It has been said that politics can make for strange bedfellows and a clear example of that was revealed this week in relation to concerns over members of Congress engaging in alleged insider trading on the stock market when members from across the ideological spectrum came together to address the issue.
Legislation that would effectively ban members of Congress from trading stocks was recently introduced and co-sponsored in the House by the likes of Freedom Caucus member Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Progressive Caucus member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), according to the Washington Examiner.
They joined the bipartisan centrist Problem Solvers Caucus member Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and moderate Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) in pushing the bill that, if passed, would apply to all members of Congress plus their spouses and dependents.
Rep. Fitzpatrick said in a Tuesday press release, "The fact that Members of the Progressive Caucus, the Freedom Caucus, and the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, reflecting the entirety of the political spectrum, can find common ground on key issues like this should send a powerful message to America."
"We must move forward on issues that unite us, including our firm belief that trust in government must be restored, and that Members of Congress, including their dependents, must be prohibited from trading in stocks while they are serving in Congress and have access to sensitive, inside information," the Pennsylvania congressman added. "This is basic common sense and basic Integrity 101. And we all view this as a critical first step to return the House of Representatives back to the People."
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement, "The ability to individually trade stock erodes the public’s trust in government," and added, "When Members have access to classified information, we should not be trading in the stock market on it. It’s really that simple."
Rep. Gaetz also issued a statement that said, "Members of Congress are spending their time trading futures instead of securing the future of our fellow Americans. We cannot allow the Swamp to prioritize investing in stocks over investing in our country."
"As long as concerns about insider trading hang over the legislative process, Congress will never regain the trust of the American people. Our responsibility in Congress is to serve the people, not hedge bets on the stock market," the Florida congressman added.
The 10-page bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act, would require all members of Congress, plus their spouses and dependents, to divest themselves of any and all "covered financial instruments" or place them in a blind trust controlled by a neutral third-party, and would have 90 days to comply for anything received after becoming a member.
That legislation also includes actual teeth in terms of enforcement, as it authorizes the Justice Department to pursue civil actions against violators who "knowingly and willfully" fail to comply with penalties of up to $50,000 per violation, and those penalties could not be paid through taxpayer-funded congressional allowances or political committee funds.
There are some exceptions, though, such as for broad investment funds, Treasury bills, and state or local bonds. The measure, first introduced on April 28 and known as H.R. 3003, was subsequently referred to the House Administration Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.
The Examiner noted that this bill was co-sponsored by the unlikely duo of Reps. Gaetz and Ocasio-Cortez is strikingly similar to another bipartisan measure known as the TRUST in Congress Act introduced at the beginning of the current legislative session by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) along with more than 30 other Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
That bill, first introduced in 2020 and then reintroduced in 2021 and again this year, would also require all members of Congress plus their spouses and dependents to place all investments and stocks in a blind trust for the duration of their tenure of service.
It appears, however, that it lacks the teeth of actual enforcement and punishment for violations that were included in the more stringent bill filed last week.