Reckless stock trading leaves Congress rife with conflicts – Maggie Severns 05/14/17 07:48 PM EDT


After the furor over Tom Price’s investments, four more members quietly bought shares in the same firm.

Even a looming scandal wouldn’t deter some of Congress’ most eager stock traders.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Health and Human Services secretary, was under siege, the harsh lights of a Senate hearing upon him. News reports showed he had bought shares in a tiny biotechnology company while sitting on committees that could influence the firm’s prospects. A colleague, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), had tipped him off to the investment.

A Washington Post editorial called Price “a walking, talking example of the ways in which congressional ethics requirements are too lax.” Sen. Chris Murphy demanded: “Tell me how it can possibly be OK that you were championing positions on health care issues that have the effect of increasing your personal wealth?” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked him, “Doesn’t this show bad judgment?”

But what many saw as a scandal, others saw as an opportunity. On the very day that Wyden was decrying Price’s bad judgment, Rep. Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, bought shares of the same tiny Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Within two days three more members also bought in — Republicans Billy Long of Missouri, Mike Conaway of Texas and John Culberson of Texas. Conaway added more shares the following week.

These brazen decisions to gobble up shares of a little-known firm at the very moment when such trading was being decried as an abuse of power reflects Congress’ anything-goes culture around stock investments. In the pursuit of wealth, even obvious conflicts of interest are routinely ignored by members who feast on daily trades. Long, for instance, serves on a committee overseeing Obamacare, and Conaway is a deputy House whip.

The health care lawmakers who invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics are hardly alone in trading in companies that have a major interest in federal legislation, according to a three-month investigation and examination of all stock trades by members of Congress.

POLITICO found that 28 House members and six senators each traded more than 100 stocks in the past two years, placing them in the potential cross hairs of a conflict of interest on a regular basis. And a handful of lawmakers, some of them frequent traders and some not, disproportionately trade in companies that also have an interest in their work on Capitol Hill.

The investigation found that:

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