It’s quite the magical Christmas when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is enthusiastically defending the free-market system and a former Obama administration ethics chief is lambasting the Democrats. Of course, the second event was precipitated by the dubious circumstances in which the first occurred, but you can’t always get everything you want.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, torched Pelosi after she defended the ability of lawmakers to own and trade stocks during a media briefing Wednesday, shortly after Insider reported 52 members of Congress and 182 of their senior-level staffers violated the STOCK Act, a law which weakly polices stock trades by those individuals and their spouses. (STOCK stands for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge.)
Pelosi’s response was even more tepid than the law’s enforcement — which is little surprise, considering that Pelosi isn’t exactly impoverished herself. (Pelosi’s hypocrisy on issues of her personal privilege is something we’ve covered frequently here at The Western Journal, despite the fact that few mainstream outlets have bothered giving incidents like her infamous lockdown-defying haircut last year the coverage it deserves.
Asked by a reporter whether a ban on stock purchases by Congress members was warranted, Pelosi dismissed the idea.
“We’re a free-market economy,” she said. “They should be able to participate in that.”
“We have a responsibility to report” stock trades, Pelosi said, referring to the STOCK Act’s stipulation that share purchases must be reported within 45 days of their being made — the rule which the Congress members and their staffers violated.
“But if people aren’t reporting [stock trades], they should be.”
Pelosi’s response raised eyebrows for other reasons, as well. While Pelosi wasn’t among those who violated the STOCK Act, she received some blowback earlier in the year when her husband Paul made $5.3 million by exercising call options on Google parent company Alphabet just before the House Judiciary Committee voted on tech antitrust regulation, according to Insider.
Shaub was decidedly unimpressed by her answer, delivering a four-word slam in an email to Fox News: “What a disgusting comment.
“Nobody kidnapped these members of Congress when they were private citizens, dragged them to Washington and forced them to be in Congress,” Shaub said. “The American people are sick of members of Congress buying and selling stock and creating the appearance of trading on insider information.”
“They should absolutely be banned from trading stocks,” the email concluded. “Let them buy diversified mutual funds. Let them buy government bonds. But bar them from trading stocks, for crying out loud.”
He would tear into Pelosi further in a series of tweets.
“It’s a ridiculous comment! She might as well have said ‘let them eat cake,’” he said in one tweet.
“Sure, it’s a free-market economy. But your average schmuck doesn’t get confidential briefings from government experts chock full of nonpublic information directly related to the price of stocks.”
“I hereby propose the ‘Qu’ils Mangent De La Brioche Act of 2021’ to bar members of Congress from trading stocks,” he added. (“Qu’ils Mangent De La Brioche,” means “Let them eat cake” in French — which, given the origins of the idiom, would be how it was first uttered.)
This isn’t the first time that Shaub has criticized Democrats in the post-Obama era of ethical lapses. Most recently, he was a vocal critic of Hunter Biden’s so-called “art career” — which could appear, to trained and untrained eyes alike, a lot like an influence-peddling scam. However, this is hardly a former Democrat who’s come in from the cold and become a Republican.
When he wasn’t criticizing Pelosi and other stock-buying Congress members on his Twitter feed these past few days, he’s also been loudly beating the drum for the Democrats’ election-federalization power-grab (claiming in several tweets that failure to pass it would mean we were one step away from re-instituting literacy tests for voting) and insinuating via numerous memes that there was a deep, nefarious plot afoot during the Capitol riot which the Jan. 6 commission can and should get to the bottom of.
The issue remains, instead, that members of Congress trading stocks isn’t necessarily a “free market” — not when they’re privy to information other buyers would not be and when they control the levers of government.
This is why politicians often put their holdings in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. That’s not legally enforced, however — and GOP Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler came under intense scrutiny last year when they were revealed to have sold stocks after receiving briefings on the potential fallout from the coronavirus pandemic before the markets had reacted. Loeffler arguably lost her seat over it.
As much as it’s good to see Speaker Pelosi standing up for the free market, therefore, what she’s describing is a lot more like crony capitalism, where politicians and government officials profit while the rest of us cake-eaters are bound by a different set of rules and not operating with the same information.
However, it’s a minor Christmas miracle when Walter Shaub manages to nail it. We’ll take what we can get.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.