Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will introduce bipartisan legislation this week to block lawmakers and members of the federal executive branch from owning stock in individual companies.
The bill, if passed, would allow the president and vice president, lawmakers, Capitol Hill aides, and executive branch employees to own broad industry and index funds, as well as mutual funds, but would prohibit that same group from owning stocks in individual companies, including blind trusts, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The legislation is the latest in Congress being introduced after the publication's Capital Assets series last year, which revealed that several employees in the executive branch owned stock in companies that their agencies were regulating.
"It is critical that the American people know that their elected leaders are putting the public first, not looking for ways to line their own pockets," Gillibrand said in a statement.
Executive branch employees are already subject to strict rules that ban them from trading or owning stocks in companies they oversee, but the rules contain several loopholes and omissions, the Journal's series revealed.
Under the proposed legislation, government officials determined to be violating the rules could face strict penalties. The bill calls for executive branch employees to forfeit their stock trading profits and face fines of $10,000 and up.
Currently, lawmakers and aides are allowed to own and trade individual stocks if they aren't making investment decisions based on nonpublic information they hear about in Congress. But with the new bill, they would face a penalty of at least 10% of the value of such investments.
The bipartisan legislation comes as voters increasingly support banning stock ownership by lawmakers, the executive branch, and Supreme Court justices and their families.
According to a poll of 2,625 registered voters released Wednesday by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, 80% said they support a stock ownership ban.
"While the prospect of a stock-trading ban is controversial within Congress, public support approaches unanimity,” Steven Kull, the program's director, commented.
About a dozen bills have already been introduced in Congress this year concerning an overhaul of rules for stock trading in Congress and the executive branch.
A vote was scheduled for Wednesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on a bipartisan bill from Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, which would create a searchable online database of mutual funds, corporate stocks, and other assets senior officials in the executive branch own.
The bill being presented by Gillibrand and Hawley would create a searchable database for transactions by members of Congress, their employees and staff, and executive branch employees.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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