Sasse reintroduces bill to bar lawmakers from trading stocks
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Wednesday reintroduced a bill that would block federal lawmakers from trading stocks while in office, saying the legislation was meant to “rebuild some public trust.”
“People hate politics, and politicians have worked hard to earn that hate,” Sasse said in a statement about his bill, called the Ethics Reform Act.
“This ethics package is pretty simple: If Congress wants to rebuild some public trust, we ought to put some pretty simple rules on Washington. Members of Congress shouldn’t be trading stocks while they’re in office and they shouldn’t cash out as lobbyists when they leave office,” he said.
Sasse also called for the president and vice president to be required to disclose their tax returns and said their family members should not be allowed to “gladhand for foreign cash under the cover of foundations and libraries.”
“This is going to hack off a whole bunch of Republicans and Democrats but, frankly, doing it in one fell swoop is the only way to do it — it’s time to get everyone’s goat,” said Sasse.
Sasse first introduced a version of this bill in 2018, saying at the time that members of Congress should do “what’s best for their constituents, not their 401K.”
The bill includes a $1 million fine and a maximum prison sentence of five years for lawmakers who are found to have traded stocks while in office.
Sasse’s reintroduction of the bill comes just weeks after Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) introduced a bill drafted in a similar vein that would also ban members of Congress from trading stocks. Their bill included a fine that was the equivalent of the lawmaker’s full congressional salary.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose family’s stock trades have garnered attention among social media users, said in January that she was open to a congressional stock trading ban.
“To give a blanket attitude of we can’t do this and we can’t do that because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m OK with that,” she said.
The push to ban lawmakers from trading has gained new traction after it was reported in October that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for possibly violating federal insider trading laws when he liquidated most of his stocks after receiving information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SEC said it appeared Burr, who is retiring after his term ends in 2022, had nonpublic information that he received through his position as then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as his membership on other relevant committees.
Soon after receiving the information, Burr allegedly called his broker and instructed that they sell $1.6 million in stock. He also that same day allegedly called his brother-in-law later made similar sales.
Burr has previously denied the allegations, telling the Senate Ethics Committee in March 2020 that he based his decision off of early coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic by CNBC.
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