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At least 97 current members of Congress have bought or sold stocks, bonds or other financial assets that overlap with their work in Congress or have reported similar transactions by their spouse or dependent child, according to a New York Times analysis. .
US lawmakers are not prohibited from investing in any company, including those that may be affected by their decisions. But the business patterns uncovered by the Times analysis underscore long-standing concerns about the potential for conflicts of interest or the use of inside information by members of Congress, according to government ethics experts.
Times reporters analyzed trades between 2019 and 2021 using a database of members’ financial records called Capitol Trades created by 2iQ Research. They compared the trades to relevant committee assignments and dates of congressional hearings and investigations.
When contacted, many lawmakers said the trades they reported were done independently by a spouse or broker without any input from them. Some have since sold all of their shares or transferred them to blind trusts. Two said the exchanges were accidental.
Here’s everything the Times analysis revealed.
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The Times started with data on the financial transactions of members of Congress or their immediate family members between 2019 and 2021. The data was taken from documents filed by senators and representatives, which were scanned and connected to the data on business industries by Capitol Trades, a project of Frankfurt-based financial data firm 2iQ Research. The data was compiled by the company’s team of more than 100 analysts, who reviewed each record by hand, according to Ahmed Asaad, head of research at Capitol Trades, and Diona Denkovska, head of data strategy at 2iQ Research.
Times reporters have built a database of more than 9,000 examples of how these companies have intersected with specific congressional committees and subcommittees. They identified the committees that oversee areas of federal policy critical to business operations, and those that oversee or fund federal agencies that have awarded major contracts to the companies. They also looked at the investigations that the committees have conducted on specific companies and the business leaders that these committees have called to testify at hearings.
They compared these potential conflicts with data on committee assignments, provided by the ProPublica Congress API, Congressional Quarterly and MIT professor Charles Stewart III, to find examples of occupations that overlapped the committee member’s tenure.
The Times did not include trades in municipal bonds, mutual funds or index funds, even those that track a specific industry. It also did not take into account the trades of members who acted quickly to divest themselves of shares shortly after being appointed to a relevant committee or those whose trades were all sales, as long as they fully dispatched actions within 60 days.
The Times could not report on every committee that affects every company; therefore, the analysis is definitely an undercount.