Now Spanberger and the bipartisan group could get their wish: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in her press conference on Wednesday that “we think we have a product that we’re going to launch this month.” A compromise bill is expected to mix various proposals to ban trading in individual shares by lawmakers and their families during their tenure.
Should the House of Representatives pick up and pass this bill, it could be a major legislative win for Spanberger, in particular, since the vulnerable Virginia Democrat has made the issue a priority in her second term and focused efforts as part of her competitive reelection campaign. She stressed her push to end stock trading in Congress in a campaign ad last week that functioned broadly as a statement of identity about their mission in Congress.
But the timeline isn’t that clear in the Senate, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told Business Insider Thursday that it won’t happen until the midterms. In an interview Wednesday night, Spanberger said she was only “cautiously, cautiously optimistic” after Pelosi’s comments. She noted that she and others working on similar bills were not included in the compromise legislation negotiations, which were mostly being put together behind closed doors in the Property Management Committee chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and she still have to do it see frame.
Pelosi did not provide details of the compromise bill on Wednesday, but a spokesman for the House Administration Committee said Lofgren will update members on the framework this week.
“I didn’t miss the irony that this is supposed to be good governance reform to make the system more transparent,” Spanberger said, “so it’s a little weird that this process was so unusual.”
Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said Spanberger’s vocal push to oversee lawmakers’ skills in stock trading hits a sweet spot in politics: finding a unifying theme that bridges people’s frustration with elites in Washington that transcends party lines.
While insider trading is already illegal, banning members of Congress — as well as their immediate family members or associates — from trading stocks has garnered broad bipartisan support across the country, with a January Fox News poll showing 70 percent of voters favor a ban and Trump support Biden voters support the proposal in almost equal numbers.
“The subject of stock trading is exactly the optimal subject for a candidate,” said Farnsworth. “Voters will overwhelmingly say, ‘Why should lawmakers be able to act on information that is not available to the public?’ And the argument against it is hardly convincing.”
Spanberger said the issue came up a lot in her district campaigns, “and I’ll hear people say, ‘I’m a Republican, I don’t really agree with you,’ and then there’s the huge ‘but.’ “ – they agree on a ban on stock trading.
The issue has also proven largely bipartisan in Congress, and indeed Spanberger and her co-lead on the bill, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), are odd partners themselves. Her proposal, the TRUST Act, would require members and their spouses and dependent children to blindly trust their individual stocks during their tenure to prevent insider trading, or even the appearance of it. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) introduced a similar bill, and several other similar bipartisan proposals are circulating in Congress.
The bipartisan coalition — from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) to Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) — sent a letter to leadership earlier this month urging a vote and setting out common principles , which they hoped to see in the final product.
Pelosi’s comments Wednesday followed an investigation by The New York Times that found nearly a fifth of members of Congress made stock trades during their term that posed a potential conflict of interest because of their work in Congress, including half of the Virginia delegation, which each declared the Times the transactions. Lofgren was among lawmakers whose spouses conducted transactions flagged as potential conflicts by the Times. She has said that a bank teller handles her husband’s business and that she is not involved herself.
Good government groups joined in pressure on House leaders to put a ban on stock trading to a vote. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Wednesday issued an open letter to members denouncing dwindling trust in public institutions and urging members to publicly support the ban on stock trading. “With members of Congress from both parties flouting basic financial conflicts of interest laws and appearing to personally benefit from their positions of public trust, Americans understandably wonder if their government is working on their behalf,” the letter reads.
Opposition to efforts to ban lawmakers and family members from trading stocks during her tenure was also bipartisan.
One notable example, Rep. Elaine Luria (D), threw cold water at the concept in February, calling it “bulls—“. “Why would you assume that members of Congress will be inherently bad or corrupt?” Luria told Punchbowl News at the time. “We already have the Stock Corporation Act, which requires people to report stock transactions.” According to financials, Luria and her husband hold millions of dollars in stocks, including tech giants like Facebook, Alibaba and Nvidia, though she wasn’t a lawmaker, telling the Times identified for potential problems.
In another bipartisan twist, while the stock trading ban could be a campaign highlight for Spanberger, it opened up a potential vulnerability for Luria: Luria’s opponent, Sen. Jen A. Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) ran a 15 second commercial Highlighting Luria’s comments to Punchbowl while pledging to support a stock trading ban if elected.
When asked if she would support a stock trading ban if Pelosi tabled it this month, a spokesman for Luria said she would review the proposal once it was unveiled and then make a decision. “She firmly believes that insider trading should be punished to the fullest extent of the law and that government officials should be held to the highest possible ethical standards,” spokesman Jayce Genco said.
Spanberger’s opponent, Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega (R), did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether she would vote to ban stock trading. Like Spanberger, Vega doesn’t say it owns shares in its financial disclosure.