Firebrand progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) promoted a legislative proposal that would ban U.S. representatives and senators from trading stocks during their tenure in Congress via a Twitter thread on Friday evening.
“There is no reason members of Congress should hold and trade individual stock when we write major policy and have access to sensitive information,” Ocasio-Cortez argued, citing alternative ways to invest, such as index funds, to prevent members of Congress from potentially profiting from their legislative decisions.
Although she observed that members of Congress are incentivized to seek alternative compensation to help pay for significant bills during their service, including the high costs of maintaining homes and offices in both their home districts and Washington, DC, Ocasio-Cortez cited conventional cost-of-living increases as a potential solution, rather than investments that would create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
In the past, the New York representative co-sponsored the “Ban Conflicted Trading Act,” which would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks or serving on the boards of corporations during their tenure in elected office. The bill would also restrict the activities of high-level congressional staffers with access to the same information.
A five-month Business Insider investigation found that dozens of legislators on Capitol Hill, as well as nearly two hundred staffers, had violated the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” (STOCK) Act, which does not explicitly prohibit stock trading but requires its public disclosure.
Ocasio-Cortez’s stance contradicts that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who told the magazine that members of Congress should be “able to participate” in the market. While Pelosi does not personally own stock, her husband, a professional investor, does. Other lawmakers also contradicted Pelosi, with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) writing, “It cannot be a perk of the job for Members to trade on access to information.”
Spanberger noted her introduction of the “TRUST in Congress Act,” which would require elected officials to place their assets in a “blind trust” during their service in Congress. These trusts are not currently required for any federal officials, although many use them anyway.
Public interest in blind trusts was briefly raised in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic when it was discovered that several members of Congress had dumped their stock portfolios after being warned of the pandemic’s potential severity, well before the public was informed.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.