The overwhelming bipartisan support for a Congressional stock ban is promising, but until Congress passes a comprehensive ban, Congress will continue to be mired in a crisis of institutional legitimacy.
A bipartisan policy framework recently released in the House details a promising blueprint for restoring legitimacy. In a new letter sent to House members, CREW urges Congress to pass this Framework, which calls for prohibiting members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children from owning or trading individual stocks and other similar financial instruments.
The Framework includes the core tenets of a strong ban that CREW has advocated for, such as a strong and clear enforcement mechanism that doesn’t create an artificially high standard of intent, the option for members to own individual securities following divestment through a truly blind trust and the rejection of potential loopholes that would undercut the legislation.
The urgency of such legislation is unfortunately evergreen. In 2020, at least 75 members of Congress owned shares in pharmaceutical companies—such as Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—that made COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests. Additionally, at least 15 members of Congress who sat on House and Senate committees that oversee U.S. military policy had financial ties to defense contractors that were worth nearly $1 million. These members were asked to vote on legislation with direct impact on these companies’ share prices, giving the unavoidable impression that members were using their position of power to line their own pockets.
The public should not be put in a position where they’re forced to question whose interests their elected representatives are really serving, and no member of Congress should be put in the position where they could choose to line their own pockets at the expense of the people they serve. The proposed policy Framework would decisively shore up major Congressional ethics problems and play a big part in restoring the public’s trust in our democracy. Congress must act swiftly on legislation that includes all of the Framework’s major principles.