Sam valadi / Flickr wall street bull...
Sam valadi / Flickr

Wait, what? House and Senate aides are trading stocks in the very companies their bosses are regulating or deregulating?

A POLITICO review of federal disclosures for 2015 and 2016 found that some senior aides regularly buy and sell individual stocks that present potential conflicts of interest with their work. A smaller number of staffers trade in companies that lobby Congress and the committees that employ them. In all, approximately 450 aides have bought or sold a stock of more than $1,001 in value since May 2015.

It’s being done by aides to both parties; the defense by most of the staffers is that their brokers are doing the trading and they’re not involved. But that’s nearly impossible to check, and the possibility that staffers are buying and selling stocks based on insider information about which companies will be helped or hurt by legislation they themselves are writing is very, very real.

As Congress finalized a massive tax-and-spending package at the end of 2015, Hoppe and his wife invested in two petroleum companies that were aggressively lobbying Congress to lift the 30-year ban on oil exports, Occidental Petroleum and Devon Energy. Hoppe made the purchases 16 days before Congress announced plans to lift the ban on oil. During the fall of 2016, as Congress finalized and passed a $6 billion medical research bill, Hoppe’s spouse invested in the pharmaceutical companies Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Hoppe was House Speaker Paul Ryan’s chief of staff for two years. Like most people surrounding Paul Ryan, he sounds like a real peach.

“I’m obviously older, and they don’t pay the same on Capitol Hill as I was making in the private sector,” Hoppe said. “My wife likes living in a house as opposed to living in a car.” […]

“Is it in the realm of possibility that somebody could do that? Yes. Is it very likely? No,” Hoppe said. “But people who are dishonest will find a way to be dishonest.”

Oh, well never mind then. Far be it from us to suggest the rules on top congressional staffers be tightened so as to better preclude illegal or unethical behavior. Crooked people would just go around the rules anyway, so [insert halfhearted shrug here].

Well, I’m at a loss. Rules against this sort of thing could be crafted so easily: for aides helping to craft legislation and being lobbied by industry lobbyists, no trading of stocks impacted by that legislation. That’s not a rule already?

No, really. That’s not a rule already?

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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