After being briefed on the coronavirus, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) dumped millions of dollars worth of shares of stocks, potentially using the information they used in the briefings.
When ProPublica and The Daily Beast broke the news this weekend, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said there should be an ethics investigation. But one Minnesota representative says the problem isn’t just potential insider trading. It’s systemic.
“What happened over the weekend, you know, it’ll be someone else to determine whether or not there was insider trading involved,” said Rep. Angie Craig, who represents Minnesota’s Second District. “But the real question is, why in the world would members of Congress be allowed to trade individual stocks?”
Last June, Craig introduced the Halt Unchecked Member Benefits with Lobbying Elimination — or HUMBLE — Act. The bill would ban members from purchasing first-class airline tickets as a congressional travel expense, ban former members of congress from using congressional facilities, ban former members from becoming lobbyists and, most pertinently, the bill would ban members from owning shares of a company while they’re in office.
Since the weekend, four new members signed onto the bill: Rep. Ilhan Omar, Craig’s congressional neighbor in Minneapolis; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).
“I’m honored to join Rep. Craig in cosponsoring the HUMBLE Act to impose a ban on Members from owning individual stocks and lobbying after the serve,” Khanna said. “As one of three members of Congress that rejects all PAC contributions, I’ll do everything in my power to clean up our democratic government and make it work for the people, not special interests.”
Omar announced her support on Twitter and nudged Ocasio-Cortez to do the same.
“Members of Congress should not be allowed to own individual stock,” Ocasio-Cortez said last week. “We are here to serve the public, not to profiteer. It’s shocking that it’s even been allowed up to this point.”
Omar responded: “They shouldn’t and [Angie Craig’s] bill bans them from doing just that. I am signing on to the Humble Act today and encourage members to do the same.”
While the conspicuous coronavirus stock sales drew attention to her bill, Craig said there’s a lot of information members of Congress are privy to that should prompt concern.
“I’ve been in these background briefings on Boeing over the last year where I walk out of the room and I think to myself, ‘My goodness, if I wanted to short Boeing right now, there’s opportunity there.’ It’s unbelievable that members of Congress are even allowed to have that capacity.”
Craig does not own any individual stocks and has committed to not buying any during her time in office. But in her mind, the problem isn’t about individual choices, it’s about a system that doesn’t hold representatives accountable.
“The two examples from the Senate that were disclosed last weekend — these are the kinds of stories that make my constituents not like politics, not like politicians — and you know, the truth is, you get one or two examples of people behaving that way and it makes constituents believe that everybody behaves that way,” Craig said.
“Our communities should know that when they send us there, it’s for one purpose and that’s to do what’s in the best interest of our communities.”