Archive for Bryan Metzger

Marjorie Taylor Greene has had Paul Gosar vote on her behalf 22 times even though she introduced a bill to ban proxy voting

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia outside the Capitol on April 28, 2022.
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia outside the Capitol on April 28, 2022.
  • Rep. Greene introduced a bill to ban proxy voting, which lets lawmakers vote on behalf of one another.
  • But she's voted remotely 22 times, and cast votes for her Republican colleagues 135 times.
  • Her office blamed the "COVID-19 bioweapon pandemic" for proxy voting.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, like most of her Republican colleagues, says she's opposed to proxy voting.

"The Founders clearly intended for members of Congress to meet, debate, and vote in person," reads a March 7 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed by Greene and 37 other Republicans. "Working Americans in every part of the country are expected to show up to their job in person. Members of Congress should be held to the same standard."

On March 8, Greene introduced a bill that would, among other changes to voting rules, entirely eliminate proxy voting, which allows members of Congress to have a colleague vote on their behalf.

The remote voting procedure was instituted in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite uniform Republican opposition. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a failed legal effort against proxy voting.

The section of Greene's bill that would eliminate proxy voting.
The section of Greene's bill that would eliminate proxy voting.

But Greene has voted remotely 22 times and cast 135 votes on behalf of fellow Republicans, according to an Insider review of over 700 roll call votes taken by the House between May 20, 2020 and April 30, 2022.

Insider repeatedly reached out to Greene's office for comment, asking why she opposes the practice and how she would answer the charge that she's hypocritical for using it even as she denounces it.

In response, spokesman Nick Dyer told Insider that the practice was "brought to the House through the COVID-19 bioweapon pandemic."

"Now that COVID is over and we're back to normal life, Congresswoman Greene is ready to end proxy voting," he added.

Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona at a press conference at the Capitol on  December 7, 2021.
Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona at a press conference at the Capitol on December 7, 2021.

The Georgia Republican's go-to buddy for when she can't make it to a vote herself appears to be Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who's cast all 22 of her proxy votes. Both have come under fire for their ties to white nationalists, and both were stripped of their committee assignments for their inflammatory online rhetoric last year.

According to a review of the data, Greene's absences from Congress included a nearly week-long stretch in mid-April 2021 — the same week that she and Gosar floated the idea of a caucus dedicated to upholding "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions" — as well as two absences at the end of July 2021.

And as recently as early March, the congresswoman cast dozens of votes for fellow Republicans, including 53 proxy votes for Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, 47 for Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and 35 for Gosar.

Gaetz and Gosar are among the 15 Republicans who've used proxy voting more than 100 times, while Hice is actively campaigning for a different job, challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger in the state's May 24 Republican primary.

Despite Greene's inconsistencies on proxy voting, Democrats use the procedure far more than Republicans, often for reasons unrelated to the pandemic.

Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, who's cast over 2,200 votes for his colleagues, told Insider in a recent interview that he thinks proxy voting should remain in a "responsible form," but acknowledged that its use has become "casual" over time.

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The Federal Election Commission slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 fine after it illegally contributed $1 million to 2 Republican PACs

Marathon Petroleum Corporation
Marathon entered into a conciliation agreement with the FEC in February.
  • The Federal Election Commission hit Marathon Petroleum Company with a $85,000 fine in February.
  • Because Marathon has contracts with the federal government, it's barred from making political contributions.
  • The oil refinery and transportation company give $500,000 apiece to 2 Republican political committees.

The Federal Election Commission levied a $85,000 fine against Marathon Petroleum Company after it illegally contributed $1 million to a pair of political action committees supporting House and Senate Republicans' re-election campaigns.

In the summer of 2020, the oil refinery and transportation giant contributed $500,000 apiece to the Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund, two political action committees that spend money on ads to boost Republicans in Senate and House elections, respectively.

But there was one problem: Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and federal campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making any political contributions while negotiating or performing federal contracts.

In October 2020, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the commission. Both political action committees quickly informed the commission the following month that they did not know Marathon was a federal contractor at the time they received the contributions.

In its own January 2021 response, Marathon argued that "had not historically engaged in federal government contracting" and the company's lawyers were "unaware" that the company "was negotiating, had entered into, or was performing a federal government contract at the time of the contributions."

The oil giant asked that the commission exercise discretion and simply dismiss the complaint, arguing that the contributions had already been refunded and the contributions were a result of "innocent oversight."

But the commission's legal counsel disagreed, writing in August 2021 that Marathon's "argument that its federal contract work represented a 'small percentage' of its business does not negate the company's status as a federal contractor."

Further, they wrote that the company's $1 million in political spending constituted the "largest federal contractor contributions to an [outside spending group] that the Commission has considered in an enforcement matter."

In February, the commission unanimously voted to accept a conciliation agreement with the company, leaving Marathon with the $85,000 fine and a pledge to not violate campaign finance laws again.

The company paid the fine last week.

It's not the only fine the commission issued last month against federal contractors who made political contributions.

The commission also hit 3M Company with a $4,500 fine after it contributed $50,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund in 2018, and hit TonerQuest with a $4,700 fine after it gave $25,000  to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, in 2019.

 

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Ayanna Pressley slams ‘far-right majority’ Supreme Court for reinstating the Boston Marathon bomber’s death penalty: ‘State-sanctioned murder is not justice’

Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts at a press conference outside the US Capitol on December 10, 2021.
Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts at a press conference outside the US Capitol on December 10, 2021.
  • The Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty for Dzokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.
  • Pressley, a progressive whose district includes most of Boston, slammed the court's decision.
  • "State-sanctioned murder is not justice, no matter how heinous the crime," she said.

Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts condemned the Supreme Court's Friday decision to reinstate the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers.

"The Supreme Court's decision today to reinstate the death penalty in the Tsarnaev case is deeply disappointing, but unsurprising for this far-right majority Court that has shown time and again its contempt for the people," Pressley said in a statement following the court's decision. "The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment that has no place in society."

In August 2020, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit threw out Tsarnaev's federal death sentence because of jury selection issues and bias. President Donald Trump's Department of Justice appealed the decision — a move President Joe Biden's administration affirmed — and the Supreme Court ruled 6-3, along conservative-liberal lines, to overturn the appeals court's decision. 

"State-sanctioned murder is not justice, no matter how heinous the crime," said Pressley. "I remain committed to accountability and healing for everyone impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing and I pray for those who are forced to re-live their trauma each time we are reminded of that devastating day."

In 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan planted pipe bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding nearly 200 others. While Tamerlan was later killed during the manhunt that ensued, Dzhokhar was arrested and a federal jury later sentenced him to the death penalty in 2015

Pressley, a progressive "Squad" member, was first elected to her a district encompassing roughly three fourths of Boston in 2018. She is the lead House co-sponsor of a bill to end the death penalty at the federal level, while Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is carrying the bill in the Senate.

It's not immediately clear whether Tsarnaev will actually face execution, given Biden's own stated opposition to the death penalty, Attorney General Merrick Garland's current moratorium on federal executions, and Pressley's contention that Biden has personally pledged to her that no federal executions would take place during his presidency.

"President Biden gave me his word that no one would be executed by the federal government under his watch, and I fully expect him to keep that promise," said Pressley.

Pressley also called on Congress to pass her bill to end the federal death penalty while reiterating prior requests that she and other members of Congress have made to the administration.

"I continue to call on President Biden to take executive action to halt federal executions, commute the sentences of those on death row, direct DOJ prosecutors to no longer seek the death penalty, and dismantle the death row facility at Terre Haute," she said, referring to a facility in Indiana that houses federal death row inmates.

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The Federal Election Commission let Trump off the hook for allegedly using $2.8 million in charitable donations to veterans for political purposes

Former President Donald Trump at the veterans event that triggered the initial complaint in Des Moines, Iowa on January 28, 2016.
Former President Donald Trump at the veterans event that triggered the initial complaint in Des Moines, Iowa on January 28, 2016.
  • The FEC won't investigate Trump for possible campaign finance violations related to a veterans fundraiser.
  • Trump steered the money to his foundation and gave out $100,000 checks to bolster his image.
  • The commission's Democrats accused their Republican colleagues of voting against enforcing the law.

The Federal Election Commission is letting former President Donald Trump off the hook even after the body's legal counsel said he violated federal campaign finance laws with a fundraiser for Iowa veterans in 2016, according to documents made public this week.

At stake was whether Trump violated laws prohibiting "soft money" spending — using unregulated, non-campaign funds for political purposes — in connection with his 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically, Trump funneled roughly half of the $5.8 million he raised at the Des Moines veterans event on January 28, 2016 to his now-defunct Donald J. Trump Foundation. The Trump campaign then steered how the foundation, a separate entity, spent $2.8 million in charitable funds just ahead of the Iowa Republican caucuses. 

Last month, the FEC voted along partisan lines to close the case. The Campaign Legal Center, an ethics and government watchdog, slammed the commission in a statement to Insider.

"The FEC failing to enforce campaign finance laws is nothing new, but the latest deadlock may be a new low," said Erin Chlopak, senior director for campaign finance at Campaign Legal Center. "The Commission's non-partisan, career attorneys found reason to believe the Foundation was illegally used to benefit Trump's presidential campaign. The Republican Commissioners voted not to pursue the matter. It is time for the FEC to do its job."

Democratic Commissioners Shana Broussard and Ellen Weintraub are accusing their Republican colleagues of "eroding the public's trust in the integrity of the federal campaign finance process" by blocking the enforcement of federal law.

"This is one in a long series of matters that we've had where our nonpartisan professional staff have recommended moving forward in some way against a complaint involving the former president," Weintraub told Insider in a interview on Thursday. "And every single time, the Republican commissioners come up with an excuse to not move forward."

Weintraub suggested that Trump could've faced a "pretty hefty fine" had the commission moved forward, given that he was accused of a multi-million dollar violation of campaign finance laws.

"I think it would have been a strong message for us to send, to discourage that sort of activity by others," she said. "But sadly, we were not able to do that, we did not have the political will to move forward on this. I mean, some of us did."

Republican Commissioners Sean Cooksey, Allen Dickerson, and Trey Trainor have not yet issued any statements on the matter, and none responded to Insider's requests for comment.

'A respondent named Trump'

Trump presents an enlarged copy of a $100,000 check to the owners of Puppy Jake, a charity that trains dogs for veterans, at a Davenport, Iowa event on January 30, 2016.
Trump presents an enlarged copy of a $100,000 check to the owners of Puppy Jake, a charity that trains dogs for veterans, at a Davenport, Iowa event on January 30, 2016.

In June 2018, New York's then-Attorney General Barbara Underwood referred evidence of Trump's possible violations to the FEC, writing in a letter that her office had "acquired substantial credible evidence" that Trump broke the law.

In a complaint to the FEC the following month, the Campaign Legal Center accused the Trump campaign of violating campaign finance law for soliciting and then using his foundation's share of the veteran donations for political purposes based on the evidence uncovered by the NY AG's investigation.

Emails and other documents uncovered by the New York Attorney General's investigation revealed that Trump's then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, gave Allen Weisselberg, then the Trump foundation's treasurer, a list of Iowa veterans organizations that the Trump campaign intended to target in order to drum up political support in the state ahead of the February 1, 2016 caucuses.

Weisselberg is also the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization and is currently ensnared in separate investigations by the New York Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney.

Trump went on to hand out 6-figure donations at several events in the days before the caucuses, giving enlarged $100,000 checks apiece to Partners for Patriots, Support Siouxland Soldiers, Mulberry Street Veterans Shelter, and Puppy Jake — all of which were charities based in Iowa. He ultimately lost the caucus to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Emails show Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing Trump Foundation treasurer Allen Weisselberg to spend foundation funds at the campaign's behest.
Emails show Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing Trump Foundation treasurer Allen Weisselberg to spend foundation funds at the campaign's behest.

In response to Campaign Legal's complaint, the Trump campaign said that the veterans contributions were only temporarily in the foundation's coffers, though documents uncovered by the New York Attorney General's investigation show contributions stretching all the way to May 2016. The campaign also argued that it was simply carrying out its legal obligations to donors by directing the charity's spending and accused the watchdog group of trying to "vilify fundraising for charity."

"Essentially everything a federal candidate does may have some effect on that candidate's public image, and philanthropic activity is certainly no different," wrote Trump campaign lawyer E. Stewart Crosland in a letter to the commission in September 2019. "Whether those efforts result in some goodwill with the public is simply not a campaign-finance (or FEC) concern."

Just three months later — under pressure from a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General's Office taking aim at both the veterans-related political contributions as well as other instances of possible fraud — Trump dissolved the foundation, later admitting to the facts of the case as part of the settlement.

In May 2019, the FEC's legal counsel then recommended that the commission vote to investigate Trump for violating federal campaign finance laws. They reaffirmed that position in March 2020 after the campaign agreed to the facts of the case as part of a separate settlement with the State of New York.

But there was one major problem: the Federal Election Commission had lost its quorum at the end of August 2019 when the body's membership of six commissioners atrophied to just three, barring the commission from making any decisions on pending cases. The FEC remained mostly without a quorum until December 2020, when the Senate confirmed three new appointees.

When the commission finally voted on the matter in January 2021, it deadlocked along partisan lines over whether to pursue the case. Every Republican commissioner voted to dismiss the allegations entirely, while the two Democrats and one left-leaning independent voted to open an investigation.

It was at their first executive session following the restoration of the quorum that the Republican commissioners voted not to investigate the claims against Trump. 

Trump holds up a sheet of paper with a list of donations to veterans groups at a press conference at Trump Tower on May 31, 2016.
Trump holds up a sheet of paper with a list of donations to veterans groups at a press conference at Trump Tower on May 31, 2016.

According to Broussard and Weintraub, the Republican commissioners cited the fact that the statue of limitations was set to expire within six months in voting not to pursue the case. In the absence of a quorum, the FEC developed a backlog of cases, some of which were no longer enforceable. But Weintraub told Insider that she doesn't buy the Republicans' argument.

"We did have a lot of cases where we had to make a choice about whether to move forward or not, given the time that had run on statute of limitations," she said. "But we did move forward on a number of them, just not on any involving a respondent named Trump."

Indeed, the commission's legal counsel found reason to believe in 2019 that several GOP figures, including Trump, violated the "foreign national" ban by employing the now-defunct British firm Cambridge Analytica, but the statute of limitations expired and Republicans blocked further action. 

Both in her interview with Insider and in her statement of reasons, Weintraub said the New York Attorney General's prior investigation had already done much of the fact-finding work for the commission, raising further questions about why six months was not enough time to enforce the law.

"We didn't have to do very much because the Attorney General handed it to us, all these incriminating facts," she said.

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Trump praised Putin’s justification to invade Ukraine as ‘genius’ and ‘savvy’

Former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018.
Former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018.
  • Trump praised Vladimir Putin as "savvy" following news of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • "This is genius," Trump said of Putin's recognition of two breakaway Ukrainian regions.
  • He also said Biden shouldn't send troops to Ukraine and that he'd "rather see our southern border protected."

Former President Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin in a podcast interview on Tuesday, describing the Russian president's justification for invading Ukraine as "savvy" and "genius."

In an appearance on the "Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show," Trump said that Putin's recognition of the independence of the Ukrainian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk — two-thirds of which are still controlled by Ukraine and are not recognized by most other nations but are backed by Russia — was a smart move.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful," Trump said when asked about the news. "I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's going to go in and be a peacekeeper."

Trump claimed that the reason the Russian president chose to invade Ukraine now — rather than during his own presidency — is because he had a better relationship with Putin than President Joe Biden does.

"I knew Putin very well. I got along with him great. He liked me. I liked him," Trump said. "I mean, you know, he's a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he — and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country."

Asked what went wrong with respect to Ukraine, Trump repeated his long-standing and false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

"Well, what went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn't be there and a man that has no concept of what he's doing," Trump said, later adding that an invasion "never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened."

Trump also tied the situation in Ukraine to longstanding conservative grievances about immigration, saying that the US should use military force akin to that used by Russia to ensure security along the US-Mexico border.

"We could use that on our southern border. That's the strongest peace force I've ever seen. There were more army tanks than I've ever seen," Trump said. "They're gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here's a guy who's very savvy … I know him very well — very, very well."

And when asked about whether he's concerned about the US becoming militarily involved in a conflict in Ukraine — which the US has resisted thus far — Trump again brought up the US-Mexico border.

"I'd rather see them send soldiers to our southern border," he said, referring to US troops. "I don't like the idea he's sending a small number of troops."

Trump also claimed that the US has not responded forcefully enough to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

"It's a joke compared to what the other side does. You know, he sends 3,000 troops. I heard this morning, 3,000 troops. What's that going to do except get in trouble?" Trump said. "No, I would like to see our southern border protected and they are handling Ukraine so badly."

Trump also said that he used to discuss Ukraine with Putin when he was president, adding that the Russian leader "always wanted" to invade its neighbor.

"I knew that he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it. I said, 'You can't do it. You're not going to do it.' But I could see that he wanted it. I used to ask him. We used to talk about it at length," Trump said.

This story will be updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump praised Putin’s justification to invade Ukraine as ‘genius’ and ‘savvy’

Former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018.
Former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018.
  • Trump praised Vladimir Putin as "savvy" following news of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • "This is genius," Trump said of Putin's recognition of two breakaway Ukrainian regions.
  • He also said Biden shouldn't send troops to Ukraine and that he'd "rather see our southern border protected."

Former President Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin in a podcast interview on Tuesday, describing the Russian president's justification for invading Ukraine as "savvy" and "genius."

In an appearance on the "Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show," Trump said that Putin's recognition of the independence of the Ukrainian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk — two-thirds of which are still controlled by Ukraine and are not recognized by most other nations but are backed by Russia — was a smart move.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful," Trump said when asked about the news. "I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's going to go in and be a peacekeeper."

Trump claimed that the reason the Russian president chose to invade Ukraine now — rather than during his own presidency — is because he had a better relationship with Putin than President Joe Biden does.

"I knew Putin very well. I got along with him great. He liked me. I liked him," Trump said. "I mean, you know, he's a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he — and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country."

Asked what went wrong with respect to Ukraine, Trump repeated his long-standing and false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

"Well, what went wrong was a rigged election and what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn't be there and a man that has no concept of what he's doing," Trump said, later adding that an invasion "never would have happened with us. Had I been in office, not even thinkable. This would never have happened."

Trump also tied the situation in Ukraine to longstanding conservative grievances about immigration, saying that the US should use military force akin to that used by Russia to ensure security along the US-Mexico border.

"We could use that on our southern border. That's the strongest peace force I've ever seen. There were more army tanks than I've ever seen," Trump said. "They're gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here's a guy who's very savvy … I know him very well — very, very well."

And when asked about whether he's concerned about the US becoming militarily involved in a conflict in Ukraine — which the US has resisted thus far — Trump again brought up the US-Mexico border.

"I'd rather see them send soldiers to our southern border," he said, referring to US troops. "I don't like the idea he's sending a small number of troops."

Trump also claimed that the US has not responded forcefully enough to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

"It's a joke compared to what the other side does. You know, he sends 3,000 troops. I heard this morning, 3,000 troops. What's that going to do except get in trouble?" Trump said. "No, I would like to see our southern border protected and they are handling Ukraine so badly."

Trump also said that he used to discuss Ukraine with Putin when he was president, adding that the Russian leader "always wanted" to invade its neighbor.

"I knew that he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it. I said, 'You can't do it. You're not going to do it.' But I could see that he wanted it. I used to ask him. We used to talk about it at length," Trump said.

This story will be updated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Republican National Committee votes to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating in the January 6 committee

Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois at a January 6 committee hearing on December 1, 2021.
Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois at a January 6 committee hearing on December 1, 2021.
  • The Republican National Committee voted to censure Cheney and Kinzinger in a voice vote on Friday.
  • The censure resolution took aim at the duo's participation in the January 6 committee.
  • The resolution dubs the committee a "Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

The Republican National Committee voted on Friday to formally censure Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their participation in the House select committee investigating the January 6 assault on the US Capitol.

The resolution, which describes the committee as a "Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse," was reportedly adopted by a voice vote with overwhelming support at the party's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

Ahead of the full vote, Cheney slammed party leadership on Thursday as being "hostages" to former President Donald Trump.

"I'm a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge," Cheney wrote on Twitter.

Kinzinger, a six-term lawmaker from Illinois, stressed that he has been a Republican "long before Donald Trump entered the field."

"Rather than focus their efforts on how to help the American people, my fellow Republicans have chosen to censure two lifelong Members of their party for simply upholding their oaths of office," he said in a statement.

Not all Republicans were happy with the RNC's formal condemnation. Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is thought to be considering a presidential run himself, blasted the move.

"Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol," Romney wrote on Twitter.  Ronna Romney McDaniel, the GOP's national chairwoman, is one of his nieces.

Hogan, whose father was central in the push to oust President Richard Nixon, deemed it a "sad day for my party—and the country."

Cheney and Kinzinger's presence lends the committee bipartisan credence, but it comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the unprecedented decision to block two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's official picks for the panel. McCarthy, outraged by Pelosi's decision, later withdrew his entire slate. Since then, McCarthy, Trump, and other top party leaders have assailed the committee as it continues to subpoena top Trump White House officials for documents and testimony about what led up to the insurrection and uncovers embarrassing details about what transpired as rioters ransacked the Capitol.

Cheney was previously ousted from House GOP leadership after repeatedly criticizing Trump for lying about the results of the 2020 presidential election. The eldest daughter of former GOP Vice President Dick Cheney, she was once a rising star in the party who now faces a Trump-backed primary challenge.

Cheney and Kinzinger were also two of 10 House lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection.

Kinzinger, an Iraq War veteran who still serves in the Air National Guard, was also once viewed as a GOP rising star. He repeatedly criticized Trump's foreign policy, which first prompted the party's uneasiness with his standing. Unlike Cheney, Kinzinger has decided to leave Congress, though he has vowed to continue to fight against Trump's hold on the party.

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he’s ‘not sure that it’s necessary’ to ban lawmakers from stock trading because insider trading is already illegal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer outside of the Speaker’s office in the Capitol on January 20, 2022.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer outside of the Speaker’s office in the Capitol on January 20, 2022.
  • Hoyer said he was "not sure that it's necessary" to ban lawmakers from trading stocks.
  • He cited the fact that insider trading is already illegal, but said Democrats would consider a ban.
  • But concerns about stock trading by members of Congress go beyond just insider trading.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday that Democrats would consider a stock trading ban for members of Congress, but said he was "not sure that it's necessary" because blatant insider trading is already illegal.

Hoyer's comments come after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reversed her firm opposition to a ban, and other Democratic leaders signaled that they'd consider a flood of new proposals to ban stock trading by lawmakers. "If members want to do that, I'm okay with that," she said last week.

In an interview with Politico, Hoyer was asked about a letter from Rep. Jared Golden of Maine first reported by Insider that called for both Pelosi and Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy to "swiftly bring legislation" to ban stock trading to the floor. The bipartisan letter was signed by 27 lawmakers and included members from across the ideological spectrum, ranging from Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

"This is an issue that I think is dealt with in present law," said Hoyer. He referred to the case of former Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York, who resigned from Congress in 2018 and was sentenced to several months in jail for insider trading.

"We have a law that says you can't do what people are concerned about doing," he added. Last week, Pelosi said blatant insider trading is "a Justice Department issue."

Insider trading was banned by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act in 2012, which instituted a system under which both lawmakers and congressional staffers are required to report their stock transactions in a timely manner.

But Insider's recent "Conflicted Congress" investigation found that at least 54 current members of Congress and almost 200 senior congressional staffers have violated the law by failing to disclose their transactions on time. And the law's enforcement is uneven and inconsistent.

Insider also identified numerous examples of federal lawmakers trading stocks in industries they oversee as part of their congressional committee assignments, including within the defensehealthcare, and energy industries, posing a potential conflict of interest.

In response, a growing number of lawmakers have proposed bans on stock trading by lawmakers, including competing bills put forward by Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. 

Recent polling also shows that at least 67% of Americans support a ban, and McCarthy reportedly discussed the issue with donors recently at a Republican retreat.

In response, Pelosi has asked the Committee on House Administration to review members' compliance with the STOCK Act and consider the range of bills that have emerged.

But Hoyer expressed reservations about the idea of a ban.

"I want to look carefully at legislation that takes away from members the ability to make investments that we encourage in every other sector," he said. "The business community, the legal community, the medical community, they can all invest. And I'm not sure that it's necessary to do that because I think the current law covers what they want to preclude."

That largely echoed Pelosi's initial position against a ban. "We are a free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that," she said in December, referring to lawmakers.

Hoyer also declared once again that he does not trade stock. "I don't trade stock. Period. I do not trade stock," he said.

While it appears that Hoyer did not trade stock in 2020, a recent financial disclosure does show that the Maryland Democrat owns up to $1,000 worth of shares in Telkonet, a provider of energy-management technology. Hoyer's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Hoyer also echoed Pelosi's comments on the issue last week, expressing an openness to new legislation provided it has support among rank and file House members.

"Having said that, I think we'll consider this, and we'll see if the majority believe that we ought to preclude it altogether," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

27 House members sign letter asking Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy to bring stock trading ban to the floor: ‘We came to Congress to serve our country, not turn a quick buck’

Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine is leading a letter calling on House leadership to bring a bill to ban stock trading to the floor.
Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine is leading a letter calling on House leadership to bring a bill to ban stock trading to the floor.
  • 27 House members are calling on leadership to "swiftly bring legislation" to ban stock trading to the floor.
  • Rep. Jared Golden, who led the letter, says he wants to "make sure that we're pushing for legislative action."
  • House Speaker Pelosi is now open to banning lawmakers and their spouses from trading stocks "if members want to do that."

27 House members have signed onto a letter drafted by Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine calling for House leadership to "swiftly" bring forward legislation to ban members of Congress from owning or trading stocks.

"This glaring problem will not go away until it is fixed and Congress should not delay when we have the power to fix it," read the letter, which was addressed to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. "Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities. We don't care. We came to Congress to serve our country, not turn a quick buck."

The letter was signed by 2 Republicans — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Matt Gaetz of Florida — and 25 Democrats ranging from progressives like Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to frontline members like Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania.

 

Golden's letter implicitly references Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation, which has found that dozens of members of Congress and nearly 200 senior congressional staffers have failed to comply with the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, a 2012 law designed to combat insider trading by requiring timely disclosure of stock transactions.

In an interview with Insider, Golden described the letter as an effort to further pressure leadership to act, building on existing momentum driven by a spate of new proposals to ban stock trading by lawmakers and backlash to Pelosi's dismissal of the idea last month.

"While this is still something that people are really talking about, we want to make sure that we're pushing for legislative action," said Golden.

According to the letter's signatories, the existing disclosure-based approach to ethics in Congress has not been sufficient in preventing improper behavior, including a spate of pandemic-related stock trading scandals by several senators in 2020.

That episode "demonstrates how shamefully narrow the current law is," said the letter, adding that while insider trading is already explicitly illegal, "it can be nearly impossible to determine what knowledge counts as 'nonpublic' or how personally involved members are in their stock trades."

While Golden's letter explicitly mentions two long-standing bills that have seen growing numbers of cosponsors in recent weeks — the Ban Conflicted Trading Act and the TRUST in Congress Act — lawmakers have put several other versions of the idea forward. Just on Friday, Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri announced that she was introducing a House companion to a stock trading ban put forward by Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri earlier this month.

But lawmakers must still iron out the details of any proposal — including whether family members and senior staffers are included in any ban — and contend with the relative hesitance with which Democratic leaders are approaching the idea.

'I do come down always in favor of trusting our members'

Pelosi and House Marjority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer have both defended the current regulations, but are now open to changing the law.
Pelosi and House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer have both defended the current regulations, but are now open to changing the law.

Facing pressure from both the left and the right, Pelosi reversed course last week and said she would be open to banning stock trading by lawmakers if her caucus is on board. "If members want to do that, I'm okay with that," she said at a press conference on Thursday in response to a question from Insider.

Pelosi has asked the Committee on House Administration to review STOCK Act compliance and to consider imposing harsher penalties for failures to comply. Currently, the standard penalty for a disclosure violation is just $200, and enforcement is often inconsistent. "I don't know why people don't [report] on time, but whatever it is, if there's a penalty, and it should be more severe, so be it," Pelosi said.

But the Speaker also made clear that she trusts members to make ethical decisions, mirroring remarks from other Democratic leaders — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries — indicating general support for refraining from stock trading, but hesitancy to propose an outright ban.

She also said she wants to see any new disclosure rules be applied broadly, including to Supreme Court justices.

"I do come down always in favor of trusting our members," Pelosi said Thursday. "To give a blanket attitude of 'we can't do this, and we can't do that' because we can't be trusted — I just don't buy into that."

Asked about Pelosi's apparent confidence in the current system, Golden quipped that "one might describe her approach as trust but verify."

"One of the most formative periods of my life was my four years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corps," said Golden, explaining that while the institution places "a lot of trust" in each Marine, certain rules and norms remained in place to keep everyone honest. "Even good people sometimes find themselves in making bad decisions, or being sloppy," he said.

With eyes now on the Committee on House Administration, Golden said that certain differences between existing proposals — including whether to use a blind trust mechanism and include family members and staffers — can be taken on during the markup and amendment processes. Golden says he supports making the requirements broadly applied. "Similar to my time in the military, we always said the whole family serves, and that should be true of members of Congress," he said.

And Golden says he's confident that a stock trading ban for lawmakers is within reach, given the idea's support among some congressional Republicans and its broad popularity with the public.

"My guess is if something like this were put to a vote, it would pass," he said. "I'd love to hear people's explanation about their opposition."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Sens. Josh Hawley and Jon Ossoff offer competing bills to end stock-trading by members of congress

Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Sen. Hawley of Missouri outside the Senate chamber on October 6, 2021.
Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Sen. Hawley of Missouri outside the Senate chamber on October 6, 2021.
  • Sens. Jon Ossoff and Josh Hawley announced competing stock ban proposals on Wednesday.
  • Ossoff's bill is stronger and would fine members their entire congressional salary if they violate it.
  • A number of proposals to stop congressional stock-trading already exist, and momentum is building.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia are introducing competing bills to end stock-trading by members of Congress.

Insider has obtained the bill text for both Hawley's ''Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act'' and Ossoff's "Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act."

"Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information," Ossoff said in a press release. Ossoff is teaming up with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, who said the proposal would "put an end to corrupt insider trading."

Following reports this week that House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy is interested in curtailing stock-trading by members, Hawley tweeted that it was a "good idea" before telling POLITICO on Tuesday that he was open to co-sponsoring a bill in the works from Ossoff, which would require members to place stock holdings into a blind trust.

But Axios reported on Wednesday that Hawley will be introducing his own bill separate from Ossoff, and that talks had fizzled between the two offices. Hawley and Ossoff are the two youngest members of the US Senate. 

A key difference between the proposals is reportedly that Ossoff's bill includes dependent children — who may have access to the same privileged information as their lawmaking parent — while Hawley's does not. The two also differ on the enforcement mechanism.

Violators of Ossoff and Kelly's bill would be fined the entirety of their congressional salaries. The freshman senator narrowly defeated former Sen. David Perdue last year amid the Georgia Republican's own stock-trading scandal.

On the other hand, Hawley's bill would require violators to forfeit any profits gained from stock-trading directly to the US Treasury.

Ossoff and Kelly also noted that their bill is broadly similar to the bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act championed by Reps. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Chip Roy of Texas, which would require members and their family members to place stock holdings into a blind trust. Another bill, the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, has also garnered the support of House progressives and several Democratic senators.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has faced significant criticism — including from several lawmakers in her own party — since rejecting the idea of a ban last month. "We are free-market economy. They should be able to participate in that," she told Insider.

As McCarthy has expressed interest in the idea, Democratic leaders have been slow to react.

Asked by Insider on Tuesday, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries dodged the question of whether they would support a stock-trading ban. "I don't own any stocks," said Schumer.

All of this follows Insider's "Conflicted Congress" investigation, which found dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staffers in violation of the anti-insider trading Stop Trading on Conflicted Knowledge Act. Insider has also identified numerous examples of federal lawmakers trading stocks in industries they oversee as part of their congressional committee assignments, including within the defensehealthcare, and energy industries.

The idea of banning members of congress and their spouses from stock trading is also wildly popular, with up to 76% of the public behind it, according to recent polling.

Read the original article on Business Insider