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An ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been hit with ethics complaints filed against by an independent outside watchdog group along with six other lawmakers.
The four Democrats and three Republicans allegedly “failed to file required reports on approximately 300 transactions, according to the complaint from the Campaign Legal Center,” NPR reported Wednesday.
“Five of the seven lawmakers sit on the powerful House Financial Services Committee,” the news service reported.
It’s the latest example of a bipartisan trend that has emerged almost 10 years after Congress overwhelmingly passed a law to provide transparency and show lawmakers aren’t profiting from their jobs: Members of Congress are ignoring the disclosure law.
Under the STOCK Act — Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act — lawmakers must file a report when they buy or sell stock. The form, known as a periodic transaction report, or PTR, must be submitted within 45 days of the transaction and is then made public. To date most allegations of STOCK Act violations involve members filing months — or in some cases more than a year — after the required window for submitting a report.
“The ethics complaints filed Wednesday are against Suozzi, Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio, Republican Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas, Democratic Delegate Michael San Nicolas of Guam, Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, and Republican Rep. Roger Williams of Texas,” NPR noted further.
But it’s Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), a top ally of the Democratic Speaker from California, who is most noteworthy; reports say he failed to file required financial disclosure reports on some 300 investment transactions.
Critics charge the allegations are due to habitual ignoring of the STOCK Act, which was passed in 2012 in the wake of the housing and market collapses linked to the “Great Recession” of 2008-09.
“The Congressman’s investments are managed through independent advisors with discretion overall transactions. Every transaction has been reported on his annual financial disclosure and all proper periodic disclosures will be filed on a going-forward basis,” a spokesperson for Suozzi told NPR in a statement.
Nevertheless, the watchdog group has appealed to the Office of Congressional Ethics, a non-partisan, non-congressional entity to screen the cases the organization brought and make timely, necessary referrals to the House Ethics Committee so it can examine members’ financial transaction activities.
“The lack of accountability we’ve seen in regard to STOCK Act compliance is basically giving elected officials the green light to buy and sell stocks based on information gained from committee meetings without any transparency for their voters,” Kedric Payne, Senior Director of Ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.
The House members in question who serve on the Financial Services Committee are Axne, Davidson, Gooden, San Nicolas, and Williams.
The Campaign Legal Center claims that Suozzi did not disclose the roughly 300 transactions of stock sales and purchases worth between $3.2 million and $11 million from 2017-2020.
“This included roughly 64 transactions in 2017 valued between $456,064 and $1,868,000; 31 transactions in 2018 valued between $528,031 and $1,445,00; 104 transactions in 2019 worth $1.1 million and $3.8 million; and 104 in 2020 worth between $1.1 million and $4 million,” NPR noted. “He disclosed the trades on annual disclosures but did not file PTRs.”
Gooden also responded to the allegations.
“There were no transactions above the reporting threshold for PTRs which is why none were filed. I would encourage anyone filing frivolous ethics complaints to consult page 41 of the 2020 Financial Disclosure Guide regarding the rule on PTRs,” the lawmaker said in a statement to NPR.
As for Suozzi, he and Pelosi are reportedly close. She appointed him “to the prestigious Congressional-Executive Commission on China,” according to a May 2019 press release.
That may have been a way for Pelosi to ‘buy’ his support after he and a handful of other Democrats would not commit to backing her as Speaker right away after Democrats won back control of the House following the 2018 midterm elections.