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 Easy to READ Act would require congressional members to file their public financial disclosures electronically.

Do you trust congressional representatives? One Virginia lawmaker is tackling that question head-on—no matter whose toes get stepped on. 

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents Virginia’s 7th District, is calling for greater transparency when it comes to elected officials’ finances. She first raised concerns after 2020 spending practices by some colleagues appeared to show a connection to potential pandemic-related profits. 

At the time, some legislators traded stocks amidst growing global concerns over COVID-19. Some of those deals raised suspicions, like purchasing stock in Pfizer, Clorox, and other companies that could’ve financially benefited from a pandemic. 

Last year, Spanberger introduced the Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust in Congress (TRUST) Act, which if passed would give lawmakers, spouses, and staffers the choice to either put their assets in a blind trust or sell them. The congresswoman explained that the move would help settle public doubt about politicians focusing on their portfolios, rather than making decisions in the best interest of their constituents. 

Now, she’s taking things a step further. On Sept. 20, Spanberger, alongside South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, led the introduction of the Easy to Read Electronic and Accessible Disclosures (READ) Act. The bipartisan legislation would require congressional members to file their public financial disclosures electronically. 

Currently, those disclosures can be handwritten. Here’s why that’s an issue: handwriting can be difficult to read and decipher. An Insider article published in May addressed the issue, providing instances where both Republicans and Democrats submitted nearly illegible disclosure forms. 

The change would modernize the current system, providing additional transparency to help hold elected officials accountable.

“Poor penmanship shouldn’t be the enemy of transparency. As discussions about potential conflicts of interest in the halls of Congress continue, we need to take commonsense steps to make it easier for the general public to sort through the disclosures of their Representatives and Senators,” Spanberger said in a statement. “Our Easy to READ Act does just that: it would allow the American people to search, sort, and download data for every Member of Congress — not just those who chose to use a computer to submit these documents. By making this change, we can increase transparency and help rebuild a degree of trust in our democracy. I want to thank my friend and colleague Congressman Johnson for his partnership on this important legislation.”

The revamped disclosure rules would also comply with accessibility needs for Americans with disabilities. 

In a weekly newsletter sent out on Sept. 24, Spanberger again called for increased transparency in the halls of Congress, writing: “We have all seen lawmakers make suspiciously well-timed trades — whether ill-intended or not. By banning Members of Congress, their spouses, and their dependent children from buying, trading, or selling individual stocks while serving in office, we can make clear that privileged information should not be used for personal gain.”