Lecturer in the Political Reporting Program at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Not Clearly Pro or Con to the question "Should Insider Trading by Congress Be Allowed?"
"Federal agency officials are generally prohibited from buying and selling stock in the companies they oversee. But Congress long ago exempted itself from ethics rules regarding investments. At one time this exemption made sense: Farmers wanted to be able to serve on the Agriculture Committee without selling their farms, for example. But many lawmakers now interpret this exception as carte blanche to invest after taking office.
...Some members, seeking to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, avoid buying stock or stow their assets in blind trusts. Others invest only in index funds or in diversified mutual funds. But a substantial share of House members and senators trade enthusiastically -- or, like Biggert [US Representative Judy Biggert (R-Ill)], permit their spouses and children to do so. An examination of the latest batch of financial disclosure reports, filed this summer for calendar year 2004, shows that dozens of lawmakers routinely buy and sell stock in industries they oversee, raising questions about whether they have an unfair advantage over the average investor."