Spanberger Testifies Before Committee on House Administration, Makes Case for Banning Members of Congress from Trading Individual Stocks

The Congresswoman’s “TRUST in Congress Act” Would Ban Members of Congress, Their Spouses, & Their Dependent Children from Buying & Selling Individual Stocks While in Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today testified before the U.S. House Committee on House Administration to make the case for her bipartisan legislation to ban Members of Congress — as well as their spouses and dependent children — from buying or selling individual stocks.

Spanberger testified as part of the Committee on House Administration’s Member Day, which focused on proposed legislation within the jurisdiction of the Committee. During her comments, she urged her colleagues to consider her bipartisan Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust (TRUST) in Congress Act — which falls under the Committee’s jurisdiction. Click here to watch her full comments.

“We — the people’s elected officials — have access to information that can move markets,” said Spanberger. “We — who have been sent to Washington, D.C. to represent our constituents — are expected to use this information to make smart decisions, not benefit our personal financial portfolios. However, trust has broken down — and major contributors to this breakdown include the perception of conflicts of interest, the never-ending parade of suspiciously timed trades, and Congress’s refusal to put guardrails on our own ability to buy and sell stocks while in office.”

Under Spanberger’s bill, Members of Congress — as well as their spouses and dependent children — would be required to put certain investment assets into a qualified blind trust during their entire tenure in Congress, effectively banning them from trading individual stocks.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger and U.S. Representative Chip Roy (R-TX-21) reintroduced their TRUST in Congress Act in January 2023 with the most original cosponsors it has ever received on day one. They originally introduced the bipartisan bill in June 2020 — and they reintroduced it in January 2021.

Last month, Spanberger pressed the Committee to hold a hearing on proposals — like the TRUST in Congress Act — to ban Members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

TRANSCRIPT

A full transcript of Spanberger’s opening comments is below.

Thank you — Chair Steil, Ranking Member Morelle, and Members of the House Administration Committee — for providing us with the opportunity to testify today and for providing me with the opportunity to testify on a matter that is foundational to our responsibility of representing the American people — and that issue is trust.

Last April, many of you in this room heard directly from experts on the need for reforms that can rebuild this trust. And at that hearing, Mister Chairman, I believe you highlighted in your statement that it’s important to “provide confidence to the American people” and “that we avoid the appearance of an impropriety.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Members of Congress — both those who sit on this Committee as well as those who are elsewhere in the Halls of Congress — have access to privileged information not generally available to the public. That’s the nature of our jobs. And that’s the trust that’s afforded to us.

Every day, we attend closed-door briefings — sometimes classified briefings. We hold special hearings. And we participate in private meetings — often with CEOs of publicly-traded companies.

We — the people’s elected officials — have access to information that can move markets. We — those who have been sent to Washington, D.C. to represent our constituents — are expected to use this information to make smart decisions, not to benefit our personal financial portfolios. However, trust has broken down — and major contributors to this breakdown include the perception of conflicts of interest, the never-ending parade of suspiciously timed trades, and Congress’s refusal to put guardrails on our own ability to buy and sell stocks while in office. 

10 years ago, Congress passed the STOCK Act. This law was meant to prevent lawmakers from using private information for their personal benefit. It was intended to build back trust. And while the STOCK Act has increased transparency and put in place an ethical standard by which Members should hold themselves accountable, its ultimate goal has not yet been met. The STOCK Act has not erased unethical or questionable activity — nor has it erased the public’s perception of such activity.

Instead, we find ourselves in familiar territory. Congress has an abysmal approval rating. Trust is at an all-time low. And I consistently hear from frustrated citizens across Virginia – and the country – who are far from surprised when yet another headline pops up in the news about a politician using their position in a committee or their access to information for personal gain.

Unfortunately, these reports of suspicious trades by our colleagues are nothing new. After the Great Recession, we saw trades that caused enough consternation among the American public that it finally forced Congress to pass the STOCK Act.

But yet the STOCK Act has not gone far enough. And we need to accept that the STOCK Act has not yet achieved its mission. The law expects that Members of Congress will police themselves but that has not yet worked.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we heard a familiar refrain. Reporting showed Members buying and selling stocks of companies that made cleaning supplies, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals — long before most of the public was aware of the coronavirus’s severity. These violations of trust were not constrained to either party — lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were repeat offenders.

And to think that at the start of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, lawmakers found time in their schedules to buy and sell stocks – this is the issue at hand. They made these transactions at the expense of doing their jobs – at least that’s how the public perceives it. They bought and sold these stocks instead of preparing for the pandemic – at least that’s how the public sees it. And they used their time — with their often precious and jam-packed schedules — to make a dollar, to call in a trade, rather than update their constituents, check on their local healthcare providers, or seek more resources for nursing homes. That’s how so many constituents perceive it.

Since 2020, report after report has highlighted Members buying and selling stocks in the companies with whom they met. Reports have made very clear that lawmakers routinely vote on legislation that will impact their individual stock portfolios in a profitable way.

That’s why we must hold ourselves accountable and show the American people that we are working for them. That’s why our bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act can and will make a difference.

The TRUST in Congress Act would require that Members of Congress — as well as their spouses and dependent children — either divest their assets completely, place their assets in a widely-held, diversified fund like mutual funds or ETFs, or place them into a qualified blind trust. These assets would stay in a blind trust for the entirety of their tenure on Capitol Hill. 

My colleague Congressman Chip Roy of Texas and I introduced this bill in 2020 after hearing about these reports that I mentioned. And the TRUST in Congress Act is the most bipartisan bill tackling this issue. It has more than 50 cosponsors thus far this Congress, both Democrats and Republicans.

There is strong enthusiasm — across the political spectrum and at home. This January was the third time we introduced this bill – and I do hope it’s the last.

Representative Roy and I are hopeful to have honest, fruitful, and effective conversations about how we can move this legislation forward and restore the trust that people should have in Congress.

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