Dozens of lawmakers trade stocks related to their work, and it’s harming trust in the government.
Members of Congress have access to information that ordinary Americans don’t. They meet with chief executives, read classified intelligence reports and help set the rules by which the economy works.
That level of knowledge can give them an advantage if they or their families want to invest in the stock market — and many of them do: Nearly one in five members of Congress, from both parties, have in recent years bought stocks that intersected with their congressional committee work, a Times investigation found. And that’s probably an underestimate because lawmakers’ work extends beyond their committee duties, my colleague Kate Kelly, who reported on the story, told me.
Among the conflicts uncovered:
The wife of Representative Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat, sold Boeing shares a day before a House committee that he sits on released a report exposing the company’s mishandling of its 737 Max jet, which had been involved in two deadly crashes.
Representative John Rose, a Republican of Tennessee, sold $100,000 to $250,000 in Wells Fargo stock a few months before a committee he is on released a report that was critical of the bank.
Senator Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and his wife sold options tied to Microsoft less than two weeks before the company lost a $10 billion contract with the Defense Department.
(You can see whether your representative or senator made the list.)
In many of these cases, little or no evidence directly links congressional work to a purchase or a sale. Most lawmakers questioned about potential conflicts of interest say that they followed the law or that a relative or broker with no knowledge of their congressional work made a purchase or sale.
But that demonstrates the problem: Lawmakers can profit from their inside knowledge while remaining within the bounds of the law but creating, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest.
- 1 Widespread distrust
- 2 Potential solutions
- 3 Politics
- 4 War in Ukraine
- 5 Other Big Stories
- 6 Opinions
- 7 A tragic debut
- 8 What to Cook
- 9 What to Watch
- 10 What to Read
- 11 Late Night
- 12 News Quiz
- 13 Now Time to Play
The trades exacerbate many voters’ sense that politicians put their own interests above the public’s or the country’s. That, in turn, helps fuel Americans’ distrust of their government. Congress in particular consistently scores poorly in surveys about confidence in institutions.
Each of the past three presidents promised to restore that trust, in his own way. Barack Obama campaigned on his anticorruption record and later signed a law trying to stop congressional insider trading. Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of corruption and self-dealing (though his administration was plagued by ethics scandals). President Biden has called on Congress to prove that “democracy still works” and that government “can deliver for our people.”
The institutional distrust can pose a threat to democracy, scholars warn. If Americans don’t believe the government is working for them, they may be more likely to support alternatives, even nondemocratic options. In other countries, authoritarians have tapped into public distrust to justify more extreme measures and changes, eroding democracy around the world.
Lawmakers have proposed bills to restrict their own stock trading. Some proposals would bar members of Congress and their spouses from buying stocks, a measure that majorities of voters support. Other legislation would force lawmakers and their spouses to put their investments into blind trusts.
On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a House vote on a congressional stock-trading bill this month. But neither that bill nor any other appears to have the bipartisan support needed to pass the Senate.
Why? For one, congressional stock trading can be a genuinely tricky issue. Some proposals would effectively force spouses to abandon yearslong careers that preceded a lawmaker’s time in Congress. That would be the case with, for example, Pelosi and Senator Tina Smith, whose husbands are professional investors.
It’s also unclear where to draw the line. Should lawmakers’ children, for example, be barred from buying stocks? (Some members of Congress think so: Representative Angie Craig said her college-age son had bought stocks without her knowledge. She told The Times that she disapproved of her son’s purchases and wanted to pass a law “to force him to listen to his mother.”)
And despite the optics, members of Congress may not be profiting much. Lawmakers’ stock purchases and sales from 2012 to 2020 did not perform better than other, similar stocks, a recent study found.
Still, there may be a simpler explanation for why lawmakers haven’t passed a bill, Kate said: “It’s not in their personal interest.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Democrats remain even with Republicans in the battle for Congress, and support for Biden is growing, a New York Times/Siena College poll found.
The judge in the Mar-a-Lago documents case appointed a special master and continued to bar the Justice Department from using the seized files in its investigation.
Decisions by the governors of Florida and Texas to send migrants to liberal states were meant to protest border crossings they blame on Biden.
The Senate will delay a vote to protect same-sex marriage until after the midterms. Bipartisan negotiators haven’t yet secured enough Republican support to pass it.
After winning the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, Don Bolduc said the 2020 presidential election “was not stolen” — despite having repeatedly claimed that it was.
War in Ukraine
Vladimir Putin acknowledged that China had “questions and concerns” about the invasion of Ukraine, a cryptic admission that Beijing may not fully approve.
A mass grave with more than 400 bodies was found in the reclaimed city of Izium, Ukrainian officials said.
The U.S. will send $600 million in additional military supplies to Ukraine.
Other Big Stories
To avoid a damaging railroad strike, negotiators had to resolve a central issue: schedules that workers said were upending their personal lives.
Mortgage rates climbed above 6 percent, their highest point since 2008, squeezing the budgets of would-be home buyers.
An assassination attempt against Argentina’s vice president failed. Many Argentines now believe it was a hoax.
Kanye West and Gap ended their partnership. The Yeezy Gap apparel line deal was supposed to last 10 years.
America is something like 2,160,000 hours old. One and a half of which have been under a woman’s direction, Gail Collins writes.
To stop Trump and the MAGA movement, Democrats need to stop speaking to elites and start appealing to more working-class voters, David Brooks argues.
A queer haven: What will happen to “the people’s beach”?
“The Little Mermaid”: Parents shared their kids’ emotional reactions to seeing a Black actress playing Ariel.
Modern Love: As his vision deteriorated, domestic tasks became an expression of love.
A Times classic: How to clean gross workout clothes.
Advice from Wirecutter: Protect your home from water damage.
Lives Lived: Fred Franzia, better known as Two-Buck Chuck, took on the wine industry’s high markups, selling wine at prices many families could afford every day. He died at 79.
Mahomes and Chiefs win early battle: Kansas City’s 27-24 win over Los Angeles last night felt like a playoff game in Week 2, a boon for general viewership and Amazon Prime’s first N.F.L. broadcast. Jaylen Watson’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown broke up a back-and-forth battle. Circle these teams’ rematch, set for Nov. 20.
Sun avoid elimination: Alyssa Thomas recorded the first-ever triple-double in a W.N.B.A. Finals game in Connecticut’s 105-76 win over Las Vegas. Game 4 is Sunday, with the Aces still one win away from a title.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A tragic debut
Perhat Tursun’s “The Backstreets” was released this week, the first Uyghur novel to be published in English. The book tells the tale of a man descending into madness in an oppressive environment. The real-life story of its creation is similarly harrowing, Tiffany May writes in The Times.
Soon after the English translation was finished, China escalated its repression of Uyghur people — including the detention of intellectuals — and Darren Byler, its translator, held off on releasing it. Still, Tursun and Byler’s Uyghur co-translator had disappeared into camps by 2018. After learning that Tursun had received a 16-year sentence, Byler decided to publish the book.
“They deserve to have their voices and their work recognized,” he said.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — German
P.S. The Times’s Travel desk won 10 awards from the Society of American Travel Writers.
Here’s today’s front page.
Matthew Cullen, Lauren Hard, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].