Congress Moves For Emergency Containment of Ethics Outbreak

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper to the latest outbreak of ethics and the politically distancing being used by members to control the outbreak over insider trading. Notably, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was adamant on barring businesses owned by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from benefiting from the stimulus package. Notably absent however was a similar ban for members who have considerable stock or ownership interests in such companies.

Here is the column:

Members of Congress are moving with speed and determination to meet an existential crisis on a bipartisan basis. This is not about the coronavirus. The public has learned, once again, that lawmakers may be profiteering in the stock market. Members from both parties have worked for decades to prevent the closing of this obvious avenue of corruption. I know because I have been advocating for two decades that members of Congress should agree to the mandatory use of blind trusts for any stock ownership.

But members of Congress know voters will soon move on, distracted by the outbreak of a deadly disease or redirecting their political rage against the opposing party. The past incubation period for ethics outbreaks is only a couple of weeks and, with some political distancing, the curve is already flattening out. Lawmakers can rest easy because normalcy is simply one news cycle away and, until then, they are tax sheltering in place.

Several members of Congress have been denounced for dumping stocks before the government took critical measures to deal with the pandemic. Senators Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler, James Inhofe, and Dianne Feinstein together are responsible for as much as $11 million in recent stock sales. It turns out that many lawmakers become market investment geniuses after they enter Congress. A University of Memphis study found that 75 percent of randomly selected members had made “stock transactions that directly coincided with legislative activity.” A Georgia State University study noted that, from 1993 to 1998, senators beat the stock market by 12 points with their portfolios and outperformed “corporate insiders” by 8 points.

Over the years, I have written about the obvious profiteering by members through insider information, stock manipulation, and sweetheart deals. It is not just a problem for the lawmakers. In 2016, the spouse of an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bought stock in two pharmaceutical firms, just before Congress passed a bill benefiting the companies. In 2017, the Senate demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into the drugmaker Mylan. Nine days later there was a $465 million settlement with the company. Meanwhile, during that brief period, an aide to Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin sold tens of thousands of dollars of Mylan stock. An investigation by Politico revealed numerous examples of such suspicious trades by House and Senate staffers of both parties.

Whenever a member of Congress is caught in such a scandal, Washington immediately turns to its timely and proven emergency plan and protocol. First, all lawmakers will express shock and dismay. Second, the affected members call for ethics investigations of themselves. Third, Washington waits for the next shiny object to dangle before voters. Why not? We fall for the same $5 genuine gold watch scam over and over again. The two political parties have us so wired into hating the other side that we still refuse to accept that both parties are equally craven and corrupt.

Right on cue, Washington has moved gingerly through phases one and two of its emergency contingency plan. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and members like Burr have called for ethics investigations. This, after all, is what the ethics rules of Congress are really designed for. They give cover to the alleged corrupt practices of members. What happened here is perfectly legal and, even more troubling, ethical under the rules of Congress. There is no requirement of a blind trust by members.

Under a blind trust, the trustees and beneficiaries generally communicate only to discuss asset distributions, to discuss general investment goals or to disclose summary trust information required for tax purposes. A blind trust is a mandatory requirement which lawmakers in neither party want. Accordingly, when scandals arise, members pass legislation named for public consumption, like the laughable Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act which, notably, does not stop members from trading on congressional knowledge. The law, also known as the Stock Act, applies the same insider trading rules to members and staff that are applied to company executives. While fines are possible, they are unlikely.

Insider trading cases are hard for prosecutors to make against members of Congress because the law was designed to punish corporate officials who trade stocks by using proprietary information. Members of Congress do not deal with proprietary information held by company executives and, even with the broader definitions applied by the courts, it would be very difficult to use the legal language to fit legislative profiteering.

Moreover, legislative information usually holds some public controversy component that can be pointed to as the reason for a trade. Indeed, Burr has claimed that his decision was based on public information, a defense that would be challenging to defeat given the level of media attention and the varying reports that were being aired. While a shareholder would face alleged securities fraud in a civil action, Burr can legitimately claim that his action to sell simply showed better instincts than information.

The Stock Act has worked as members intended, however, as the public eventually moves on. One year after its passage, Congress then quietly amended the law to reduce disclosure requirements. The leadership on Capitol Hill passed the bill in “30 seconds” while most members were out of town to further reduce accountability. President Obama held a massive ceremony to sign the original bill, but his signing of the amendments one year later resulted in just a single sentence acknowledgement.

This is just one of the many federal loopholes that have allowed members of Congress to grow rich in public service. This includes the ability of the children and spouses of our elected officials to receive windfall contracts and undeserved positions from companies to buy influence, while elected officials can insist there is nothing illegal about such deals. This is how the rules are written. They facilitate, not frustrate, special dealing.

As so many of our leaders in Congress have declared, this crisis will pass. The ethics investigations will drag on, and public attention will shift back to political rage. Voters will soon be denouncing the opposing party with the same reliable and willful blindness to the transgressions in their own party. For now, both Republicans and Democrats are remaining steadfast and assuring their respective voters to keep calm and carry on.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

173 thoughts on “Congress Moves For Emergency Containment of Ethics Outbreak”

  1. Do insider trading laws apply to everyone, equally, or don’t they?

    This must be very difficult for Martha Stewart to observe.

    1. Hi Karen, so glad you’re back. Hope all is well.

      In theory, they do. In reality, they don’t. Unfortunately. For every X caught in the prosecutor web, more so Ys will get away with it.

      I think Martha Stewart, don’t quote me on this, but I think she was “chipped, ” and I don’t mean RF chip, like Sweden, or any other country going cashless soon enough, like China, is on their way to digital-only currency.

      I think it’s more like “she had it coming,” or “someone had it out for here.”. It embarrassed her, and it put her in her place in the order. Now, she has the TV show with another ” chipped” fella named Snoop Dogg. So, she’s fine. She probably even knew who she pissed off…speculation, of course.

  2. Well, of course, something should be done about members of Congress profiting from their office, but I find objectionable the tone of today’s piece, which begins with Turley essentially complaining that the Trump Companies can’t be allowed to cash in on this settlement, There are bigger fish to fry here (a Friday in Lent metaphor).

    At yesterday’s substitute vainglory rally masquerading as a presser, Trump said he inherited a broken system from Barak Obama in regard to preparedness for a pandemic, which he claimed no one could predict. That is a lie. Obama’s pandemic preparedness team put together an actual playbook on what to do in the event of the pandemic that was sure to come. This playbook was rebuffed by the Trump administration. If they had followed the advice contained therein, which was put together by a team of experts advising on best practices, we would all be better off now, and it possibly may not have been necessary for so many cities and states to close down. Trump is responsible for his lack of insight, judgment and leadership.

    More worrisome is Trump trying to bully scientists to make true a lie or puffery he has uttered, as opposed to admitting he lied or simply made something up. Just like he did with Hurricane Dorian, when he used a Sharpie to alter the map showing the predicted path of the storm to coincide with his lie that Alabamians were at risk, he got the CDC doctors to try to support his absurd idea that the country can simply forget all of the social distancing recommendations and return to normal by April 12, which is Easter. No reasonable public health, infectious disease, or virologist agrees with this, and all agree it would be a total disaster, resulting in many more infections and deaths. Dr. Fauci was forced to mumble some nonsense about this being an “aspirational” goal as opposed to an actual goal. Then, he said something along the lines of consideration could be given to recommending dispensing with social distancing rules in areas of the country where the risk is less–another piece of advice that no one believes is reasonable. Areas of the country where there are fewer infections right now are simply behind New York, Florida, Louisiana and Washington State, just like the US was behind China in the spread of this infection. Their turn for a surge in infections is coming. Now is not the time to relax standards that are helping keep numbers low.

    The worst was Dr. Birx, whom Trump got to criticize Governor Cuomo, when she flat out said there’s no way New York needs 30,000 ventilators, that there are ventilators in upstate hospitals that aren’t being used, and that he was overblowing the crisis. More of Trump bullying people to try to bend the facts to fit his original lies that COVID-19 is a hoax, that it’s not serious, that it will be over “very soon”, that it will be gone by April, and will magically disappear. Trump is likely very jealous of the fact that Governor Cuomo is connecting with people and showing genuine concern about what he can do to save lives, instead of trying to salvage his political career based on the lie that his economic numbers are better than Obama’s.

    Trump is also trying to make true the lie that there is a “game changing” medication treatment that is or could be safe and effective for COVID-19. Hydrochloroquine is used by people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and thanks to Trump’s reckless lies, it is now in short supply. Those who need it for their lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can’t get prescriptions refilled, the drug is on back-order because some who don’t need it got doctor friends to prescribe it and are hoarding it. Trump has created a shortage of this drug. People with lupus could suffer a flare because their symptoms aren’t being suppressed and could end up in the hospital as a result.

    He keeps pushing scientists to manufacture facts to fit his rhetoric. That is indeed dangerous. Trump’s rhetoric has already caused people not to take seriously the recommendations of the CDC, so beaches were crowded for Spring Break and Mardi Gras was one big party. Now, Florida and Louisiana have a surge in cases. He is trying to control the CDC and the messages it puts out, which places all of our lives in danger.

    1. Natch, pandemic preparedness planning was “a thing” all the way back into the Bush Jr admin. see 2006

      https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/pandemicflu/

      the federal government is a big thing with a lot of moving parts. one tires of people like you or reporters or even trump blaming one thing after another on Obama, Trump, etc etc etc.

      if you people have this much energy to cast blame maybe you should try and find some mask blueprints on the internet and start sewing

      oh i have a better plan., you said you were a nurse. now’s a time when retired hcps are being drafted back into service. you might have a big contribution to make to saving lives! if you are off to the fray, let us know, and we will pray for you!

        1. You know, this pivoting that Trump does to mock and name-call his perceived enemies is petty, childish and beneath the Office of POTUS. But one thing Fox News has gotten the disciples to do is accept this behavior and to mock and attack anyone who says anything negative about Trumpy Bear. They also have convinced Trumpsters to distrust any media that are not pro-Trump and to attack and mock anchors on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, etc.. Fox never challenges anything that Trumpy Bear has to say. Well, it’s no longer just politics now. It’s life and death, and it’s about time you Trumpsters wake up and start listening to actual scientists, not those Trump can control, about what should be done to get us through this crisis with the least loss of life. All Trump cares about is trying to look successful and COVID-19 is kicking his fat ass. He’s tried to bluff and lie his way out of this mess, but the numbers go up every day. What does it take to make the disciples see the light? How many Americans have to die?

      1. I wasn’t “blaming” anything on Trump–I was replying to the lie he told at yesterday’s “press conference” wherein he said he inherited a mess and that no one could have predicted this pandemic. Not only was it predicted, even as far back as Bush, a playbook was created. Trump rejected it. The stores of things like masks in the strategic stockpile are years out of date. Trump has had 3+ years to do something, but chose to do nothing. That should matter even to you Trumpsters. The lying should also matter because people have gotten sick and died as a result.

        I made a mask for my daughter yesterday on my Singer Centennial Featherweight. My next door neighbor made masks for me and my husband.

        If my state asks for volunteers, I’ll gladly volunteer. I do still have a current nursing license. They haven’t asked yet.

        1. The stores of things like masks in the strategic stockpile are years out of date.

          Shouldn’t the stategic stockpile have been replenished after it was drawn down in 2009?

          Italicized/bold text was excerpted from a news report found at washingtonpost(dot)com:

          Face masks in national stockpile have not been substantially replenished since 2009

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/face-masks-in-national-stockpile-have-not-been-substantially-replenished-since-2009/2020/03/10/57e57316-60c9-11ea-8baf-519cedb6ccd9_story.html

          If my state asks for volunteers, I’ll gladly volunteer. I do still have a current nursing license. They haven’t asked yet

          You are seeking to be drafted. A volunteer does not need to be asked he/she willingly steps forward.

          1. I don’t currently work in a hospital, and have not for some time. You don’t seem to understand that it takes time to get up to speed to provide bedside care, including finding out where things are and where to get things you need, learning how computer records are kept and formatted, how care is documented, the specifics of how monitors, IV pumps and other equipment are used, and you don’t understand that there are protocols for literally everything, including taking and documenting vital signs, medications, treatments, processing doctor’s orders and how the hospitals want nurses to place and to dress IVs. Until or unless the staffing situation where I live warrants asking for volunteers, who take time to be oriented, they don’t need me right now. You also have to be cleared for things like current immunizations, TB testing and COVID-19 testing. They often want a chest x-ray. If I were a new hire, there would be several weeks of orientation. It would be less now, but orientation is still required. You don’t just walk onto a unit and start taking care of patients. A modern hospital isn’t a war zone. Yet.

            1. Natacha, you don’t need to defend yourself against personal attacks for somehow not being a conscientious citizen. There are plenty of ways all citizens can sacrifice and contribute, nurses or not, and unless and until all of us on this comment section are required to list our selfless sacrifices before posting, none of us need .

              1. Natacha, you don’t need to defend yourself against personal attacks

                She’d receive fewer personal attacks if she was (1) concise and (2) argued in good faith. She hasn’t a clue how to do either and her ceaseless ranting has alienated everyone, which is why she is not taken seriously.

            2. I don’t currently work in a hospital, and have not for some time.

              You’re a target as big as Kate Smith’s rear end.

    2. That presser yesterday was indeed disgusting.

      But the hopeful thing I’m taking is they’re having Trumpy Bear go out and front for the first part. Say his Trumpy things and then leave. Then Pence and Fauci and Birx step up.

      A particularly nice moment was when Fauci was asked about putting federal money in partnership with a private company for vaccine development. Given that a company may have something truly promising in the future.., Fauci said something along the lines of: yeah, i’d invest there, certainly.

      Most refreshing was I believe it signals that it’s been established behind the scenes that Trump is not in charge at the tip of the executive anymore re Covid 19.

      Still doesn’t get past the staggering reality Trump hasn’t gone all in on defense procurement, that he’s just peacing out on it. But, for me, after how bungled the early response to Covid 19 was, I have to take whatever positives come along, wherever they come along.

        1. Good. Noticed Bulls and Bears got cancelled, too. Probably since the Bulls will be in scarce supply for a good bit.

  3. Anyone, regardless of party should be held up to the highest ethical standards in government service. That should be the rules in the real world, but since we have a impeached President and a incompetent administration that has almost every cabinet member under some kind of ethic investigation and has no moral or ethic center, we have to watch very closely.

  4. Term limits! If we can’t stop corruption at least we can limit the exposure. Then the new guy will have his time in the son. A kind of “wealth distribution”.

  5. Insider Trading vs. Foot In The Door Trading
    ____________________________________

    5th Amendment

    “No person shall be…deprived of…property,…”
    _____________________________________

    Private property is “that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

    – James Madison
    ______________

    Rank has its privileges.

    Thous shalt not covet.
    __________________

    Individuals have the right to transact on their assets without governmental interference as either possession or disposition.

    One party is always the first to obtain critical data which bears on an asset; if not the insider then the one with the foot in the door, then the proximate party. Will that inevitable first party be found guilty of, what, malicious talent, ambition, acumen, fortune, serendipity, fate, luck, success, persistence, etc.?

    Is management at the Department of Transportation scrutinized for insider trading based on the siting of new highways, canals, railroads, airports, etc.? How about the state and civic insiders trading based on the submission of plans for new residential/commercial development?
    ___________

    Who says the “smelly Walmartians” (thank you Peter Strzok) aren’t greedy; that greed is typical only of Wall Street money changers?

    I have never seen more profound greed than that of the vile, repugnant cretins who absconded last week with every last roll of toilet paper, emptying the store shelves completely based on their own abject, selfish, miserly greed and avarice.

    How about prosecuting that insider, nay, lowsider trading?

  6. Trump Administration Suspending EPA Enforcement During Pandemic 

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.  

    The temporary policy, for which the EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”

    Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it a moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and an abdication of the agency’s duty. 

    Other industries had also asked to ignite the “force majeure” clauses of any legal settlements they had signed with the EPA, allowing for an extension on deadlines to meet various environmental goals in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

    But Giles and others say the memo signed Thursday goes beyond that request, giving industries board authority to pollute with little oversight from the agency. 

    “Incredibly, the EPA statement does not even reserve EPA’s right to act in the event of an imminent threat to public health,” Giles said. 

    The EPA has been under pressure from a number of industries, including the oil industry, to suspend enforcement of a number of environmental regulations due to the pandemic.

    “EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. 

    In a 10-page letter to the EPA earlier this week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) asked for a suspension of rules that require repairing leaky equipment as well as monitoring to make sure pollution doesn’t seep into nearby water.

    https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/489753-epa-suspends-enforcement-of-environmental-laws-amid-coronavirus

    1. Thank you for posting information on the EPA. Watching anything the incompetent administration does right now is important for everybody.

  7. We need a website depicting every stock transaction by s member of Congress, their employed and relatives.
    Then we know when to buy, sell or hold.

  8. “Notably, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was adamant on barring businesses owned by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from benefiting from the stimulus package. Notably absent however was a similar ban for members who have considerable stock or ownership interests in such companies.”

    How about Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker whose family owns major interest in Hyatt hotels. Will they be taking the soup?

    https://www.forbes.com/profile/pritzker/#303c4e4b70f2

    maybe the Democrats want to scoop up those Trump hotel properties once the ruin has devastated them.

    While we scramble, they are all going to go from rich to richer. This is usually the way it happens in the US the past decades and crises only deepen the situation.

    It is a bipartisan rot, but they are aiming their rhetorical nonsense at Trump, to take the heat off themselves as they plunder the cookie jar

  9. to begin with there is no ethics in d.c. all these low life politicians selling their stocks should be tried in a court of law like martha stewart. these politicians are protected better than the kings and queens in the 15th and 16 th century it has to stop.

  10. Reforms Are Needed..

    But The House Is Not Too Profitable

    U.S. Representatives are elected to only 2 year terms. As soon as they’re elected, they have to start raising money for the next election. I can imagine that would be a constant grind. What’s more, the official salary for U.S. Representatives, about $220,000, is actually rather modest compared to executive salaries in the private sector.

    Traditionally, Congresspeople were expected to maintain homes in their districts while living in Washington. But currently Washington ranks as one of the nation’s most expensive metro regions. Just maintaining a home in Washington could be a challenge for less affluent members of Congress. I remember reading that Congresswomen Cortez had no idea where she would be living. Cortez was notoriously poor for a new member of Congress.

    1. there is an invisible sign on their doors that reads “all lobbyists are welcome” bring your check books or job offers for my family.

  11. I wonder if a solution would be to mandate that all buys and sells of stock be published in advance so that the market has time to judge what those actual buys and sells really mean.

      1. Markets certainly judge the reasons for buys and sells on the stock market. If you are happier with the word react that is fine with me as it might be the better word use. However, the meaning is clear and doesn’t affect the idea that I was promoting. As usual you are dealing with trivial things instead of ideas.

        1. Markets don’t judge reasons for buys and sells, people do. While price movement mimics patterns existent in nature, they are only given life by the people putting money into them, or taking it out.

          1. What you are saying is that markets are not humans so they can’t judge, but humans are the ones to buy and sell. They do judge and thus the marketplace exists. The idea was to let the people know before the fact when members of Congress wished to buy or sell stock. You are trying to show how smart you are by replacing the word react which I already told you was fine with me. That is merely game playing. Deal with the idea. You can choose 0-100 or simply not respond. That is your choice.

            In the meantime you should be spending more of your time thinking about the lack of understanding you have in our other discussion and see if you can’t respond directly instead of running all over the place.

              1. Look at this, alias “pauline” believes people are not the ones to ultimately buy and sell stocks.

                I guess he disagrees with “The idea was to let the people know before the fact when members of Congress wished to buy or sell stock.”. That is what happens to those companies and persons that hold a specific amount of stock in a company in order to prevent them from using insider knowledge along with their ability to cause wide fluctuations in stock price.

                It seems alias “paulie” doesn’t know very much but talks a lot.

                He ran from the other discussion like a sissy.

                  1. “In fifth grade.”

                    What a stupid comment. The idea I presented presently represents the law used today for large investors. The fact that you don’t know about this is appallingly uneducated.

                    1. Dude, I’m worried about your blood pressure. And possibly cognition problems. It’s really time to settle down.

              2. Then provide the facts. That would be a lot easier than skirting the issue. The problem is you don’t have facts and have very little knowledge.

  12. I don’t have a problem with Congressmen making money on the stock market. What I have a problem with is that Congress has been made to be a fulltime job when the original intent was for Congressmen to meet once a year to pass legislation. Now they’re fulltime residents of the worst city in the nation – I know. I lived in Virginia and have been to DC numerous times. I “lost” money in the stock market too but I didn’t sell mine and am confident the market will come back up once the idiots in the media and government realize they’re freaking out over a virus that is not much more than the common cold in 98% of the population. The revelation yesterday that the computer model the Feds had been basing their ideas on – and that the media was feeding on – is flawed should help (but I doubt it.) By the way, the “inside” information Burr received was speculation, not fact. It turns out it was partially right – they were using the same computer program ot make their predictions.

    1. The original intent was to have Congress in session in alternate years, not ‘once a year’. Legislatures are busier than they were when the country had a population of 4 million and the Department of State had 10 headquarters employees. Get used to it.

  13. These 4 got caught. There are many others, But this BS has to stop. They’re not doing the peoples business, they’re just taking care of themselves and filling their own pockets.

  14. You might ask the obvious questions when contemplating Pelosi’s situation.

    1. why are incomes in our time politically-determined to such a degree?

    2. Why has an eighty year old woman been sitting in Congress for 33 years without interruption? (Burr is younger, but he’s been in Congress for 25 years w/o interruption. Why?)

    1. 1. Those most visible make huge amounts on speaking fees (those were the primary sources of the Clintons’ and Joe Biden’s wealth, and big sources for Reagan and W) and books. Others are hired for window dressing.

      2. She’s been elected by the voters of California.

    2. Absurd has a preference for amateurs in government. “You see outsiders with no experience are untainted by the swamp”.

      1. Again, Shill’s idea of ‘experience’ is… Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, men of scant accomplishment outside the sphere of electoral politics or within it.

        Take a gander at the legislation she’s she’s sponsored in her 33 years in Congress. It’s fairly inconsequential stuff, mostly constituent service activity.

        Barney Frank was an ‘experienced’ legislator. What do you get? Dodd-Frank, a monstrosity written by lobbyists-in-Bull-Sessions.

        1. Yeah, Absurd, you’re saying that Congress should be more like Open Mike Night at the local Comedy Club.

      2. Chips,
        If ever there was an easy opportunity for you to prove you could think objectively, rationally and reasonably and without partisanship, this topic would be it. This is a system-wide problem; it is not a party problem.

        DSS’s point is absolutely valid and you can plug in any name you want. Of course we all should want competent people elected to Congress, the question is how do we measure competency? Then, what has that individual accomplished over their time in Congress? What are the metrics that are used to evaluate performance? What should the metrics be? What should disqualify a member of Congress for reelection? What would term limits solve? What level of civics literacy exists within their districts/states? These are worthy things to consider, especially in light of what is clearly corruption within the ranks of government.

        1. All well enough Olly, but let’s keep perspective. This is the least corrupt Congress ever, as are virtually all our governmental institutions because of reforms and a free press. The reason why we know about these sales was because of required reporting by Senators and journalistic reporting to the public. Except due to the corrupt SC Citizens United ruling, contributions are similarly regulated and there are more restrictions on lobbying when officials leave government. This is not to say we don’t need further reforms and restrictions – and overturning CU – but let’s not get confused about how far we’ve come. We should be encouraged to continue.

          1. This is the least corrupt Congress ever, as are virtually all our governmental institutions because of reforms and a free press.

            The obvious question is, how do you know that to be true? What is the measure?

            1. A knowledge of our history and reforms in place. Convictions and resignations can’t be compared historically with eras without laws and when the press was often part of the club protecting friends. You think FDR would have hidden his polio today? Think about it before saying “fake news” even once.

              1. Why would I say “fake news?” I don’t do that.

                Your response didn’t answer the question. Lacking an objective measure, your suggestion is we are to measure corruption by reporting by the media. That would then require an objective measure of the media. And so on. Ultimately, the weight of determining what corruption exists will fall on the voter’s qualified understanding of how all this is supposed to work. And that’s not even consequentially measured.

                I’ve always stated, civics literacy, citizen engagement and citizen independence, make up the 3-legged stool of our constitutionally-limited government. Weaken any of the 3 legs and the whole thing starts to collapse. We are long passed the weakened stage on all 3.

                1. Unless we are personally employed in the Congress or other branches of government we are always dependent on journalists and historians for information. Are you challenging the statement that there are more reforms in place now for Congress and other federal – and state – officers? There is also greater press access and it is less of a club, at least at the federal level. Reporters make their personal marks by blowing up scandals. Do you think JFK get’s busted for a Monica Lewinsky?

                  The only way you challenge that is to claim there are fewer rules now – that would be false – and that we are completely hoodwinked by a conspiracy involving multi-faceted media, all competing for our viewership. In which case, yeah, we’d be doomed and why are we bothering to discuss it?

                  1. Are you challenging the statement that there are more reforms in place now for Congress and other federal – and state – officers?

                    Why would I? The question isn’t whether there have been reforms. The question is whether the reforms made have improved our (citizen class) ability to expose corruption.

                    and that we are completely hoodwinked by a conspiracy involving multi-faceted media, all competing for our viewership.

                    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have to agree this is one area that absolutely needs reform. They have all the power to influence the people towards whatever worldview they support. They have 1st amendment protections and they are abusing that right. The education industry is another, but that affects our culture from a different angle.

                    Again, this all comes back to civics literacy, engagement and independence. It reminds me of James Garfield’s warning in a speech at the 100 year anniversary of the DoI:

                    “Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature …

                    If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

                    And no, we don’t throw up our hands and quit.

                    1. Olly, you don’t “reform” a free press or it’s not free. Informed citizens should and mostly do reward those who provide responsible and dependable news reporting, which is how the WSJ, the WaPo, the NYTs, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg succeed and survive. Others like Fox and MSNBC sell confirmation bias editorializing which should not be confused with news. Nor should the numerous blogs doing the same while pretending to be news sources with staffs to small to cover anything in the field. They sit at their computers like we do and spin the news collected by the above true sources. Self serving attacks by politicians, especially by one of the biggest liars to ever gain national attention, let alone be president should be scorned by informed citizens

                    2. Informed citizens should and mostly do reward those who provide responsible and dependable news reporting, which is how the WSJ, the WaPo, the NYTs, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg succeed and survive. Others like Fox and MSNBC sell confirmation bias editorializing which should not be confused with news.

                      Thank you for proving my point about the root problem in our country…the People. All the media outlets sell what people will buy. As I mentioned the other day, I would say for the most part that we have people on this blog that are fairly intelligent and with worldviews that are miles apart. It’s no coincidence that one worldview approves of certain media outlets, while the other does not. Those media outlets sell what those worldviews will buy. An outsider watching this play out would have to ask how these otherwise intelligent people can observe the same events and come away with completely different opinions. Who’s truth is correct? How could we know?

                      My opinion, for what it’s worth is this: what facts (evidence) exists to confirm the truth? If the facts (evidence) does not exist, then what remains are feelings of a truth and they’ll find a media source that will confirm that bias. It’s not difficult to identify the latter group.

                    3. Olly, I agree – and have stated here before that as citizens of a free democracy – yeah I know, representative democracy – we are responsible for the government.

                      You fail to recognize the difference I pointed out between news collecting sources with many reporters around the world, which rarely disagree on what is up and what is down on facts, and which are depended on by citizens and the confirmation bias opinion mills. Trump likes his confirmation bias sources like Fox and basement dwelling blogs like The Daily Caller while attacking the major news collecting sources and his followers like you follow suit. He doesn’t recognize facts (or science) as is clear from the multiple lies he spews daily and has convinced many supposedly conservative voters that there is no truth, only spin. You are responsible for this a..hole being president even though you were and are in a minority. We can’t blame that result on American voters because we didn’t pick him. We can blame the EC’s unrepresentative winner take all system on citizens and we should change it.

                    4. You fail to recognize the difference I pointed out between news collecting sources with many reporters around the world, which rarely disagree on what is up and what is down on facts, and which are depended on by citizens and the confirmation bias opinion mills.

                      No, what you don’t approve of is my failure to accept your sources for your truth. My approach to truth absolutely rejects any opinion that is unsupported by evidence. This is really not that difficult to understand the problem. There is not a universally accepted approach that consumers of the news use to arrive at the truth. What is more common is consumers of the news have an approach they use to arrive at a truth. The tell on which approach you use is if your source(s) confirm your truth without you bothering to fact check them.

                    5. Olly, it’s telling that you reference “opinion”, which as you know we all have. What we don’t all have are facts, and to gather them in a large and complex world you need resources. The news sources I listed, and for which I largely depend on – and site here or elsewhere – have those resources and make a profit primarily from selling fact reporting, not opinions, though some of them – not AP or Reuters or Bloomberg that I know of – have opinion writing as well. They all adhere to a code of ethics and issue retractions for misstatements of facts, though with the imperfection all endeavors exhibit.

                      It is disturbing that so many American citizens will listen to the self serving denunciations of these sources by a man who lies so promiscuously and doesn’t care what the facts are. This is a sort of elective brain washing, sad to see and one would hope difficult to maintain.

                    6. It is disturbing that so many American citizens will…

                      btb,
                      The thing that disturbs me the most is how so many will willfully support an unlawful abuse of power, because it favors their worldview. It is measurable. How could one know? If you find yourself at odds with:
                      – rules of evidence
                      – innocent until proven guilty
                      – natural rights
                      – border security
                      To name a few, that would be your tell.

              2. You think FDR would have hidden his polio today?

                He didn’t hide it then, as my mother could have explained to you. The notion he did was retconning which appeared in magazine literature ca. 1982.

                (While we’re at it, a retrospective review of his symptoms in 1921 indicates Guillain-Barre syndrome is a better candidate than polio for what was ailing him).

        2. Olly, who says rank amateurs are ‘less corrupt’?? Look at Donald Trump. He’s a rank amateur.

          Trump refuses to show his taxes so uncritical admirers like you have no idea what his finances really look like. Then Trump operates a hotel within simple walking distance of the White House while son-in-law Jared Kushner seeks investors for a property that’s draining his family’s business. Corruption was never less subtle than Trump.

          1. “Trump refuses to show his taxes so uncritical admirers like you have no idea what his finances really look like.”
            ***********************
            Only because no law compels him to except the law of TDS which seems to have religious like hold over you and yours.

          2. Opportunity missed again, eh Paint Chips? I’m not opposed to a law requiring every individual elected to office to show their tax returns. Does that law currently exist?

            1. Olly, the fact that such a law doesnt exist is all the more reason to be suspicious of Trump. He’s taking advantage of a gaping loophole in the law.

              1. Have you bothered to ask yourself why there isn’t such a law? Congress makes the laws, why do you suppose they haven’t? Why haven’t you expressed a concern that Congress isn’t actually taking advantage of a gaping loophole in the law? That’s right, because your concern has nothing to do some known corruption that would be exposed with the release of tax returns. Your concern is only with Trump’s tax returns, and how their exposure could be weaponized to get him out of office. Yeah, you’re that obvious.

            2. Another “uncritical admirer”. Olly, since Reagan every major party candidate and therefore president since has released tax returns, so law or not Trump has broken a very positive tradition which no one else felt they needed to.

              Asking for an all encompassing law, if not just an excuse for forgiving Trump for acting like a grifter would be admirable and most would agree. However, It is not an excuse for him.

              Another bar lowered.

              1. Olly, since Reagan every major party candidate and therefore president since has released tax returns, so law or not Trump has broken a very positive tradition which no one else felt they needed to.

                It’s not a ‘positive tradition’. It’s a witless shtick. Trump knows the media will begin a campaign of defamation making use of fragments of his returns taken out of context.

              2. so law or not Trump has broken a very positive tradition which no one else felt they needed to.

                No, the only tradition Trump broke was the sacred tradition of not electing an outsider. We are all better off for it.

                1. Olly, that’s false. Your opinion aside of his performance and of course that the EC, not the people elected him, he broke the positive tradition voters had come to expect of our candidates to not hide their taxes. No doubt you will appreciate it when it comes to Democratic candidates and so will I.

                  You’re not proposing a positive reform, you’re looking for a hiding places.

                  1. The positive reform is to have people’s incomes less dependent on discretionary decisions of politicians. You can start with constitutional amendments at the state and federal level which fix the definition of the tax base, allowing legislatures discretion over rates and general credits. You can start with another constitutional amendment which restores the distinction between inter-state and intra-state commerce – i.e. which authoritatively reduces the scope of federal regulatory agencies. You can start with a third constitutional amendment which debars discretionary grants to corporate bodies. You can start with a fourth which debars intergovernmental transfers with specified purposes other than some modest indemnities, and which requires the distribution of general revenue sharing be according to a strict formula. You can start with a constitutional amendment which requires non-judicial offices serve four-year terms absent a specific dispensation and requires judges serve a whole-number multiple of four years; requires lower and upper age limits to run for office; and institutes rotation-in-office rules (e.g. no one can hold a given office for more than 10 years out of any bloc of 12, or run for it if he will reach that limit mid=term). You can remember what Matthew Troy (boss of Queens, NY) said: “wherever you have discretionary power, it doesn’t force the corruption, but the corruption is there if you want it”).

                    1. Thanks for the fantasy having nothing to with the simple proposition and easily complied with release of tax returns by presidential candidates

                    2. You want his tax returns to satisfy your puerile curiosity. The point is to reduce corruption, something about which you apparently understand nothing.

                  2. Olly, that’s false.

                    It’s your opinion that it’s false, my opinion is that it’s true. Pfft.

                    Regarding the EC; they didn’t act independently of the voters. They performed according to the election results in each state as prescribed by law. Case closed.

                    he broke the positive tradition voters had come to expect of our candidates to not hide their taxes.

                    I’ve never concerned myself with a candidates tax returns. I do tax returns for a living and I understand quite well what they disclose. I also understand that if they are put in the hands of unscrupulous people, the information within the return will be used to influence the vast majority of voters that don’t understand what any of it means.

                    The most obvious way to measure how honorable our political class is performing, is their fidelity to the law itself; to how well they are honoring their oath. Unfortunately that requires citizens to understand (civics) what that even means. Which brings us back to the root problem I’ve expressed before. If you want a positive tradition, start there, because anything short of fixing that will mean nothing will never really change.

          3. Trump refuses to show his taxes so uncritical admirers like you have no idea what his finances really look like.

            PrivCo has produced estimates of the Trump Organization’s revenue flow and workforce.

            There may come a day when Shill learns that tax returns are not balance sheets – of corporations or of households.

            1. Absurd, who is ‘PrivCo’ and why should we trust their estimates?? When one considers the false states Trump puts out each day, I would only trust his tax returns over any private estimates.

          4. The financial disclosure statements candidates for federal office have to file with the Federal Election Commission require only that you state your holdings in terms of broad ranges. In re Feinstein and Pelosi, the only things disclosed would be the lower bound of what they hold.

  15. ” It turns out that many lawmakers become market investment geniuses after they enter Congress”

    Funny how that works, isn’t it?

    Politicians often enter politics for the purpose of ‘side’ benefits. And fascinatingly enough, mirror trading a relative in Congress in the the market would be even a more refined method of trading then for that member themselves. The family member could mirror, and then time in a more technical sense, their trades because they could more closely pay attention to daily interactions.

    Agreed on blind trusts. My sense is that truly adhering to blind trust discipline may do more for term limit reforms than a direct limit on them. Not that I don’t appreciate a truly pro member of Congress, only being able to come about though experience. But there is a pattern of these scandals no doubt: initial outrage, a simmering period, other stuff intervenes and then all seemingly forgotten.

    Better yet, a president on stage at a Covid 19 briefing openly admitting his interest as a hotel owner in how policy proceeds from that point forward.

    Truly, I think the majority of the public takes it as a given in American politics. That they’re coming out on the short end and the only recourse is to vote the candidate who most reflects their inner prejudices. Totally explains Trump to me. Also explains those still current democrats.

    Either way, time to cut the fundamental information boon available to members of Congress and the committees they inhabit. Profit later. Not during.

  16. Wow. The Prof comes down fast and hard. Atypical for him as he is dependent upon political good will to acquire information vital to his editorial life. Nice to see the truth so eloquently explained .

  17. I agree on that rule for elected officials at the federal level and states should enact the same rules. Federal employees other than political appointees including cabinet officers and SC judges should not be similarly governed.

    Diane Feinstein and Inhofe did not attend the Jan 24th meeting where sensitive and dire information on the corona virus were presented. Burr and Loefler did.

    “A spokesman for Feinstein told The New York Times that she had nothing to do with the decisions to sell her stocks.

    “All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” Tom Mentzer said in a statement. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”

    When Rick Scott of Florida was governor, he made the same claim as Feinstein, but his wife’s portfolio included almost all the same stocks as his.

  18. All Diane Feinstein’s investments are in a Blind Trust. She is the only senator in your piece with such a blind trust. Huge difference from the other senators – all GOP coincidentally – who do not have their investments in a blind trust.

    1. She doesn’t have a blind trust. Her husband remains, at the age of 85, actively engaged in the real estate business in the Bay Area. He’s not doing that blind.

    1. If that’s the case, there’s no point in federal employees owning equities or owning bonds. They can hold annuities and shares in mutual funds.

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