Georgia GOP Rep. Loudermilk: We shouldn't have laws because people will break them anyway

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Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) argued against banning stock trades for members of Congress because 'laws can't change or shape behavior.'

A Georgia Republican on Thursday argued against enacting legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, saying that because people would break the law anyway, it's not worth doing.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) made the comment during a House Administration Committee hearing on how to reform stock trading for members of Congress, saying that "laws can't change or shape behavior" and that banning members from trading stocks merely strips members of their "rights and the freedoms ... to participate in a free-market society."

"Look, we cannot change behavior," Loudermilk said. "At the founding of our country there were four federal felonies — four. Today we have rooms of code books, of laws, but yet, murders still happen. If government could change behavior we'd have no murder, we would have no thefts, we would have no fraud. So we can't change behavior. If we enact a law that prohibits members of Congress from owning or trading stocks, it will still happen by bad players."

Loudermilk's office did not immediately return a request for comment about whether Loudermilk thinks the United States shouldn't have any laws because people break them anyway — as his comment at the hearing suggested.

The House of Representatives is discussing a ban on individual stock trading by members, as questions have arisen about whether members of Congress should be able to make investments when they have nonpublic information that could impact the market.

For example, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) came under fire in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic after they sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stock right before a pandemic-fueled plunge in prices on the stock market.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or the STOCK Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, prohibits members of Congress from trading stock based on nonpublic information they obtain due to their positions.

However, a Business Insider report in March found that 59 members of Congress had not properly reported their stock trades as the STOCK Act demands.

Ethics groups and a growing number of lawmakers say the STOCK Act doesn't go far enough.

"10 years ago, the STOCK Act became law to end insider trading by Members of Congress. Today, we still see lawmakers making a quick buck off suspiciously well-timed trades. I'd say the STOCK Act didn't work," Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) tweeted. "We must ban lawmakers from trading individual stocks while in office."

Ultimately, the House Administration Committee, on which Loudermilk sits, is tasked with crafting the legislation to ban House members from trading individual stocks.

It's unclear what, if anything, the committee will come up with.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted in January found broad public support for a ban on members of Congress trading stocks.

The poll found that 63% of voters of all parties think lawmakers shouldn't be able to engage in stock trading.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.