AOC, Matt Gaetz unite to introduce lawmaker stock trading ban

An unlikely duo from opposite ends of the political aisle,  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)  and  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have come together to co-sponsor a bill that would restrict members of Congress from owning or trading stocks. 

According to H.R. 3003, congressional spouses and other dependents would also be barred from owning or trading stocks as well. 

The bill is also sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), a well-known moderate, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill).

"When Members have access to classified information, we should not be trading in the stock market on it," said Ocasio-Cortez in a joint statement with the other lawmakers sponsoring the bill. "It’s really that simple."

"Members of Congress are spending their time trading futures instead of securing the future of our fellow Americans," Gaetz said. "We cannot allow the Swamp to prioritize investing in stocks over investing in our country."

The move follows a steady drip of damaging headlines and mounting public anger that has been building since the first tremors of the pandemic, when some lawmakers were caught buying and selling millions of dollars worth of stock after being warned about the coming disruption from the virus. The pandemic’s arrival tanked markets and caught many Americans by surprise. 

Now, with the November elections fast approaching and members of both parties embracing reform, congressional leaders are getting on the bandwagon, expressing their willingness to toughen the rules. After a spate of controversies over suspiciously timed trades and undisclosed transactions, few lawmakers are defending the status quo, raising hopes that a significant ethics package is within reach.

H.R. 3003 is not the first piece of legislation that has been proposed by U.S. lawmakers to ban the practice of stock trading among members of congress. 

Democratic and Republican lawmakers introduced new legislation in April to block stock trading by members of Congress and penalize lawmakers who do not comply.

The legislation, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in the Senate and Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, in the House of Representatives, would prohibit "members of Congress, their spouses and dependent children from abusing their positions for personal financial gain by owning or trading securities, commodities, or futures."

In addition to barring lawmakers and family members from trading individual stocks, Merkley's ETHICS Act would require lawmakers to disclose when they receive any benefit from the government, and penalize them if they do not comply.

Members of Congress and their families are frequently accused of illegal trading practices, allegedly using their knowledge of upcoming legislation to make informed decisions on the stock market. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was the most recent to face these accusations after her husband, Paul Pelosi, traded between $1 million and $5 million of stocks for semiconductors just days before Congress allocated $52 million to the industry. 

The stocks were later sold at a loss to remove the appearance of impropriety.

The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.