You have to hand it to Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Her hand forced on clamping down on stock trading by members of Congress, she’s turning it into a huge benefit for the lawmakers — most definitely including her.
Pelosi coyly called for treating Congress the same as the Executive Branch when it comes to stocks — and so the “stringent” bill from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Steve Daines (R-Mont) would, yes, force members and their spouses to sell off their individual stock holdings, but also give them a ginormous tax break.
Per the fine print, any member who converts holdings to Treasury bonds or broad-based investment fund shares can defer paying capital-gains tax until those new assets are sold. And if they die before the sale? No cap-gains tax at all.
Pelosi calls this is an “interesting feature” of the bill. We bet.
She’s fought past efforts to end the questionable practice (quashing a March 2020 bill on the issue) and was wishy-washy on this specific bill just last week. In December she argued that members trading individual stocks is OK because ours is a “free market economy” and they “should be able to participate in that.”
And boy, have she and her venture-capitalist husband Paul been participating. From 2007 to 2020, the Pelosis raked in as much as $30.4 million from trades in Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, even as insiders suggest she has been slow-walking efforts at regulating those firms. In 2020, their portfolio beat the S&P by nearly 15%.
Suddenly, she’s open to reform — now that it could save her family millions.
Of course, her hypocrisy is old news: She racked up close to half a million bucks in private-jet bills in 2020 and 2021 as she called fighting climate change a “moral obligation” at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. She flouted mask rules she demanded everyone else follow.
A ban on members trading is a no-brainer. As former Office of Government Ethics boss Walter Shaub notes, unless they “wear microphones around the clock, the public has no way of knowing what information they intentionally or inadvertently shared.”
But fixing this disgrace is no reason to give them a new privilege of end-running a tax everyone else must pay.
Public service shouldn’t be a profit center.