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Political Education

Should Politicians Own Stocks?

After it was reviewed that Rand Paul’s wife purchased stock in Gilead Sciences, a maker of Moderna, many are asking if Congress persons should own stock.

In 2012 then President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or the Stock Act for short. This act came about after a 2011 60 minutes segment highlighted the ability for Congresspeople to trade stocks on non-public information. Non-public information, for the sake of this article is any information that a Congress person would know about, usually when it comes to Legislation, that is not known by the American people.

This bill prohibits any government official (the STOCK act applies to all three branches of government) from using the information gained from their position to enrich themselves. Those who are bound by the STOCK act have to report their stock purchases within fourty-five days of the purchase.

This bill has been amended once in 2013 changing the online disclosure portion. Most individuals need to report their stocks in paper, to prevent criminals from hacking personal financial information. And there is no longer a searchable database.

The original question is, SHOULD members of Congress hold stocks while they are in office? Even if you can no longer enrich yourself with non-public information that you receive from being a member of Congress should you hold financial stake in a company that you have oversight in if you are a member of the House Financial committee? Is there a conflict of interest if a shareholder of a company has to make financial regulations for that same company? I am inclined to say yes.

I do not know what a perfect system would be. The easiest way to accrue wealth in the United States is, if you already have money, to buy stocks and bonds. Most people who run for office have money, so most people who are in office already have stocks and bonds. Should these stocks and bonds be placed in a blind trust during their time in office? What do you think? Comment below?

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