As Republicans look to investigate the Bidens for apparent conflicts of interest, we hope they also look in the mirror and ban congressional stock trading.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California points to the newly installed nameplate at his office Saturday after he was sworn in as speaker of the 118th Congress in Washington. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / AP

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives must really care about government ethics, given their stated priority of investigating President Joe Biden’s son Hunter now that they have regained control of the chamber. Having finally chosen a House speaker, hopefully they will be able to focus on good governance for Congress itself.

Because if lawmakers are going to be digging into potential conflicts of interest, they should remember that some of the most glaring examples are their own.

Of the many important measures that went unaddressed in the past session of Congress, one of the most frustrating was lawmakers inability to better police themselves when it comes to stock trading. Time and again, we’ve seen how existing laws and rules have failed to insulate members of Congress from the appearance, if not reality, that they profit from the public positions they hold. It is past time to ban this trading for members of Congress and their families.

Reformers like Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine have at times appeared to make headway with bipartisan efforts to address this glaring conflict of interest, only to be stymied by leadership and the reluctance of other lawmakers to clean up their own house, ethically speaking.

In September, The New York Times published an analysis of congressional stock trades between 2019 and 2021, finding that nearly 100 members across the political spectrum (or their spouses or dependent children) made trades that could be connected to their committee work in Congress.

“Obviously the STOCK Act that they passed a decade ago has not tightened things up enough,” Golden told the BDN Editorial Board in October. “The bill that my group put forward was a good compromise.”

Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a deserved face of this problem, given the massive amount of trading her husband (recently the victim of a horrible attack) does. She was opposed to a congressional stock trading ban, until pressure grew and she changed her mind. But her flip-flop, while encouraging, never actually led to results.

Some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, used this failure to criticize Pelosi and Democrats on the campaign trail this fall. They should turn those rhetorical barbs into legislative action, and finally push this reform over the finish line. New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said this summer that he would “look all the way through” a bill to ban congressional stock trading should Republicans take back the House. He should take more than a look; he should get it done.

There are a host of potential good governance and ethics reforms that could help improve Americans’ trust in their government, across all three branches.

Should immediate family members of top White House officials — in any White House — be allowed to have business dealings that create a conflict of interest or appear to create a conflict of interest with their family member’s prominent government position? We don’t think so.

Should judges be allowed to rule in cases involving a company that they or members of their family own stock? We don’t think so.

Should members of Congress be able to trade individual stocks, particularly in sectors that are tied to their work as public servants? We don’t think so.

And neither do the American people. Nearly 80 percent of Americans support a ban on individual stock ownership by members of Congress, according to advocacy group Stand Up America. This is an ethical issue in obvious need of reform. So as Republicans look to investigate the Bidens for apparent conflicts of interest, we hope they also look in the mirror.

If the new Republican House majority really wants to demonstrate to the American people that they will address corruption and appearances of corruption, then they will do what their Democratic counterparts have talked about but failed to achieve: Pass a bill banning lawmakers from trading individual stocks.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...