One-hundred-thirty members of Congress or their families have traded stocks collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars in companies lobbying on bills that came before their committees, a practice that is permitted under current ethics rules, a Washington Post analysis has found.
Members say this is a mere coincidence. With hundreds of stocks in their portfolios and hundreds of pieces of legislation, chances are that some trades will seem like conflicts of interest, they claim. They insist that they rarely direct specific trades and instead let their financial advisors handle it for them. A process for doing just that, called a blind trust, already exists and is mandated for executive employees, but only six senators have such a blind trust. Also, overall statistics counter this argument:
…members of Congress outperformed the market as a whole — senators by 10 percent and representatives by 6 percent. “Are they thinking about their investment, or about what is best for their constituents?”
It may be just coincidence after all, but should we have to trust in the goodwill of Congressmen and the power of oversight? Brian Baird (D-Wash), who co-authored the 2006 Stock Act, says it doesn’t matter whether they are insider trading or not.
“They don’t get it, but they need to,” Baird said. “Why? Because people who are taking actions for venal and nefarious purposes might make the same argument you’re making about your innocence. That’s why if there is an appearance of an impropriety, there just might be an impropriety. Members need to bend over backwards to show people they are there for the good of the country.”