Bryson B. Morgan, former investigative counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics. The New York Times is reporting that ethics inquiries are increasingly met with uncooperative lawmakers. The targets of the ethics investigation simply refuse to turn over requested documents. Luke Broadwater, “Ethics Inquiries Are Increasingly Met by Uncooperative Lawmakers,” New York Times, December 29, 2021, p. A17.
The largest area for Congressional Ethics Office investigations is violations of the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act). The STOCK Act is a federal law that requires members to report stock trades within 45 days of their transactions. Yes, Congress passed the act, but Congress also ignores the act. Business Insider found that 52 members of Congress violated the act in 2021. The fines are minimal — $200 — and members have a 30-day grace period to report after being reminded. Still, the members see it as a no-big-deal kind of thing. Let’s see — you know which industries are going to get slammed with new restrictions. Positioning yourself short and timing things along with the legislative schedule is not bad work if you can get it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is having none of this ethics stuff. She does not agree on any prohibitions on member stock activity or failure to report. “We’re a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that.” Mrs. Kettle does not want to point a finger at all the pots who would then clank loudly about all the speaker’s investment opportunities and coups.
Ah, the free market for me, but not for thee, all you insider traders.