Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff seeks to introduce a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from trading in individual stocks – a practice House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has championed as her husband rakes in millions of dollars trading shares of tech companies, The Post learned.
Ossoff’s ethics bill, which the first-year Democratic senator plans to introduce once he finds a Republican co-sponsor, would crack down on conflicts of interest by prohibiting lawmakers and their families from ‘trade stocks during their tenure, a Washington, DC source familiar with the situation said.
It would also likely force lawmakers to place their assets in blind trusts – a step that Ossoff, 34, ended months after being elected in January 2021.
No Senate Republican appears to have spoken publicly against Congressional stock trading, so Ossoff may have a hard time finding a Senate co-sponsor. But Republican support in the House is more likely, as several members of the GOP House, including Texas Reps Michael Cloud and Chip Roy have spoken out against the practice.
Another proposal aimed at curbing the exchanges of the Congress, the Conflicting Trade Prohibition Act, was introduced to the Senate in March by four Democratic senators, including Senator Jeff Merkeley of Oregon and fellow Ossoff in Georgia, Raphael Warnock. He also has a bipartisan version of the accompanying House backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Roy, among other Democrats and Republicans.
But the Business Transactions Ban law would only ban transactions by members of Congress and their senior executives – not spouses or families – so Paul Pelosi’s stock selection would remain legal.
Ossoff’s next bill would be tougher by closing the spousal loophole, the source said. This would bring the new bill more in line with a bipartisan House proposal called the TRUST the Congress Act, which would ban the trade to close family members and is backed by Democrats, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.), as well as Republicans like Roy, Cloud, Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Fred Keller (R-Pa.).
“As President Pelosi’s recent transactions make clear, decisions made for the people should be distinct from decisions made for personal gain,” Roy told The Post.
Insiders say Republicans in the Senate could fold and support an Ossoff-style bill if they feel political pressure. One person exerting such pressure is Arizona Republican Senate lead candidate Blake Masters, who says Pelosi and the Senate Republicans are “wrong” on the issue.
“These lawmakers are just out of touch with the way normal people see it,” Masters told The Post. “Members of Congress shouldn’t be buying call options on the big tech companies they are responsible for regulating, that’s ridiculous.”
When asked to comment on Ossoff’s potential congressional ethics bill, spokesman Jake Best said, “I have nothing I can share just yet.”
News of Ossoff’s potential bill comes as Pelosi and other politicians on both sides are accused of taking millions of trade actions despite being potentially aware of inside information that may move the markets. The current rules allow members of Congress and their families to trade shares as long as they disclose the moves within 45 days, although dozens of lawmakers failed to file reports on time.
Ossoff has criticized the practice, but has yet to sign any specific bills.
Ossoff and Warnock, in particular, appear to owe their political careers to poorly received congressional stock transactions. Their opponents in the 2021 Georgia special election – Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue – were both investigated for trading stocks ahead of the 2020 stock market crash after receiving information from the Senate about the coronavirus.
While Loeffler and Perdue were never charged with insider trading, Ossoff and Warnock both used trades as ammunition to hammer incumbents and ultimately won with narrow margins.
Georgia’s election shows why Republicans and Democrats should support a crackdown on stock trading, according to Craig Holman, an ethics lobbyist at progressive think tank Public Citizen.
“David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost their seats, I think, because of the insider trading allegations,” Holman told The Post. “If these allegations had not occurred, I suspect the Republicans would have retained the Senate. ”
“Members of both sides must realize that it is a politically risky thing to do, to trade in the stock market,” added Holman.
Concerns about insider trading have also spread beyond Congress.
In October, Ossoff called for a ban on stock trading by Federal Reserve officials following revelations that two regional reserve bank chairmen actively traded shares in 2020. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, banned the practice weeks later.