BERNARD COLUMN: Violations of trade act can’t be ignored

Published 10:30 am Friday, January 7, 2022

“This is a free market, we are a free market economy, they should be able to participate in that,” Nancy Pelosi regarding questionable trading by Congressmen and staffers.

 

The GOP leadership has decided that democracy is not an acceptable form of government. That attitude is what spurred the 1-6-21 insurrection, trying to overturn a fair and honest election and install an unelected narcistic strongman.

Since most Americans believe in democracy, one would think that the Democrats would be in great shape for 2022 in Georgia and elsewhere. However, due to Covid and inflation they are in deep trouble. Just as importantly, the Democrats are plagued with a complete and utter failure to project clear messaging about these topics and others.

Further, Democrats seem intent on making things even worse by once again ignoring the common person in favor of the elite. Surprisingly, usually politically sharp House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the one digging the hole this time around, via justifying shady Congressional stock maneuvers. And her actions are bound to negatively affect Stacey Abrams in 2022.

On Dec. 13 and 14, the Business Insider newsletter released reports indicating that 49 Senators and House members (including Representatives Rick Allen and Austin Scott of Georgia), plus 182 congressional staffers had not complied with federal law (the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012) regarding timely disclosure of their stock trades. Apparently, trading on insider knowledge and ignoring this law is one of the few things that D.C. Republicans and Democrats agree about.

Frequently, violations of this law are simply ignored or waived by Congressional ethics personnel. According to Insider, even when there are fines, they only average $200, a slap on the wrist. No conflicts of interest here; just look the other way.

Clearly, this is a case of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Pelosi has a chance to score political points by putting an end to these practices. For example, she could push for bi-partisan legislation requiring all Congressmen and staffers to place their stock holdings in blind trusts. Or she could endorse Senator Warren’s 2020 bill, designed to stop Congressmen from trading individual stocks. She proposed this bill after Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler had made stock trades after they had received confidential information concerning the pandemic, specific industries and firms. Senator Merkley of Oregon proposed similar legislation this year.

But she has chosen the opposite path. Already, right wing media is having a field day, stating that Pelosi’s wealthy family has made stock transactions “worth more than $50 million.”

Is she reluctant to act simply due to conflict of interest? It’s hard to say definitively. But one thing is for sure, her actions are alienating swing voters that the Democrats need.

Plus, it makes it awfully hard for Stacey Abrams to go after likely GOP gubernatorial candidate David Perdue when the House majority leader makes statements like the one above.

Walter Shaub of the Government Ethics Initiative says it best, “We have entrusted these people with great power. They owe us great transparency. They are not even giving us minimal transparency.”