A bill introduced by Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri this week, snidely named the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act (or PELOSI Act), seeks to stop members of Congress from trading on the market.
The name is the senator’s way of insinuating that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi profited from stock trades made by her husband, Paul Pelosi, a wealthy investor, while the House was considering pertinent legislation.
Mr. Pelosi held shares in Nvidia and Micron, for example, as the House was weighing the CHIPS and Science Act, which included an investment of over $50 billion in the US semiconductor industry.
Pelosi later sold his shares and let options expire at a loss.
Despite the unnecessarily offensive name, Hawley’s bill has merit and ought to be genuinely considered, if he’s willing to remove the title.
Hawley is perhaps not the best vessel for such an effort for several reasons.
To begin with, he supported the insurrection effort leading up to – and on – January 6.
Secondly, he’s a divisive figure and not a senator who can generate a lot of support.
Third, he seemed to have no issue with all of Donald Trump’s obvious conflicts of interest.
And fourth, he’s just generally an asshole, which you may have already inferred from the first three reasons.
But I’ll remind you that fertilizer also comes from assholes, and it of course is very useful.
Now, just to be clear: Insider trading is already illegal for members of Congress: that began with the STOCK Act, signed into law by good ole Barry Obama in 2012.
Yet there are legitimate concerns that that law, while well-intentioned, is inadequate.
To begin with, insider trading can be difficult to prove.
Can we say for sure, for instance, that a member of Congress passed off information to a spouse?
Also, even if members of Congress don’t trade on inside information, the very act of owning stock or having options could impact the decisions they make.
Do we want, say, members of Congress making decisions about mergers when they own a significant amount of shares that could be affected?
It’s better, Hawley and others have figured, if members of Congress just do not own any stocks outside of diversified mutual funds or blind trusts.
There is legitimate bipartisan support for such an effort, and how many things can we still say that about nowadays?
In addition to Hawley, Democratic Senators John Ossoff of Georgia and Mark Kelley of Arizona have also tried to bring forward new bills to stop Congressional trading.
In the House, Katie Porter has been very outspoken on this issue.
.@katieporteroc on what bill she'd like to see pass: "Ban congressional stock trading. Over and over and over again, we hear from Americans that they believe that their elected leaders are working to enrich themselves rather than to deliver a just society and a strong economy." pic.twitter.com/zWMyD2MZdj
— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) January 18, 2023
Republican Chip Roy of Texas and Democrat Abigail Spanberger of Virginia have also co-sponsored (for the third time) the TRUST Act, which would not only force members to put their portfolios in blind trusts, but would also require that the people in their immediate family do so as well.
That second provision is actually a bit questionable – after all, their family members didn’t run for Congress, so one could reasonably argue that they cannot be restricted from the activities that every other American is free to engage in.
It might also make it harder to pass muster with the courts.
Still, that bill has generated significant bipartisan support, with members as diverse as Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) signing on.
It’s obvious, then, that there’s room for agreement here, and we should not let the opportunity pass us.
Maybe we can compromise and call the next proposed bill the Hey, Asshole! Worthwhile Legislation for Even You, or HAWLEY Act.
Aren’t acronyms fun?!
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