Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., speaks before President Joe Biden speaks about prescription drug costs at the Daniel Technology Center of Germanna Community College – Culpeper Campus, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Culpeper, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Abigail Spanberger
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., speaks before President Joe Biden speaks about prescription drug costs at the Daniel Technology Center of Germanna Community College – Culpeper Campus, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Culpeper, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“The American people are interested in what it is that we are doing, the decisions that we’re making, and how it is that we are ensuring that when we are making decisions … it is for the public trust and not our portfolio,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

In 2020 when COVID-19 was just starting to sweep through the world, reports that individuals in Congress were buying and selling stocks came to light. For many Americans, the information didn’t sit well. 

At an April 7 event where Congressional Rep. Abigail Spanberger spoke, she recalled some of the issues people took with the news at the time saying, “We have this impending sense of worry about what might be befalling our country. We’re going to briefing after briefing about this unknown virus, you know, a world away, and people are buying Pfizer stocks, and people are buying Clorox stocks, and people are buying stocks that, you know, we would come to realize, really, are related to a global pandemic.” 

The congresswoman noted that members of Congress were in positions of public trust, and that they chose to go through the process of running for office and garnering enough votes from constituents to be elected. 

“So I do not think it is too much to ask for us to say, ‘If you want to put us in this position of public trust, we need to take proactive steps so that no one has even an inkling of doubt in their mind that we are not every day making a decision in the interests of that public trust that we have been granted by our constituents, and not focused on our portfolios,’” Spanberger said.

She noted that as long as the perception continued that members of Congress put themselves or their portfolios first, affirmative action needed to be taken — and that action could be banning members of Congress from buying and trading stocks.

Congressional Accountability

In July, multiple news outlets including Punchbowl News, Reuters, Business Insider, Daily Mail, and others speculated that US House Democrats, who hold the majority, would likely announce a proposal this month to ban lawmakers, their spouses, and senior staff from trading stocks. 

The push from Democrats allegedly came after Insider found widespread bipartisan violations by 67 members of Congress of a law designed to prevent insider trading called the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. While the majority of the legislators were Republicans, it was by a slim margin: 35 to 32. 

Two Virginians — one Republican and one Democrat — were named in the Insider article, both for tardiness in disclosing stock transactions. They were Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01), a Republican, and Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), a Democrat.

If passed, Spanberger’s Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust in Congress (TRUST) Act which was first introduced in 2021 would give lawmakers, spouses, and staffers a choice. They could either put their assets in a blind trust or sell them.

“The American people are interested in what it is that we are doing, the decisions that we’re making, and how it is that we are ensuring that when we are making decisions … it is for the public trust and not our portfolio,” Spanberger said at the April event.