of the American public, but that’s exactly what so many are doing,” Mr. Hawley said.
“My bill with Senator Gillibrand is common sense: ban elected and executive branch officials from trading or holding stocks, and put the American public first.”
The Ban Stock Trading for Government Officials Act would implement various penalties for lawmakers and senior executive branch officials.
Members of Congress who violate the bans on buying and selling stocks face a penalty of “at least 10 percent of the value of the prohibited investments.”
The new bill also raises penalties for failures to disclose other transactions covered under the STOCK Act, including bonds and commodities futures.
The new bill raises the penalty for STOCK Act disclosure violations from $200 per infraction to $500. A similar $500 penalty applies when members of Congress, senior executive branch employees, their spouses, or their dependents fail to disclose receiving federal government benefits like loans, agreements, contracts, grants, and other payments.
Penalties for executive branch officials who buy and sell stocks include an “Automatic Special Counsel fine of not less than the value of the covered investment that was purchased or sold in violation of the ban or up to $10,000, whichever is more.”
The Office of Special Counsel may also refer cases of infractions to the attorney general for additional civil action.
In addition to the new regulations and penalties on investment activities, the bill also calls for creating a publicly searchable database of personal financial disclosure reports under the STOCK Act.
Majority Support Banning Government Stock Buying: Poll
Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Hawley noted broad public support for blocking lawmakers and executive branch officials from buying and selling stocks, including more than six in 10 respondents of an October 2022 Morning Consult/Politico poll.
The poll found 68 percent of registered voters supported banning stock trading by members of Congress, including 51 percent who said they “strongly support” such a ban and 17 percent who said they “somewhat support” the idea. Fourteen percent of respondents opposed banning members of Congress from stock trading, while a larger 18 percent said they didn’t know one way or the other.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents in the same poll also said they supported banning stock trading for top officials working for agencies in the federal government. Sixty-seven percent of respondents also supported banning stock trading by the president, vice president, and top officials in the Federal Reserve.
The same poll also found 63 percent of registered voters supported banning stock trading for Congress members’ families.
From NTD News.