Insider has won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for its reporting on stock trading by members of Congress.
A judging panel, composed of members of the SPJ Freedom of Information Committee and Board of Directors, bestow these awards each year to individuals and organizations for their notable contributions to open government.
The investigative reporting project “Conflicted Congress” considered the enforcement of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, or STOCK Act, designed to boost Congressional ethical standards and transparency surrounding a member’s personal finances and investments. Over the course of five months, over 9,000 financial disclosure statements were collected and analyzed by over 40 reporters, editors, data journalists and researchers.
The project found that 59 members of Congress and 182 senior congressional staff members violated the Act in recent months. It also found that 75 lawmakers held stocks in either Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson or all three during 2020. These stocks were bought or sold during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic by members of Congress.
The project also rated members of Congress on how they complied with conflict of interest laws, avoided conflicts and rated their commitments to transparency. This was done through a searchable and sortable database that could be used by the public and others in the media. Since Insider’s reporting was released, calls were made by various politicians to institute a congressional ban on stock trading – a move that has garnered bipartisan support and calls for action by congressional leadership. Separately, some members of Congress have voluntarily stopped trading stocks.
The reporting has since been picked up by local and national media, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Albany Times Union.