- Democrats against a congressional stock trade ban are hurting flyover country candidates, they say.
- They argue it's both bad politics and bad policy as Democrats try to hold on to their majorities.
- Some Republicans are attempting to outflank Democrats by touting stock trade restrictions.
Out in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, two flights and lengthy Lyft ride from Capitol Hill, US Senate candidate Tom Nelson follows events in Washington with disbelief as leaders of his own Democratic Party resist banning members of Congress from buying and selling stock.
Nelson, the county's elected executive, is particularly bamboozled by President Joe Biden's unwillingness to back any of the several bipartisan plans to have emerged or re-emerged since Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project in December revealed numerous financial conflicts of interest and widespread violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, a law designed to prevent them.
Biden wants Congress to "determine what the rules should be," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
But Nelson said it's "a bad mistake" for Biden to sit it out.
"He's got to get in the ring. He can't lead from behind," said Nelson, who's running in a crowded Democratic primary for a shot at challenging two-term incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican. "Democrats need a win — we need a big win. I'm concerned that he's not embracing this issue."
Nelson's outrage is shared by a growing number of Democratic congressional candidates who don't work in Washington, DC, but want to. And they're making a congressional stock ban a thick plank in their campaign platforms.
US Senate candidate Lucas Kunce in Missouri not only wants to ban members of Congress from trading stocks, but he also wants to toss them in jail if they don't comply.
US Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania said Wednesday that "there isn't any voter I've ever spoken to that says, 'yes, we should allow members of Congress to either protect their investments or make money based off the information they come in contact to."
They join an improbable and growing coalition of federal lawmakers on the left — Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — and the right — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. John Hawley — who've signaled their support for banning their colleagues from trading stocks.
Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, both Ohio Democrats, as well as Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, have recently featured their support for congressional stock trade bans in their campaign fundraising messaging.
"Members of Congress have access to highly confidential information that the public does not," Ryan's campaign wrote in January. "But this is still legal thanks to politicians who only look out for their own bottom line."
Democratic leaders must understand that they're at significant risk of losing majorities in the US House and US Senate during the 2022 midterms if they don't spearhead "common sense" efforts to bolster the public's trust in government, such as stock trade bans, Nelson said. That includes Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he said.
Pelosi's endorsement of lawmakers' right to trade individual stocks, followed recently by a reluctant course change, is particularly vexing because it cuts against what most Democrats want Congress to do, Nelson added, citing recent polls.
"Speaker Pelosi should be leading, Sen. Schumer should be leading. This is not only good policy, it's good politics," Nelson said. "But they're out of touch. And that's dangerous. It's dangerous because we're in a very challenging environment for Democrats, we're in the midterm, and our party is in power. There's very little room for error … This is a blunder."
Republicans embrace a congressional stock ban
Republican US Senate candidate Blake Masters in Arizona, for one, is already attempting to outflank Democrats by embracing a stock ban. He, too, has panned Pelosi — one of the wealthiest members of Congress whose venture capitalist husband, Paul Pelosi, frequently trades stocks and stock options — as a poster politician for congressional corruption.
Even former President Donald Trump, arguably the most financially conflicted president in US history, has chimed in, saying in January that members of Congress trading individual stocks is "not right … not appropriate."
In Pelosi's own California congressional district, Democratic socialist Shahid Buttar is hammering the House speaker on her stock ban reluctance as part of his longshot attempt to upend her in a June 7 primary.
Democratic leaders' resistance to a congressional stock trade ban, Buttar told Insider, reveals their willingness to "prioritize capitalism over democracy.
"That preference, and Pelosi's history of putting her stock portfolio before the public interest, violate the oath of office and demand accountability," he said.
Both Buttar and Nelson said they're at least mildly encouraged that Pelosi, increasingly squeezed by both liberals and conservatives, said she won't block stock ban bills from coursing through the legislative process.
But it'll take all Democratic leaders offering wholehearted support of such a ban — up to and including Biden — to give left-of-center candidates across the country proper political cover during the 2022 midterms.
"We can't have stupid decisions coming out of Washington if we want to win," Nelson said.