January 9th, 2022
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
One Democrat senator, the youngest in the Senate, has come against House Speaker and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi on her recent comments about stock trading.
Democrat Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff wants to ban members of Congress from being able to trade stocks when they are in their elected positions, The New York Post reported.
The Ossoff ethics bill, which the Democratic freshman Senator plans to introduce once he finds a Republican co-sponsor, would crack down on conflicts of interest by making it illegal for lawmakers and their families to trade stocks while in office, a Washington, D.C. source close to the situation said.
It would also likely require lawmakers put their assets in blind trusts — a step that the 34-year-old Ossoff completed himself months after being elected in January 2021.
No Senate Republicans appear to have publicly come out against congressional stock trades, so Ossoff may have trouble finding a co-sponsor in the Senate. But Republican support in the House is more likely, since several GOP House members including Texas Reps. Michael Cloud and Chip Roy have come out against the practice.
Another proposal to curb Congress trades, the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, was introduced in the Senate in March by four Democratic Senators including Sen. Jeff Merkeley of Oregon and Ossoff’s fellow Georgia freshman Raphael Warnock. It also has an accompanying bipartisan House version backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Roy, among other Democrats and Republicans.
But that legislation would only ban members of Congress and their staff from trading, which means that the husband of the House Speaker would be allowed to continue to trade stocks.
“As Speaker Pelosi’s recent transactions make clear, decisions made for the people should be separate than decisions made for personal enrichment,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy said.
“These lawmakers are just out of touch with how normal people view the situation,” Arizona Republican Senate primary candidate Blake Masters said. “Members of Congress should not be buying call options on Big Tech companies they’re in charge of regulating, that is ludicrous.”
The New York Post said that the Pelosi family has made a fortune on stocks.
And the Pelosis’ overall portfolio — which has also included companies like Disney and Roblox — beat the S&P 500 by 4.9 percent in 2019 and a whopping 14.3 percent in 2020, according to data crunched for The Post by FinePrint, an outfit pushing for greater transparency of financial holdings on both sides of the aisle.
The Pelosis’ exposure to tech stocks, however, may have actually hurt them in 2021, when their portfolio underperformed the S&P 500 by 15.5 percent, according to FinePrint.
When asked whether the opportunity to profit on trades could create a conflict of interest, the speaker has flatly said “no” and has rejected the idea of a ban on trading individual stocks. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill did not dispute The Post’s findings that Paul Pelosi has generally outperformed the market but insisted that the trades are not an issue.
“The Speaker does not own any stocks,” her spokesman said. “As you can see from the required disclosures, with which the Speaker fully cooperates, these transactions are marked ‘SP’ for Spouse. The Speaker has no prior knowledge or subsequent involvement in any transactions.”
Walter Shaub, who was the director of the United States Office of Government Ethics for former Presidents Obama and Donald Trump, said that her defense is “absolutely insulting.”
“The idea that the stocks are in her husband’s name is a complete red herring,” he said. “Unless members of Congress are willing to wear microphones around the clock when they’re having dinner with their spouses and going to bed, the public has no way of knowing what information they intentionally or inadvertently shared.”
“We should be held to a higher standard,” Republican Rep. Michael Cloud said. “When the public sees people in office profiting off [stock trading] when they’re struggling, it does a great disservice to everything that this nation should be about.”