GOP Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida appears to violate same federal conflicts-of-interest law that she slammed her Democratic predecessor for violating
- Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida was weeks late disclosing a stock trade after once blasting her predecessor, Donna Shalala, for a similar violation.
- 64 members of Congress have now violated the federal STOCK Act.
Freshman Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Republican from Florida, appears to have violated a federal conflicts-of-interest law by improperly disclosing a 6-figure stock trade, according to congressional financial filings reviewed by Insider.
The development comes two years after Salazar blasted her congressional predecessor, former Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, for herself violating the same law, known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.
"How can we trust her to represent us in Miami or oversee $2 trillion in government funds while she violates and skirts federal law with her own finances," Salazar wrote of Shalala in April 2020.
Later that year, Salazar defeated Shalala in an upset victory to win Florida's 27th Congressional District, which includes much of the Miami area.
—María Elvira Salazar (@MaElviraSalazar) April 22, 2020
On June 10, Salazar disclosed in a congressional financial filing that, on February 14, she had received up to $500,000 worth of publicly traded stock in Cano Health Inc., a company that provides health care services for seniors.
The STOCK Act requires members of Congress to disclose individual stock trades no later than 45 days after they're made, meaning Salazar's disclosure is more than two months late.
Salazar said she obtained her Cano Health shares following a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) transaction that resulted in her non-publicly traded shared in Cano Health's holding company being exchanged for publicly traded shares in Cano Health.
"Ms. Salazar had a unique financial occurrence involving options and a SPAC," Salazar spokesperson Shawn Balcomb told Insider in an email. "Ms. Salazar's team worked closely with Ethics Committee staff to address this."
Balcomb said that "there was no guidance" in House Committee on Ethics instructions regarding Salazar's specific kind of financial transaction. Salazar has requested that the House Committee on Ethics waive any fine — the standard penalty is $200 — associated with her late disclosure but has yet to hear back, Balcomb added.
A House Committee on Ethics representative did not respond to an inquiry; committee representatives have routinely declined in recent months to comment on pending ethics matters before them.
Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who recently announced a bid for Florida's 27th Congressional District, telling Insider that she "absolutely" plans to make Salazar's apparent STOCK Act violation a campaign issue, particularly in light of Salazar's previous criticism of Shalala.
"She says one thing and does another," Taddeo said of Salazar, adding that she wants Congress to ban lawmakers and their immediate family members from trading individual stocks.
"It's completely inappropriate and not right, and we definitely need to do something about it," Taddeo said.
Efforts to ban congressional stock trades
Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project and other news outlets have since last year identified 64 members of Congress who have violated the STOCK Act. At least 182 senior congressional staffers have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, as well.
Among them are two prominent Democrats — Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland — that Insider on Tuesday reported violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions.
It has long been legal for members of Congress to buy, sell, and hold individual stocks, including stocks in companies that have significant business before Congress or stand to be affected by congressional decisions.
But lawmakers on the left and right have in recent months introduced several bills to ban or otherwise limit their colleagues — and in some cases, spouses — from playing the stock market. Lawmakers are actively debating the matter, and some have promised to put a consensus bill up for a vote later this year.
Supporters of the congressional stock status quo have argued that current laws are adequate and that members of Congress should have the same investment rights as members of the general public.
Opponents argue that federal lawmakers should be held to the highest standards in avoiding financial conflicts of interest, be them real or perceived, and that the STOCK Act has proven to be too weak.
"It's long past the time to do away with individual stock holdings for members of Congress," said Norman Ornstein, an emeritus senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who's advocated for a ban on congressional stock trades. "But there are plenty of members of Congress who'd like to see this stock-ban effort die. I'm not 100% confident that we can get this done, in part because it's already June."
Balcomb did not say whether Salazar supports or opposes the bipartisan effort to ban federal lawmakers and their spouses from trading stocks — or otherwise curtail their ability to do so.
This story was originally published on June 14, 2022, and has been updated to include new comments and stock-trade details.
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