Too many federal officials are overseeing policies where they have a direct financial interest.
Between the legislative effort to ban stock buying and trading for members of Congress and the revolving door openly swinging during House hearings, congressional conflicts of interest are top of mind for many in Washington at the moment.
But as a new Wall Street Journal piece makes clear, corruption isn’t exclusive to the legislative branch—even the civil servants who keep the executive branch functioning have been operating with a distressing number of conflicts of interest.
The Journal found that over 2,600 officials—1 in 5 senior officials—“at agencies from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department, during both Republican and Democratic administrations, disclosed stock investments in companies while those same companies were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies.”
The investigation uncovered over 200 senior Environmental Protection Agency officials (nearly 1 in 3) who reported investments in companies that were lobbying the agency. Between 2016 and 2021, EPA employees and their family members collectively owned between $400,000 and nearly $2 million in shares of oil and gas companies per year, averaged over that period.
Some federal agencies’ responses to potential conflicts of interest were just as troubling. The Journal found that in many agencies, ethics officials “simply waived the rules” when an employee’s financial holdings caused a conflict.