Democrats in Congress Point Fingers at Their Leaders Over Stock Trading Ban


Loeffler lost her seat to a Democrat, Raphael Warnock, in 2020. And Burr, a moderate, is retiring. His old seat is one of the Democrats’ few picks this year.

New York Times investigative reporter Kate Kelly, along with our colleagues Adam Playford and Alicia Parlapiano, recently examined thousands of publicly reported transactions of 97 congressmen or their immediate family members.

Based on data over a three-year period, they discovered more than 3,700 transactions that constituted what they described as “potential conflicts between their public responsibilities and private finances.” Read their research here.

To get her insight, I asked Kelly four questions about the stock trading flap. Here’s our conversation, slightly edited for length and clarity:

There is already a law on the books, the STOCK Act of 2012, banning insider trading by members of Congress. So why do some lawmakers think it needs an update?

The STOCK Act reaffirmed that lawmakers cannot engage in insider trading — none in the US — and it required them to disclose periodic transactions they and their immediate family have made in stocks, bonds and other financial assets worth $ 1,000 or more within 45 days. But the law did nothing to stop those lawmakers and family members from trading assets that could be affected by their work in Congress.

Let’s say you’re investigating a catastrophic manufacturing defect in a US-made car and you sell shares of the car company in question a few days before your commission issues a negative report that causes the shares to plummet. That is inappropriate and should be against the law according to many lawmakers. There are other, grayer areas, and instances of insider trading against members are quite rare. But the simple fact that Americans see conflicts of interest in congressional trade is a problem enough, the feeling is.

Talking to lawmakers on this topic makes me feel that many dislike the implication that they are using their positions to make money on the side. How much of what you’ve discovered is just the appearance of corruption, as opposed to the real thing?

It’s completely the former, although we can’t rule out the latter – we just haven’t found enough evidence to show that any particular case was insider trading. The rarity of civil or criminal investigations into these cases makes it difficult to know what is really going on, whether they are essentially routine transactions based on market research and common knowledge or a trade inspired by information found in the Congress has learned.