The 45 minute-long conversation featured one panel with Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), former Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Zach Wamp (R-TN), Elise Wirkus of Issue One, and Warren Rojas of Business Insider, which recently published a massive investigation into lawmakers’ stock holdings and potential conflicts of interest. A second panel featured Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette of POGO, Andrew Lautz of NTU, and Camila DeChalus of Business Insider.
All panelists stressed the need to restore faith that members of Congress are acting in the best interest of the people, not their portfolios.
Reps. Spanberger and Roy discussed their bipartisan legislation, the TRUST in Congress Act, which would prohibit members of Congress, their spouses, and their children from buying and selling individual stocks while in office.
This bill would still allow members to invest in mutual funds and build for retirement while at the same time curbing the perception that lawmakers are trading individual stocks based on non-public knowledge. Reps. Roy and Spanberger also emphasized the importance of making sure that spouses and dependent children are also covered by stock trading bans.
“Let’s hold ourselves to the highest standard,” Rep. Spanberger said. “The idea that we, as members of Congress, would take an affirmative step to say we are deserving of your trust and we are focused on you, not our stock portfolios, is an important step.”
Rep. Roy added: “The American people want to see us do the right thing… We have a good bill that I think can serve as the engine [for reform]… I’d like to see it come to the floor, have a debate, and vote on it.”
Earlier this year, a poll conducted by Convention of States Action found that 76% of voters believe that lawmakers and their spouses have an “unfair advantage” in the stock market. A separate poll by Navigator Research found that 71% of registered voters support legislation that would limit the ability of members of Congress to trade stocks while in office.
The need to restore the public’s trust was also stressed by former Reps. Baird and Wamp, who are both members of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus of more than 200 former members of Congress, governors, and Cabinet officials that is the largest coalition of its kind ever assembled to advocate for political reform.
“When Spanberger and Roy come together, the country pays attention, because it is still possible for us to work together in a bipartisan way, and this proves it,” said Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chair Rep. Wamp.
“We should be elected to serve the public, not to serve ourselves, and we shouldn’t let our votes influence our portfolios or our portfolios influence our votes,” added former Rep. Baird, who, while in Congress, wrote the STOCK Act that expanded transparency requirements for the reporting of congressional stock trading.
Concluded former Rep. Wamp: “We need to have a system where everyone knows a bright line of what’s right, what’s wrong, [and] what’s ethical, so the country can reclaim confidence in its leaders… We can put ethics above partisan interests or personal interests.”