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GOP leaders discuss plans to campaign on limiting Congress members’ stock trades

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) delivers remarks about U.S. President Joe Biden’s first year in office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

House Republican leaders have privately discussed ways they can campaign during midterm congressional elections on the issue of limiting lawmakers’ stock trading, an attempt to seize on one of the hot-button issues in Washington.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other top GOP members of the House discussed the matter with donors last weekend in Miami, according to people briefed on the matter. 

McCarthy and other leaders told donors that they would aim to pass legislation that would limit lawmakers’ ability to trade stocks, the people said. If, as expected, they win back the House in the midterm elections this fall, Republicans would bring such legislation to the House floor at the start of the new Congress, said a person familiar with the matter.

At a separate round of meetings that started Monday in Miami, GOP party leaders were aiming to discuss campaigning on the issue and potential legislation, people familiar with the matter said.

The push for more regulation on lawmakers’ stock trades has become a bipartisan issue in Congress as critics point out that senators and representatives often have access to potentially market-moving information before the public does.

Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff, of Georgia, and Mark Kelly, of Arizona, introduced the “Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act,” which would ban members of Congress from buying and selling stocks while they are in office. If passed it would require members of Congress and their families to put their stock portfolios into a blind trust. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a similar bill. Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Chip Roy, R-Texas, are also working together on potential limits.

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Lawmakers from both parties came under scrutiny for transactions during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but authorities did not charge him. Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, who heads the New York Stock Exchange, liquidated their individual stock share positions and related options after weeks of criticism of the couple for selling millions of dollars in stock amid the coronavirus pandemic.

McCarthy recently told Punchbowl News that he’s considering pushing ahead with new limits or an outright ban on lawmakers dealing assets if the GOP retakes the majority this year. McCarthy is all but certain to became speaker of the House if Republicans win the chamber in the midterms.

A person familiar with McCarthy’s thinking said that he’s considering new limits on stock trades but did not provide further details.

Recent polling by the conservative advocacy group the Convention of States Action found that nearly 75% of those polled believe that lawmakers and their spouses have an unfair advantage in the stock market.

The retreat with donors was meant for some of the top financiers of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for House Republicans. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., is the chair of the NRCC. All House members from both parties are up for reelection in 2022. Democrats narrowly control the House.

The NRCC has already campaigned against Democratic lawmakers about their stock trades after reports alleged they did not properly disclose asset dealings and violated the STOCK Act. That law requires Congress members and other federal officials to disclose trades in stocks, bonds and other securities within a 45-day period.

Business Insider recently reported that more than 50 members of Congress have failed to properly disclose their stock transactions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after first defending lawmakers’ stock ownership and dismissing limits on trades, later said she would be open to supporting such legislation if her Democratic caucus members were in favor of it.

Paul Pelosi, the speaker’s husband, purchased up to $3.5 million worth of call options in mega-cap stocks late last year, according to a financial disclosure report.

Representatives for McCarthy and the NRCC did not respond to requests for comment.

Correction: The headline on this story has been updated to indicate that GOP leaders discussed limits on stock trading, not stock ownership.

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