Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman wants to ban members of Congress from holding stocks to prevent conflicts of interest. But the Democratic Senate hopeful owns shares of a telecommunications company that has millions of dollars in business contracts with his state government.
Fetterman this month endorsed lawmakers' calls to prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks. "Congress needs to ban members, their spouses, and their senior staffers from holding individual stocks," he said. "Lawmakers should not be making profits off the same companies they're supposed to be regulating."
Fetterman's position could open him to charges of hypocrisy. He holds between $1,000 and $15,000 in shares of Verizon, according to his financial disclosure report. Verizon and its subsidiaries have spent more than $1.2 million on lobbying in Pennsylvania since Fetterman took office in 2019, lobbying records show. The state has paid Verizon more than $8.2 million since 2019 as a vendor for government services, according to a state spending database.
Fetterman's campaign says he would sell his shares if elected to the U.S. Senate, but didn’t address questions about whether his financial position causes a conflict of interest for him as lieutenant governor.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers introduced bills to prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks amid several investigations into lawmakers' portfolio activity. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D., Ga.) introduced a bill this month to require members of Congress to place their stock portfolios in blind trusts. Ossoff placed his portfolio in a blind trust earlier this year. The Washington Free Beacon had earlier reported that Ossoff held up to $5 million in shares of Apple even as he accused the tech company of profiting off "abusive" trade practices. Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas) have introduced similar bills.
The trading ban could face resistance from Democratic Party leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), one of Congress's most prolific stock traders, has said she opposes a ban on the practice. Pelosi's husband made millions of dollars last year off trading stock options on Google parent company Alphabet just before a vote on a major antitrust bill.
Fetterman, considered the Democratic frontrunner in his race, has been accused of hypocrisy over his involvement in a gun incident in 2013, when he served as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Fetterman pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger he suspected of firing a gun in the air near his home in the Pittsburgh suburb. Fetterman chased the man in his truck and allegedly pointed a shotgun at his chest until police arrived. Officers searched the man, Christopher Miyares, but found no weapons. Fetterman has refused to admit wrongdoing and says that Miyares lied about firing a gun. The incident seemingly contradicts Fetterman's progressive credentials. He has expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and for stricter gun laws.