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Congress' Toxic Stock Syndrome

Most people would think lawmakers couldn't vote on legislation that benefits them personally, but they can, even after scandals forced Congress to adopt some reforms. To highlight this, I took a look at members of Congress who not only voted on bills that benefitted their personal holdings, but also benefitted interests that most Americans would find distasteful, such as Iran and Russia. It is in this environment that we now see Rep. Chris Collins facing an ethics probe over his actions boosting investments that also helped former congressman and Health Secretary Tom Price.

WASHINGTON — Most Americans probably wouldn’t guess members of Congress would invest in a company that has any link to Iran. Nor would they likely imagine lawmakers would vote on legislation that could yield personal benefits while assisting that company.

They would be wrong on both counts in the case of the massive mining conglomerate Rio Tinto...

...A review of lawmakers’ recent financial disclosure forms finds that those facts have not made Rio Tinto a toxic stock for members of Congress or their spouses who either own or have recently owned shares of the company. All of them have voted to get tough on Iran, or, if they were in the House at the time, to give Rio Tinto the land in Arizona.

...But the point is not the company. It is what the financial connections between Congress and Rio Tinto reveal about how lawmakers’ public jobs and positions can conflict with their private self-interests; how their behavior runs the range from hypocrisy to criminality; and how recent reforms have stopped far short of curbing congressional conflicts of interest.

Read the whole story here.

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