There is a movement underway to require members of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court to provide full disclosure of their stock portfolios. The movement, which is gaining momentum partly due to the efforts of grassroots activists like Robert Squires who started a group on the social networking site Facebook, “Full Disclosure of U.S. Congress/Supreme Court Stock Portfolios NOW!”, is gaining traction especially in progressive circles but is, in fact, a non-partisan effort.
According to Squires, members of Congress have hefty investments in corporations that produce weapons for war and pharmaceuticals, that control private health care, the prison industry, and other inadequately regulated industries. He goes on to say that it is, then, to their advantage that certain public policies fail.
The Center for Responsive Politics, through their website OpenSecrets.com, provides congressional financial disclosure statements. But even with access to the voluminous amount of data on this site, it is difficult to gauge what a lawmaker is worth based on what they file because the disclosure forms do not require exact values. Instead, the lawmaker reports the range of value for an asset. Squires’ group maintains that because lawmakers are only required to report their assets in broad ranges, it isn’t possible to discern when the value of their investments rise 160 percent or drop 51 percent, making it all the more important for there to be full disclosure.
Many policies that could improve the quality of life for large segments of the American population and populations around the world, if implemented, could have an adverse impact on the investment portfolios of many members of Congress. While this can be said of all who hold portfolios that contain these investments, the difference is that Congress has direct control on the passage of legislation as well as inside information about impending legislative actions that can be used to inform investment decisions.
In other words, Congress has access to information, by virtue of their roles in government, that the average investor does not have. Squires argues that this information gives them an unfair advantage with regards to making investment decisions but beyond that, they have no duty of confidentiality to Congress, and therefore are not liable for insider trading.
For more information go to Facebook and access the group, “Full Disclosure of U.S. Congress/Supreme Court Stock Portfolios NOW“.