WASHINGTON – Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Wash.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and 17 of their colleagues today in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act. The ETHICS Act is new, comprehensive legislation that would prohibit members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children from abusing their positions for personal financial gain by owning or trading securities, commodities, or futures.
“Ethics matter. Members of Congress are public servants who should not be making a profit off of the official information we gain by doing our jobs,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in increasing transparency and eliminating opportunities for abuse.”
“Members of Congress have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the American people — not their personal financial portfolios. By removing any financial conflicts of interest and increasing transparency, Congress can better serve our constituents and uphold the public trust,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Congressional stock trading is deeply corrupt. We are elected to serve the public, not our portfolios. And no member should vote on bills biased by the character of their holdings,” said Senator Merkley, the ETHICS Act lead sponsor.
“It’s simple: members of Congress are supposed to serve the American people, not their stock portfolios,” said Senator Brown. “Elected officials have access to private information that can affect individual companies and entire industries. We need more accountability and transparency to prevent members from abusing their positions for personal gain.”
The ETHICS Act is also cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). In the House, the ETHICS Act, led by Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Michael Cloud (R-Texas), is cosponsored by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The ETHICS Act would bar members of Congress, their spouses, and dependent children from owning or trading individual stocks, securities, commodities, or futures. Lawmakers often have advance notice of investigations, hearings, and legislation that can impact stock prices, or can move markets by supporting or enacting policy changes that affect specific companies or industries. The legislation gives several options to members of Congress who own covered assets, including divesting, diversifying into allowable assets—such as mutual funds—or placing assets into a Qualified Blind Trust (QBT). The ETHICS Act addresses concerns about Qualified Blind Trusts not being truly blind with new, enhanced provisions requiring divestiture of assets that go into the Qualified Blind Trust. The ETHICS Act strengthens congressional ethics, bans conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest, and increases transparency in Congress.
The ETHICS Act includes strong penalties with enforcement by respective Congressional Ethics Offices. If Members or their covered family members continue to hold or trade in violation of the Act, the fine will be at least the value of the Members’ monthly pay. The ETHICS Act also expands on disclosure requirements under 2012’s Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.
Full text of the legislation as introduced in the Senate is available here.
The ETHICS Act enjoys wide support from government ethics leaders and other groups across the political spectrum, including: Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Public Citizen, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), MoveOn, National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Take On Wall Street, Stand Up America, Indivisible, RepresentUs, 20/20 Vision, Campaign Legal Center, Issue One, and Our Revolution.