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Warren Planning Anti-Corruption Bill to Bar Top Politicians From Stock Trading

The proposal might have a chance after insider trading allegations shook the Senate last year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren conducts a news conference in the Capitol on March 1, 2021.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is planning to introduce legislation barring members of Congress and other top government officials from trading stocks, she told Insider in an article published on Monday.

The senator plans to introduce the legislation sometime during this congressional session, which ends in 2023. It would be based on previous legislation to bar high-ranking government officials from stock trading, called the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act. Warren has introduced the legislation twice before, in 2018 and 2020, but it never made it out of then-Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee.

“It is a no-brainer,” Warren told Dave Levinthal and Warren Rojas of Insider. “Every senator, member of Congress, president, Cabinet secretary, federal judge, and other senior officials in charge of writing the rules for our financial system should not be able to own or trade individual stocks.”

Previous versions of the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act also included provisions to stem the revolving door between government and lobbying, and create a separate federal office to oversee ethics laws, though it’s unclear whether or not the current version would also include those proposals.

Though the Senate Finance Committee is now controlled by Democrats, the bill may still face opposition from both sides of the aisle. When Warren introduced the legislation before, it had zero co-sponsors in the Senate, and a mere six co-sponsors in the House, where it was introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington).

The relative unpopularity of the proposal may be because both Democratic and Republican legislators benefit greatly from stock trading. Despite the fact that the STOCK Act of 2012 outlawed insider trading for members of Congress, some say the practice is still ongoing — and both sides of the aisle may be implicated.

Last year, four senators — Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia), Dianna Feinstein (D-California) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) — were accused of insider trading. The Justice Department eventually closed the investigations, but the stock trades worth hundreds of thousands of dollars still eroded public trust, ethics experts said.

Warren told Insider that government officials “are there to serve the people, not their personal financial interests.”

“Congress should pass anti-corruption legislation and restore Americans’ faith in government by making it work for everyone — not just the rich and powerful,” she said.

When Warren first introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, it was in response to ethics questions brought on by the Donald Trump administration. But the bill’s proposals remain salient as ever, and last year’s scandals may have shined new light on the issue.

Burr’s stock trades in particular shook the Senate — involving elaborate schemes and secret meetings. After those stock trades were probed by not only the Justice Department but also the FBI over the course of 2020 and into 2021, even the conservative Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Politico: “Maybe the bottom line is, if you’re going to be in the Senate you can’t own any stock.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) also expressed a similar notion in March of 2020, tweeting, “Members of Congress should not be allowed to own individual stock. We are here to serve the public, not to profiteer. It’s shocking that it’s even been allowed up to this point.”

It’s unclear, however, how far Warren’s bill would make it in Congress. Even if Democrats were all in favor of the legislation, Republicans have stated that their only goal is to obstruct Democrats. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the master of the filibuster, said last year that he believes members of Congress should be allowed to decide for themselves if they wish to trade stock.

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