130 Members of Congress Bought Stocks in Companies that Lobbied their Committees

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Rep. Michael McCaul
Unwilling to impose rules on themselves that they have on others in government, 130 congressional lawmakers have invested in company stocks while making legislative decisions impacting the very same corporate interests.
Federal laws adopted by Congress forbid officials in the Executive Branch from trading stocks in industries overseen by their agencies. But the same restrictions don’t apply to lawmakers.
As a result, during a three-year span, representatives and senators, 68 Democrats and 62 Republicans, traded stocks valued between $85 million and $218 million in 323 companies registered to lobby on legislation that appeared before them, according to The Washington Post.
The Post found that more than 5,500 trades “intersected with legislation” that a company cared about.
In a classic example, the family of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who has a net worth of approximately $300 million, bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in Thermo Fisher Scientific, which makes food contamination detection equipment, at a time that the Homeland Security Committee, of which McCaul was a member, was considering a food safety bill. The purchases were made while the company stock was selling for between $33.50 and $44 a share. The bill passed and the stock is now worth $50 a share.
“If you have major responsibility for drafting legislation that directly affects particular companies, then you shouldn’t be trading in their stock,” said Dennis Thompson, author of Ethics in Congress: From Individual to Institutional Corruptionand Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business, and Healthcare, told the Post. “Committee chairs especially shouldn’t be in the position of potentially benefiting from trades in companies that stand to gain or lose from actions the committee takes.”
Research conducted by Georgia State University professor Alan J. Ziobrowski showed that the stock portfolios of members of Congress outperformed those of the average American investor---senators by 10% and representatives by 6%.
Former Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington), who co-authored legislation in 2006 calling for more financial disclosure about lawmakers’ stock trades, remarked: “Congress has no problem imposing rules on others. We have a more difficult time doing it for ourselves.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Members of Congress Trade in Companies While Making Laws That Affect Those Same Firms (by Dan Keating, David S. Fallis, Kimberly Kindy and Scott Higham, Washington Post)
Overlapping Interests (Washington Post)
Congressional Rules on Trading Had Their Start in 1789 (by Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post)


Larry 11 years ago
You need to look at the other side of the coin as well. How many companies that are directly affected by legislation pour huge amounts of money into the campaign coffers of the very politicians that will decide the outcome?
NoRRmad 12 years ago
i note that this is supposedly a current story, but there are no dates for the incidents described, which must have happened before the stock act that was signed on april 4th, 2012. it seems you are trying to wring the last drop of outrage from a problem that has already been addressed. not nice.
kip Durocher 12 years ago
this government corruption is becoming wide spread as the elected officials know that other than an occasional story like this they will never have any problems. the whole american government system is broken. from city hall to washington and everything in between. meanwhile americans sit around drooling and rabidly supporting incumbent criminals.
Hubert 12 years ago
this is incredible. share this with your friends, real quick, old school email style.

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