Letter to Congressional Leaders Advocating for Ban on Lawmaker Stock Trading

The Hon. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

The Hon. Charles Schumer (D-NY)

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Hon. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

The Hon. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Members of the Senate and House:

We urge that Congress include a ban on stock trading activity by lawmakers in individual stocks as part of the next Coronavirus relief legislative package.

Our organizations represent broad and diverse constituencies across the ideological spectrum concerned about the integrity of Congress in general and the U.S. Senate in particular.

The institutions of the Senate, and by implication the House, have suffered grave harm in the wake of questionable stock trading activity by a few members right before the worst pandemic crisis in modern history. The pandemic has had devastating economic consequences, dearly costing most American citizens our financial security and retirement benefits invested in the stock market. But a handful of senators, privy to confidential briefings on the likely economic consequences of the pandemic from health and intelligence officials, saved themselves from the same fate by dumping their stock investments weeks before the stock market crashed due to the pandemic.

Whether or not these members acted on nonpublic material information gleaned from the congressional briefings, which if so would constitute illegal congressional insider trading, the public appearance of these senators benefiting from our loss has cast a pall over the integrity of the Congress.

In 2012, Congress adopted the STOCK Act in response to congressional insider trading allegations. The STOCK Act clarified that the laws against insider trading apply to members of Congress in their official capacities and established an on-line disclosure system of stock trading activities by members to ensure compliance. It is a noble law and was a noble act by Congress. The volume of stock trading by Senators declined by 65 percent in the three years after it took effect, compared with the three years before its passage. But the recent scandals in the midst of this societal crisis call for further actions.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have proposed legislation that would ban lawmakers from trading on individual stocks and either divest existing stock investments or place those holdings into a genuine blind trust. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the companion bill in the House, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) will be introducing a comparable measure.

Our organizations call upon Congress to include this ban on stock trading activity by members in the next Coronavirus relief package.

These reforms would not impose any significant costs on individual members, and yet would do wonders in re-establishing public confidence that members of Congress are not using confidential inside information for personal gain.

As Congress forges ahead with unprecedented spending bills to salvage the economy, these reforms would comprise an appropriate confidence-building provision in the Coronavirus relief package.

Sincerely,

American Family Voices

California Clean Money Campaign

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Common Cause

Common Defense

DemCast USA

Free Speech for People

Indivisible

James A. Thurber

Norman J. Ornstein

Our Revolution

Public Citizen

Stand Up America

Tax March