There are few things Americans despise more than Congress. In fact, as of today, our legislative leaders may even be giving the COVID-19 pandemic a run for its money in terms of popularity. And to be honest, it's not hard to see why.
Granite Staters get up every day with responsibilities to our spouses, children, parents, customers, communities, and congregations. We draw up budgets that are balanced and keep the promises that we make. Integrity and decency aren't abstract ideas, but rather the core values that are woven into our social fabric.
Hundreds of miles away in Washington, however, legislators seem to step foot in the swamp and immediately abandon these principles. Year after year, the corruption, abuse of taxpayer money, and self-indulgence furthers the division and distrust of government -- a breakdown that has serious consequences.
If Congress wants to start to repair the public's trust, it can start by imposing a ban on members -- and their spouses -- trading stocks and options.
A member of Congress would be hard-pressed to claim that they do not have "insider" information -- the same that our securities regulations were designed to protect the market against -- that would allow them to make more advantageous trades than the rest of us. From briefings to a unique ability to shape the legislative process, members of Congress simply have access to the kind of leverage we do not have in contemplating these types of transactions.
The securities regulations that apply to all of us aren't just about preventing actual wrongdoing; they're also focused on preventing the appearance of impropriety.
Take Paul Pelosi, the spouse of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example. A financial disclosure from July of 2021 revealed that Mr. Pelosi purchased 4,000 shares of Alphabet at $1,200 per share on June 18 -- a total sum of $4,800,000. A week later, investors learned that a House bill to curb the power of big tech firms like Google was not a real threat, and the share price more than doubled to $2,500 per share.
Pelosi netted over $5 million from this transaction alone. The only response from Pelosi's spokesperson was: "The speaker has no involvement or prior knowledge of these transactions."
To be clear -- this is not a single-party issue. Both Republicans and Democrats take advantage of the lax rules and regulations regarding their personal finances. Therefore, elected officials and their immediate family should be prohibited from owning or trading individual stocks -- and all their economic interests should be placed in a blind trust while they are in office. Any member of Congress found in violation of this policy should forfeit their salary and pay a 100% penalty on any profits made from the illegal trade.
For members who decry such a ban as unfair or point to protective measures such as ethics rules and disclosures, I say: tough. Serving the people is a privilege -- not a right -- and one for which members are already handsomely compensated relative to the average American family. In Congress, I'll put New Hampshire first and deliver real reforms that benefit middle-class families, not career politicians and the D.C. elite.
Curbing the corruption in our nation's capital may not make me the most popular guy when I get to Congress -- but it's the right thing to do and a small step towards restoring the public's trust in government.
Matt Mowers is a Republican candidate seeking to challenge current NH 1st District Rep. Chris Pappas in this year's November elections. A former State Department Official serving under President Trump, Mowers narrowly lost to Pappas in 2020.
This op-ed first appeared in the Union Leader