Political notebook: US Sen. Ossoff pushing bill to ban stock trading by members of Congress

U.S. Sen Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., speaks to reporters Aug. 8 before a Georgia Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Athens, Ga. Ossoff is pushing a bill that would require members of Congress to put their stocks in a blind trust. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)

NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, is renewing his push to ban stock trading by members of Congress.

The "Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act," which is also sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, would require senators and congressional members, their spouses and dependent children to place stocking holdings in a blind trust.

"Members of Congress should not be playing the stock market while we make federal policy and have extraordinary access to confidential information," Ossoff said in a news release. "Stock trading by members of Congress massively erodes public confidence in Congress with serious appearance of impropriety, which is why we should ban stock trading by members of Congress altogether."

Bill co-sponsors include U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia. Ossoff introduced similar legislation in the most recent Congress that did not pass.

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Several months into the pandemic, a number of members of Congress came under fire following an analysis by the Campaign Legal Center of financial disclosure reports. The center reported that between Feb. 2, 2020, and April 8, 2020, its examination of congressional stock transactions found that as COVID-19 cases began increasing across the U.S., senators from both sides of the aisle traded securities, many of which related to the pandemic.

Among the then-incumbent senators affected by the controversy were Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, both of whom lost their 2020 elections respectively to Ossoff and Warnock, who used the uproar to their advantage.

Ossoff announced several months after taking office he had completed placing his entire stock portfolio into a blind trust.

A survey conducted by the University of Maryland earlier this year found an "overwhelming bipartisan majority" supported the restrictions. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they supported a stock-trading ban, including 87% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats.

Eighty-one percent of independents said they backed the idea.

A number of Republicans opposed Ossoff's measure last year. The Hill newspaper reported at the time that critics argued it would be hard to implement, create a new disincentive for public service and complicate things for congressional members' spouses.

"I don't think that's a good idea," U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, told The Hill at the time.

History maker

Nashville voters last week elected Olivia Hill to an at-large seat on the Metro Council, making Hill the first openly transgender woman to be elected not just to the council but to any public office in Tennessee, according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund.

Hill, a Navy veteran, served in an engineering division for 10 years, seeing combat in Desert Storm. She later went to work for the Vanderbilt University power plant, where she rose to become a senior supervisor.

Hill told The Nashville Scene in a July interview about reactions to her candidacy that she had received a "few letters" and comments on Facebook regarding her transgender status.

"But in general, it's been pretty positive," she said. "I am running this campaign on the fact that I am a qualified woman to sit at this table and do this job. I'm more qualified in utilities and infrastructure than just about anybody that's running. The fact that I am trans is just a part of who I am. It's not anything that I can change. It shouldn't be any kind of handicap. I am the first trans woman in Tennessee to ever have her name on the ballot, but that's not why I'm running. I'm running because Nashville is growing, and I want to improve our aging utilities and use my expertise to fix that."

'Ready for Freddie'

Metro Nashville voters also elected two-term Council Member Freddie O'Connell as their new mayor, with O'Connell winning a 64% to 36% victory over businesswoman Alice Rolli in the nonpartisan election.

During his campaign, O'Connell, whose campaign slogan was "Ready for Freddie," took advantage of unease in the community over Nashville's explosive growth, saying he wanted an emphasis on Nashville being "more 'ville and less Vegas," a reference to the oft-used "NashVegas" tag associated with its often raucous party scene of bars, honky-tonks, clubs and other venues around downtown's lower Broadway area. O'Connell pledged to improve transit options, tackle housing affordability, public safety and more.

He also spoke about his vote against the new $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans football stadium.

"Every part of this city deserves the public resources that bind neighborhoods and neighbors together — schools, parks and libraries," O'Connell said in his victory night speech. "And when we do that, our interactions with our local government should leave us feeling satisfied that a real person worked to solve our issue."

Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-285-9480.