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[Washington Babylon]

Day Traders: Members of congress set own rules on stock trades


In 2006, I wrote a piece about then-Congressman Jeb Bradley, who owned about $1 million in oil, gas and electric company stock, took over $45,000 in campaign contributions from energy industry PACs, and consistently voted with energy interests. Today the Washington Post has a front-page story which explores the topic of congressional stock trading more broadly:

In the House, for instance, the proportion of lawmakers with stock investments has risen sharply, from 21 percent in 2001 to 60 percent at the beginning of last year, according to academic researchers and the Center for Responsive Politics. That includes 68 lawmakers who owned more than $100,000 in stock, not including mutual funds, according to records compiled for 2008, the most recent available for electronic analysis.

Long-standing congressional ethics rules allow almost any kind of trading and investment, subject in general to the judgment of individual lawmakers. Those rules also allow spouses to have jobs in areas that touch on a lawmaker’s activity or investments. Moreover, lawmakers are not required to abstain from voting or divest themselves of stock when most potential conflicts arise. Those standards stand in stark contrast to rules that the lawmakers have mandated for others in government and the private sector.

The Post took a close look at the stock trades of Congressman Jim Moran, noting, “The holdings disclosed by Moran in 2008 included stock in General Dynamics and BAE Systems, which both received earmarks requested by Moran that year, according to financial and earmark disclosure records. The earmarks were for $1.6 million each.”

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