Salazar, a Republican, was late in disclosing her spouse’s $1,001 to $15,000 sale of stock in Florida renewable energy company, NextEra Energy Partners — an apparent violation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, according to a Raw Story review of federal financial disclosures.
The law requires federal lawmakers to report within 45 days any individual stock, bond, Treasury security or cryptocurrency transactions they, their spouses or dependent children conduct.
While Salazar was just a few days late filing her May 31 financial disclosure, and the trade itself wasn't particularly large, the congresswoman has been notably outspoken about STOCK Act violations, publicly shaming a political rival for failing to disclose stock trades on time.
"How can we trust her to represent us in Miami or oversee $2 trillion in government funds while she violates and skirts federal law with her own finances?" Salazar wrote of her congressional opponent, then-Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), when Shalala failed to properly report half-a-dozen stock sales while representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
“What Donna Shalala did was not a ‘mistake’ but is deeply concerning … she has broken the public’s trust,” Salazar added.
This isn’t Salazar’s first STOCK Act slip-up: Just last year, Insider reported that Salazar was more than two months late in disclosing $500,000 in stock of senior healthcare services company, Cano Health Inc.
Salazar’s congressional office acknowledged receipt of Raw Story’s questions related to the lawmaker’s apparent STOCK Act violation, but representatives for Salazar have not otherwise responded to multiple requests for comment this week.
“When you're on the outside or when you're not in office, people like to poke holes just to show how Congress is dysfunctional, and there's a broken ethics system, but then once you're in the inside, once you're in office, then plenty of people then also fail to fully follow the law as well,” said Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs at nonprofit government watchdog Common Cause. “It ultimately just comes down to ensuring compliance and making sure that the penalties are enhanced to ensure and incentivize compliance with the law.”
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The standard fee for violating the STOCK Act is $200, which many watchdog organizations have criticized for being too low to serve as a deterrent.
“Unfortunately, the penalties for violations of the STOCK Act are essentially a slap on the wrist,” Scherb said. “We need to significantly tighten and enhance the penalties … to try to incentivize compliance with the STOCK Act going forward.”
Another Southern lawmaker appears to be in violation of the STOCK Act by being a few days late in disclosing a spouse’s stock sale, as well.
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Federal financial disclosure records indicate that Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) was late in disclosing his spouse’s March 27 sale — valued between $100,001 to $250,000 — of stock in SouthState Corporation, a financial services company.
Allen’s congressional office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Dozens of members of Congress have failed to comply with the STOCK Act. During the 117th Congress from 2021 to 2022, at least 78 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — were found to have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to a tally maintained by Insider.
Raw Story has this year identified 15 members of Congress, including Allen and Salazar, who have broken the federal conflicts of interest law.
Last week, Raw Story reported that Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) violated the STOCK Act by reporting up to $765,000 in personal stock transactions as much as a year-and-a-half late in some cases.
Another Washington state congressman, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) was also seemingly late in reporting 28 financial transactions totaling up to $420,000, but his congressional office told Raw Story he received conflicting guidance from the House Committee on Ethics that caused Larsen to not report until May 2023 stock trades he made as far back as 2020.
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Recently, Raw Story reported that Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) was more than a year late disclosing up to $45,000 of his wife’s purchases of stock in CarterBaldwin.
An additional six representatives failed to report up to $376,280 in stock transactions in May: Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).
Raw Story identified other STOCK Act violators in recent weeks, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), with up to $265,000 in late financial disclosures, and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), who was late in disclosing up to $5 million in U.S. Treasury note purchases.
Earlier this year, Raw Story also broke the news that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) failed to properly disclose that his wife sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in gaming company Activision Blizzard in September 2022 and purchased up to $15,000 worth of stock in Amazon.com in August 2022.
Raw Story reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was several days late disclosing that he had sold personal stock in an energy company and a pair of federal defense contractors. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also violated the STOCK Act in March with a late disclosure.
Congressional stock ban efforts
The ongoing violations come at a time when a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced several similar bills aimed at banning congressional stock trading.
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The most recent bill to be introduced this session — the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act — is co-sponsored in part by political rivals in Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Other materially similar bills include the Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act, the TRUST in Congress Act and the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act.
The STOCK Act was passed by Congress in 2012 to prevent insider trading, promote transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among federal lawmakers and other government officials.
In the decade since, the push for a total ban on lawmakers trading stocks while in office gained but then lost momentum last year when the Democratic-led House, then led by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, decided not to conduct a hearing on any of stock-ban bills and never brought it to the House floor for a vote.
Pelosi on Wednesday disclosed that her husband, Paul Pelosi, who’s one of the most prolific stock-trading spouses in Congress, sold off up to $1 million in Apple stock and used the transaction to make a contribution to his wife’s alma mater, Trinity Washington University.
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News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interests among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal hasreported.
The Wall Street Journal won a 2023 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into financial conflicts among officials who work in federal agencies while Insider won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for its reporting on congressional financial conflicts.