Congressional Conflicts of Interest

The Washington Post reports that many members of Congress have substantial investments in the industries they oversee.  Specifically, many members’ investments overlap with their respective committee jurisdctions.

On the House Agriculture Committee, which holds sway over farm policies and subsidies, members had farming and agribusiness investments worth five times on average the amount held by other colleagues in the House. Many of the committee members’ holdings were in family farms. Nothing prevents those members from also receiving farm subsidies, and in the past, some have.

Likewise, House Energy and Commerce Committee members, who routinely hold hearings about telecommunications and computer issues, had heavier than average investments in companies such as Oracle, Nokia, AT&T and Verizon.

House Homeland Security Committee members also had more communications and electronics holdings as a group than the House as a whole, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members as a group owned almost six times more holdings in transportation firms.

In the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee had on average almost twice the value of holdings in finance, insurance and real estate as that chamber as a whole. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members had almost three times the value of agribusiness holdings as their colleagues on other committees.

As the story notes, judges must recuse themselves from cases involving any firms in which they hold investments, even if the investments are quite small. No equivalent rule applies to legislative officials.