December 31, 2020

ICYMI: Gillibrand In Buffalo News: Stock Act 2.0 Will Require New Transparency In Congress

In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand penned an op-ed in the Buffalo News today, calling for passage of her new legislation, the STOCK Act 2.0. 

The legislation will require that whenever a member of Congress, a high-ranking staff member in a position to make policy, the president, the vice president, or other executive branch officials apply for or receive a benefit of value from the government, they must report it in the same way they would report the sale of a stock. The legislation was prompted in part by the fact that several wealthy members of Congress have received millions in PPP loans, while small businesses have continued to struggle.  

The STOCK Act 2.0 is the latest push for transparency for Senator Gillibrand, who had made government accountability a top priority throughout her career. Gillibrand led Senate passage of the STOCK Act in 2012, and was the first member of Congress to post her official meetings, personal financial disclosures, earmark requests, and taxes online.

Gillibrand also supports banning members from buying or selling individual stocks, particularly in light of several recent scandals. 

Click here or see below for the op-ed

Another Voice: STOCK Act 2.0 will require new transparency in Congress | Buffalo News

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

December 31, 2020

Over the past year, Congress has allocated trillions of dollars of relief money to respond to the pandemic and economic crisis. While more remains to be done, the American people must be able to trust their government to make responsible, unbiased decisions about their tax dollars. 

Unfortunately, as is too often the case, their faith in government has not been rewarded. The fact is that millions of relief dollars have gone right back into the hands of members of Congress who wrote and voted for the relief packages.

When the Paycheck Protection Program was rolled out, many small businesses were denied relief. Meanwhile, auto dealerships, franchises and family businesses with ties to some of the wealthiest members of Congress received millions of dollars in PPP loans. Nearly all of them were able to get relief before the first round of funding ran out. 

This isn’t a new phenomenon. For decades, the same members of Congress who write and pass bills, and oversee their implementation, have collected millions in federal farming subsidies without requirements for these payments to be reported to taxpayers.

The worst part is, the only way Congress or the public can learn about these insider dealings is from news reports. It’s unacceptable. We need transparency. We need the STOCK Act 2.0.

I passed the original STOCK Act in the Senate in 2012, following investigative reports revealing that members of Congress were making investments using nonpublic information. In one instance, lawmakers who received closed-door briefings on the 2008 financial crisis from the Treasury secretary and chair of the Federal Reserve traded using that information. In another egregious example, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner bought health insurance stock, while leading the opposition to the public option.

The STOCK Act makes it illegal for members of Congress and government officials to buy or sell stocks based on information learned in committee hearings or other non-public briefings and requires high-ranking officials to quickly disclose financial transactions. In short, it says that no one in government should be able to profit from inside information.

My bill, the STOCK Act 2.0, will do the same for federal loans, grants, contracts, subsidies and other types of items of value. The STOCK Act 2.0 will require that whenever a member of Congress, a high-ranking staff member in a position to make policy, the president, the vice president, or other executive branch officials apply for or receive a benefit of value from the government, they must report it in the same way they would report the sale of a stock. Those reports would be added to a public website where the information is easily accessible, searchable and downloadable.

I believe public officials should be accountable to you for their actions. But not everyone shares my view. I can only assume that’s why several of the members of Congress who cashed in on PPP loans voted against legislation that would have required public disclosure of the program’s recipients. 

These transactions shouldn’t happen in the dark. Sunlight is an extremely effective antiseptic and the STOCK Act 2.0 will provide it.