The White House / Flickr trump at g20...
The White House / Flickr

Who knew kicking 22 million people out of their health insurance could be so lucrative?

Just as the Republican bill to slash much of the Affordable Care Act moved forward, Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican and member of Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team, added a health insurance company to his portfolio.

An account owned by Conaway’s wife made two purchases of UnitedHealth stock, worth as much as $30,000, on March 24th, the day the legislation advanced in the House Rules Committee, according to disclosures.

Health care stocks have soared in recent weeks as insurance companies salivate over the prospect of gouging more Americans with inflated premiums and cuts in benefits. The Republicans have also promised to loosen the regulations that prohibit these same companies from denying coverage to whomever they choose, which promises  to bump up the share price of conglomerates like United Health.  

Conaway was not the only Republican cashing in on his plans for other people’s sickness and death:

As the health care system overhaul advanced last month on the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma purchased between $50,000 to $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock.

With the United States under Trump devolving into a Putin-esque kleptocracy, the stink of corruption has apparently become so normalized in Republican ranks that they’ve become completely desensitized to it. In Conaway’s case, however, enriching himself with insider information had already passed his personal smell test:

Conaway, who serves as a GOP deputy whip in the House, has a long record of investing in firms that coincide with his official duties. Politico reported that Conaway’s wife purchased stock in a nuclear firm just after Conaway sponsored a bill to deal with nuclear waste storage in his district. The firm stood to directly benefit from the legislation.

Making money off sick children and the elderly who your party plans to leave without any health care coverage represents a new low, even for a Texas Republican. However, the rest of his party  (and some Democrats as well) have made every effort to help him along. In 2012 Congress made a big show of passing something called the STOCK act in an apparent attempt to curb insider trading among lawmakers and their staff. The bill was subsequently watered down and partially repealed, specifically those provisions which would have made congresspersons’ stock transactions accessible to the public. And when the Securities & Exchange Commission moved forward with its first investigation of alleged violations of the act, the Republican-led Congress filed a brief with the SEC claiming the act could not be applied.

New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz explains why Conaway’s and Inhofe’s trading in individual stocks timed to coincide with legislation they are working behind closed doors to pass is not just “business as usual”:

It’s worth noting that, for the ordinary investor, it’s rarely wise to buy and sell individual stocks — as opposed to investing in mutual funds — unless one has access to special information. And given that the mere appearance of corruption has a corrosive effect on our republic, it’s difficult to understand why members of Congress don’t restrict their investments to such instruments.

But then, the Trump-era Republican Party has grown quite comfortable with complicity in manifest corruption — let alone with giving the appearance of it.

With the entire executive branch awash in graft from the top down, it’s simply become ridiculously easy for members of Congress like Conaway to blend in with their own petty corruptions, without being noticed.

And as for the “corrosive effect on our Republic,” well, that ship sailed last November.

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


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