A few days ago, Business Insider ran a piece that listed the 25 richest members of Congress. With a net worth of over $46 million, Pelosi is the fifteenth richest member. So when she was asked-- and then answered-- the question about whether or not members and their spouses should be able to trade stocks, it should have surprised no one when she seemed to think there was nothing wrong with the whole idea. I suppose it would be ok for members to own stocks as long as they recused themselves from voting-- including, or especially, in committee-- on anything and everything that could impact the value of that stock. But she didn't; she just sang a little ode to "free markets," missing the whole point of what insider trading is and how it distorts markets... and cheats the American people.
I reached out to some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates who I know have concerns about this kind of corruption. Predictably, the first person who responded who populist firebrand for Justice, Lucas Kunce, who is running for an open seat in Missouri. I wish I could get his Republican opponents' responses as well. Lucas came right to the post though, as he's prone to do: "The rest of us get jailed for insider trading. Members of Congress should too. No member of Congress or any of their immediate family members should buy, own, or trade stock. This is why we have to fundamentally change who has power in our country."
Another Midwest progressive, Tom Nelson up in Wisconsin, has a similar outlook. "You're a Member of Congress which means among other things you are entrusted to handle the country's economy," he told me last night. "You don't need to be day trading like Bud Fox. Put your money in mutual funds and CDs like the rest of us and do your job." You like this attitude? We need more of it in the Senate, where Nelson intends to replace Trump puppet Ron Johnson. Please consider helping him do that-- and helping Kunce-- by clicking on the Blue America Senate page at this link and giving what you can.
I also spoke to House candidate Jason Call, running for a seat held by corrupt New Dem Rick Larsen. "Here in Washington State," Call told me, "we’ve got one of the most corrupt members of Congress in 2-term New Dem Kim Schrier. It’s not just that Schrier didn't declare the half mil in Apple stock that-- whoops!-- her husband purchased without her knowledge, it’s the fact that she sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee whose regulatory capacity has the power to directly influence that stock.). But apparently this is all just fine with megamillionaire Speaker Pelosi, whose wealth comes largely from real estate investments, business partnerships, and stock holdings. Any accountability meted out on Schrier would surely have to be visited on Pelosi herself, so of course she’s going to talk about free markets and being a capitalist to her bones. I can’t help thinking that we’re in that analogous tumultuous stage of Rome in the late 2nd century BC where the Gracchi brothers tried to curb the corruption of the Senate and redistribute the ager publicus to the common folk before they were assassinated by the Optimates and the teetering Republic veered towards full empire. How do we pull up out of this nosedive? Your guess is as good as mine, but we have to keep calling it out and trying."
I disagree with her," said Oregon progressive House candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner. "Our democracy is suffering from a lack of public trust. Members of Congress should be held to a higher standard and should not be playing the stock market. It's not about losing individual rights, it's about understanding that when you serve our country, you are expected to demonstrate a commitment to the greater good-- not just to yourself. That should not be a radical statement."
Progressives haven't had a real hope in Montana in many years... until now, when former state Rep Tom Winter has thrown his hat into the ring for the new congressional seat. He isn't thrill with Pelosi's nod and a wink towards such obvious corruption either. "Its almost like our supposed 'free market economy. is greased by the corruption she’s talking about," he told me this morning. "And aside from the Speaker's obviously politically toxic statement, isn’t insider trading by corrupt elected officials utilizing publicly-paid-for resources…uh…antithetical to free market principles?"
Steve Holden, the Central New York progressive taking on Republican John Katko, is serious about ending the cycle of bipartisan corruption in Congress. He told me that when he was in the Army, he took an oath, "which is very similar to the ones taken by Members of Congress. In that oath, we swear to not use our offices for personal gain. Of course, as we saw with the COVID briefings in 2019, some Members of Congress did exactly that-- took the information given them in classified briefings and used to dump some stock and buy others. This is prima facie evidence that Members and their immediate families should not be able to use their position to enrich themselves. You cannot both, rightfully, pass legislation to prevent another grifter President, but also line you own pockets. If it not done this term, I will propose, sponsor, or co-sponsor legislation to prevent this from happening, along with preventing former Members of Congress from being lobbyists."
Two California congressional candidates Lourin Hubbard and Culver City Mayor Daniel Lee don't seem very pleased with Pelosi's way of looking at the issue. Hubbard, who seeks to replace Devin Nunes in the Central Valley: "Nancy Pelosi is wrong on this issue. Members of Congress, by the very nature of their work, have access to much greater detailed information than the general public, especially financial information that could be useful in enriching their own pockets. As public servants, Congress members have a fiduciary responsibility to the American people and should be held to a higher standard. I am a progressive. Our basic principles date back to the progressive era of the late 1890s. Those principles are fighting political corruption and corporate greed. We must show we are a party that champions those principles again. At a time when the nation prepares to reinstate student loan payments and the child tax credit, which reportedly lifted millions of children out of poverty, are set to expire, Nancy Pelosi is defending a system that has already enabled cases of insider trading by members of Congress. When she does things like this it really confuses the message that we candidates are trying to convey of Democrats being the party that champions working class people while our leadership cozies up to corporate elites."
And Daniel Lee, the progressives the race for the open Los Angeles seat that Karen Bass is giving up. "It is unconscionable," he told me, "that those we have entrusted to look out for and protect the well-being of all are instead laser focused on protecting their right to enrich themselves. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy and it must end." On the left is the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer for House races. Please consider clicking on it and contributing to the candidates like Daniel, who are sharing their thoughts on this.
One last candidate comment-- this one from Ally Dalsimer, the progressive community activist and congressional candidate taking on garden variety establishment Democrat Gerry Connolly in northern Virginia. She was on FIRE this morning when we spoke about this:
It's not surprising that Ms. Pelosi wants to continue to allow members of Congress and their families to actively participate in the stock market. Data show that she and her husband actually beat the stock market index by double digits in 2020 and, since 2019, realized a 100% rate of return which increased their personal net worth by over $60M. That's why there's a Tik Tok trend dedicated to following and replicating Pelosi's investments. But she's not alone. Many members of Congress, including the current rep in VA-11 who is heavily invested in commercial banks and the defense industry, have made a great deal of money during the pandemic, which is why there's an entire website (congressstockwatcher) dedicated to getting the edge on investing by seeing what our representatives are investing in.
Having the inside scoop on what the legislative agenda will be before the public is aware may not technically be considered insider trading but it certainly gives lawmakers an edge, and most definitely creates a conflict of interest for lawmakers to advance their personal wealth as well as the profitability of the companies who are their primary donors.
That's why my first act in office will be to introduce the Conflicts of Interest Act wherein lawmakers will not be allowed to actively trade stocks while in office, must recuse themselves from voting on legislation that impacts a company in which they have a financial interest, and cannot go to work for any of their donors for at least 5 years after leaving office. The fact is that the makeup of Congress is supposed to reflect the make up the country and the people who live here, yet while only 4% of Americans are millionaires, over 50% of our representatives are millionaires. I am not against people, even our representatives, having money and being successful, but I do object to any politician whose salary is paid by the American people taking advantage of their position for personal gain or profit.
There's a reason that the Congressional approval rating is at just 21%-- it's because people's needs keep getting put on the back burner. Given that lawmakers engaged in active stock trading during the pandemic while bickering over whether to give struggling families $600, the low rating is not surprising. Our representatives must be held accountable, they must be held to higher standards, they must be willing to truly serve the needs of their constituents, and they must have integrity. There are several candidates running for office now that will, if elected, be true to these goals. I am one of them, and so are the other endorsed Blue America candidates. It's the end of the fiscal year and corporate-backed politicians, like Gerry Connolly, are raking in the corporate donations. So, if you care about democracy and doing what's right, please consider helping grassroots (i.e., no corporate PAC or dark money) candidates like me with an end of year contribution.