PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Washington Republicans accused congressional candidate Seth Magaziner of hypocrisy on Tuesday for campaigning to ban stock trading by members of Congress while refusing to criticize fellow Democrat Jim Langevin for engaging in the practice.
A Target 12 investigation that aired Monday night revealed Langevin — who is retiring after 11 terms — has executed over $1 million in stock-market transactions so far this year even though he came out months ago in support of a ban on such activity by lawmakers.
Target 12 also discovered that Langevin has been regularly placing bets on the short-term price movements of major technology companies while serving as chairman of a subcommittee that oversees cybersecurity policy — a potential conflict of interest in the eyes of ethics watchdogs.
“If Seth Magaziner is serious about a stock trading ban, he’ll condemn Jim Langevin’s egregious abuse of the system and reject his endorsement,” said Samantha Bullock, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is supporting GOP nominee Allan Fung in the race to replace Langevin.
“Anything less flies directly in the face of Magaziner’s otherwise empty rhetoric,” Bullock said.
Langevin defended himself when presented with Target 12’s findings last week, saying he has always followed the law as an investor and a lawmaker. He also promised to comply with a ban on trading if one becomes law before he leaves office. (Top House Democrats last week scrapped a planned vote on a ban due to a lack of support.)
“It’s so important that Rhode Islanders trust their elected representatives to work on behalf of their constituents’ best interests, not their own,” Langevin said in a statement. “That’s what I have done throughout my entire career, and I will continue to do so up until my final day in office.”
The revelations about Langevin have placed Magaziner in an awkward political position.
Langevin endorsed Magaziner in the six-way primary to succeed him over the summer, arguing he was best positioned to keep the 2nd District seat in Democratic hands. Langevin is also co-hosting a fundraiser for Magaziner on Thursday along with the rest of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation.
Yet Magaziner has recently made his support for banning stock trading by members of Congress a central theme of his campaign, with a TV ad on the subject airing in heavy rotation. “Public officials should serve the people, not get rich off their positions,” Magaziner declares in the commercial.
Magaziner’s campaign declined to comment on Langevin’s financial activities in response to questions from Target 12 last week, instead issuing a statement that criticized Fung. A spokesperson for Magaziner again declined to take issue with Langevin’s actions Tuesday.
Fung has likewise declined to criticize Langevin, who has repeatedly expressed warm personal feelings toward the Republican candidate even as he stressed his support for Magaziner in the November election.
John Marion, executive director of good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island, joined the criticism of Langevin on Tuesday.
“When members of Congress trade stocks, especially in industries over which they have regulatory oversight, it’s a bad thing, even if it’s not always illegal,” Marion said. “The practice of members of Congress trading stocks can damage faith and confidence in government.”
“Elected officials, whose actions can move markets, should be working for the public interest, not trying to pick winners and losers in the stock market,” he continued. “Common Cause continues our work to reform congressional stock trading laws to help ensure that elected officials work for ‘we the people.'”
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook