In what is surely one of the year’s oddest of odd couples, Republican Matt Gaetz and Democrat and Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have joined forces to push a bill preventing anyone in Congress from owning stocks or securities. Politics, it seems, really does make for strange bedfellows, even if the notion would make both parties mentioned here somewhat ill.
The bill seeks to prohibit financial investments by members of Congress, their spouses, and any dependents, in order to address concerns over conflicts of interest and corruption within the legislative branch.
The introduction of the bill follows a series of recent controversies involving lawmakers’ financial investments, including allegations of insider trading and conflicts of interest. The Restoring Faith in Government Act aims to address these concerns by imposing strict limitations on the financial activities of members of Congress and their families.
“Members of Congress are spending their time trading futures instead of securing the future of our fellow Americans. We cannot allow the Swamp to prioritize investing in stocks over investing in our country,” said Congressman Gaetz.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez also weighed in:
The ability to individually trade stock erodes the public’s trust in government. When Members have access to classified information, we should not be trading in the stock market on it. It’s really that simple.
I don’t think I’ve ever written these words before in regard to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but… she’s right. At a time when Nancy Pelosi’s stock portfolio is doing so amazingly well that financial advisory sites are presenting such things as “8 Top Nancy Pelosi Stocks to Buy,” and while her constituency is suffering the collapse of the city of San Francisco, and when Congressional types seem to mysteriously grow monstrously rich on their relatively modest salaries, this seems like an obvious move.
What, one might ask (it’s usually my first question) does the Constitution have to say about this? I don’t see anything in Article 1 (Legislative Branch) that would prevent it. Section 5 states in part:
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
That would seem to indicate that Congress could put such a ban in place by a simple rule change. Why not do that? Because, to put it bluntly, it could just be changed back by another batch of pols looking to cash in.
While Section 6 talks about compensation, it is mute about compensation other than salaries. Since this is a federal issue, involving people elected to federal offices, then federal legislation is appropriate, and it seems there is no constitutional bar to the action.
Occasionally something good happens in Washington. If a bill that seems so staggeringly obvious to most of the electorate, many of whom are tired of seeing pols viewing their elected offices as get-rich-quick schemes, draws support from two so divergent types as Matt Gaetz and AOC, well, then, this is something that the House should look at seriously. Maybe it’s time for these rich men north of Richmond to have to work a little harder for their money, and maybe, just maybe, refocus on doing their jobs. And there’s a larger matter here, a matter of principle: Our elected representatives must live under the same rules we do, or else we do not have a republic, but instead an oligarchy.
Again, this seems an appropriate reminder.