Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas appears to violate a federal conflict-of-interest law with late disclosure of a mining stock sale

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Vicente Gonzalez
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is seen at the House steps of the Capitol during votes on Friday, December 4, 2020.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas waited nearly a year to report a stock sale worth up to $15,000.

  • Congress is debating whether to ban its lawmakers and their spouses from trading stocks.

  • 65 members of Congress have been found to have violated the STOCK Act since 2021.

Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas' 15th Congressional District appears to have violated a federal conflict-of-interest law by waiting nearly a year to disclose a stock trade, according to an Insider review a newly filed congressional financial disclosure.

Gonzalez sold between $1,000 and $15,000 worth in stock in Freeport-McMoRan, a Phoenix-based mining company, on July 24, 2021, but waited to report it until June 27, 2022, his hand-written financial disclosure indicates.

Members of Congress are required to report such trades no later than 45 days after making them, according to the federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012. Lawmakers are not required to provide the specific value of their trades, and instead, report them in broad ranges.

Gonzalez's staff did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

In recent months, Gonzalez has made mining an issue through his work as a federal lawmaker.

In May, for example, he introduced legislation banning uranium imports from Russia.

"The US has the resources and capacity to produce uranium here at home and should no longer rely on foreign dictators," Gonzalez said at the time.

In April, Gonzalez introduced the "Rare Act" with the aim of developing a "reliable domestic supply of critical minerals, rare earth elements and to uncouple our supply lines and dependence on China for national security manufacturing raw materials."

Freeport-McMoRan operates seven open-pit copper mines in the United States and has other mining operations in Chile, Peru, and Indonesia, according to its website.

A Freeport McMoRan mine in Indonesia
This photograph taken on August 16, 2013 shows a general view of the Freeport McMoRan's Grasberg mining complex, one of the world's biggest gold and copper mines located in Indonesia's remote eastern Papua province.Olivia Rondonuwu/AFP via Getty Images

Members of Congress keep on violating the STOCK Act

Since 2021, Insider's "Conflicted Congress" project and other publications have found 65 members of Congress, including Gonzalez, who have violated the STOCK Act by disclosing trades late. Insider additionally found that at least 182 senior congressional staffers also violated provisions of the STOCK Act, as well.

Members of Congress currently have the right to purchase, sell, and hold individual stocks. But here's a growing movement from members from both the right and left sides of the aisle to ban or limit legislators, and potentially their spouses, from trading individual stocks.

"Year after year, politicians somehow manage to outperform the market, buying and selling millions in stocks of companies they're supposed to be regulating. Wall Street and Big Tech work hand-in-hand with elected officials to enrich each other at the expense of the country," said GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who introduced the Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act, in a press release. "Here's something we can do: ban all members of Congress from trading stocks and force those who do to pay their proceeds back to the American people. It's time to stop turning a blind eye to Washington profiteering."

Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told Insider that violators of the STOCK Act who file late or incomplete disclosures ensure that "voters aren't getting information they have a right to.

"Voters have a right to know what members of Congress' financial interests are in real-time, and Congress agrees with that, that's why they passed the STOCK Act," Marsco said. "That's why they require these disclosures because it's important for the public to know whether members of Congress are acting in the best interest of the public, or if they're acting in the best interest of their own personal bottom line."

Marsco also said that the STOCK Act lacks enough "teeth," or enforcement. She said that most violators get away with simply a $200 fine, which is far too low of a slap on the wrist for members of Congress who trade millions in stocks. Insider found that the STOCK Act is inconsistently enforced.

In Gonzalez's case, Marsco mentioned that "for someone who just failed to report $15,000, $200 is not a lot of money in comparison to that."

Read the original article on Business Insider