Maryland is home to the highest per capita rate of federal workers in the country, with about 240 out of 10,000 Marylanders working for the federal government. These federal workers must respect complete ethical rules designed to prevent conflicts of interest and insider trading – yet the members of Congress that these federal workers elect to represent them are not held to those same standards.
Over the past year, Congress’ blatant lack of ethics rules has become painfully apparent to the American public, and legislation to address it has overwhelming public support. Yet while legislative efforts to hold members of Congress to the same standard applied to federal workers have stalled in Congress, the majority of Maryland’s elected representatives in Congress have been conspicuously absent from efforts to bring some parity. to this system.
It is difficult to understand how our representatives in Washington, DC can justify subjecting themselves and their colleagues to a financial conflict of interest standard far lower than that imposed on their federal constituents, down to the most junior positions.
The 2022 midterm elections are fast approaching, and voters in Maryland have important decisions to make about who they want to represent them in Congress. With a 10-member congressional delegation — two senators and eight members of the House of Representatives — the Free State has a vital role to play in crafting solutions to some of the nation’s biggest challenges. Maryland’s congressional delegation includes the second most powerful member of the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and the chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, Senator Ben Cardin.
By wide and bipartisan margins, the public has made it clear that members of Congress buying and selling stocks are wrong and should be banned. At the time of this writing, Business Intern reported that at least 70 members of Congress violated existing law intended to bring transparency to members’ financial dealings, including at least two members of the Maryland delegation (Representatives David Trone and Jamie Raskin). Public reports of stock trades at a suspicious time early in the COVID-19 pandemic also fueled a pre-existing sense of public distrust of Congress, which likely influenced a miserably low, 17% public approval.
In response to the growing public outcry against corruption in Congress (and the perception of corruption), several members of Congress have introduces measures that would restrict or prohibit stock trading by members of Congress and their immediate families. These measures have garnered bipartisan support, including Maryland Representatives Andy Harris, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin.
Let’s pause to reflect on the absurdity of the current situation: Members of Congress, who can move markets and directly impact stock prices through their positions of legislative power and elected privilege , are free to hold essentially any financial investments they wish, no matter how much conflict of interest those holdings may pose. On the other hand, to comply with a criminal law of conflicts of interest from which Congress has exempted itself, an entry-level worker employed in a random federal agency is bound by the Office of Government Ethics to dispose of any investment likely to present a conflict of interest. To say this is a laughable double standard would be an insult to the laughable double standard.
And that’s not to say the divestiture standard is too onerous to apply to federal employees. This is not the case. This is a common sense rule that should apply to all federal employees, including members of Congress.
Given the proportion of Maryland’s population that is employed in the federal workforce and the proportion of the population worries about government corruptionit defies logic that the Maryland congressional delegation is not leading the way on this issue.
As residents of this state, we have every reason to demand this of our elected officials. The entire Maryland congressional delegation should jump at the chance to support crucial legislation to limit its own potential conflicts of interest. And any member of Congress who does not support these efforts should have to explain their opposition to voters in this state.
It is high time for Congress to step up and hold itself to higher standards of ethical conduct, just as Congress demands of the thousands of Marylanders who are employed by the executive branch. To do anything less is a slap in the face for the people of Maryland.