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Ethics complaint filed against Rep. Cindy Axne for failing to disclose stock activity

The Campaign Legal Center also claims six other members of Congress violated the STOCK Act, which says members need to disclose a stock trade within 45 days.

DES MOINES, Iowa — An ethics complaint filed by a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization alleges Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) failed to disclose "significant" stock trading activity in 2019 and 2020 and calls for an investigation into the activity. 

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) submitted a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on Wednesday.

The complaint says Axne "appears to have purchased and sold more than 40 assets with a total value ranging from approximately $43,043 to $645,000 without disclosing transactions." 

CLC says she may have violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act and House rules in doing so. The STOCK Act makes it so members of Congress must disclose a stock trade within 45 days of the trade, with no exceptions.

"While Rep. Axne disclosed the ownership of these assets on her annual financial disclosures, she did not file any corresponding periodic transaction reports (“PTRs”)," the complaint says. "A preliminary OCE investigation is required to determine whether the differences in Rep. Axne’s 2019 and 2020 reports are the result of reportable transactions. If so, Rep. Axne would have been required to file PTRs pursuant to the STOCK Act and House rules."

CLC says Axne's annual financial disclosures for 2019 and 2020 show her holdings "went through significant changes, yet no transactions were reported." 

CLC lists six other members of Congress who have failed to disclose their stock trading, including Reps. Warren Davidson (R-OH), Lance Gooden (R-TX)m Bobby Scott (D-VA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Roger Williams (R-TX) and Del. Michael San Nicolas (D-GU). 

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Axne had 28 assets on her 2019 financial disclosure that do not appear on her 2020 disclosure. CLC says it appears Axne may have sold these assets but didn't report the transactions. 

However, her 2020 disclosure shows 15 new assets. The group alleges she purchased them but failed to report the transactions as required. 

CLC's complaint acknowledges that an asset purchased during the reporting period may appear on an annual disclosure report but not require a PTR. 

"Specifically, a PTR may not be required if the initial stock purchase was below the reporting threshold: transaction amounts that exceed $1,000. That asset may then appear on a subsequent annual report if the value appreciated above the reporting threshold during the reporting period," the complaint says. "To know whether this exception applies, an OCE preliminary review is needed to determine the value of each of Rep. Axne’s initial transactions." 

CLC alleges Axne may have knowingly violated the STOCK act while she was a member of the House Committee on Financial Services. The organization lists two reasons why Axne "was in fact aware of the requirement" of disclosing her stock activity. 

The first being Axne was required to attend a mandatory ethics training for new Congress members back in 2019 as well as subsequent ethics training. The second reason listed by CLC is that several senators were "engulfed" in insider trading allegations back in March 2020 and highly publicized for it. 

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Local 5 reached out to Axne's office for comment, to which it provided the following statement: 

“In accordance with her legal requirements, she has submitted disclosures of her assets through her first three years in Congress. If there are errors with those disclosures, they are unintentional and the Congresswoman will take immediate and all necessary steps to ensure her disclosures are accurate and in accordance with the law. While Congresswoman Axne completes her own financial disclosures, she does not personally manage or execute transactions related to her retirement account or the ones she has with her husband or her small business.“

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann held a press call Thursday to discuss Axne's alleged actions. He called for the OCE to launch an investigation into the accusations. 

"Cindy Axne’s actions were deliberate and illegal, and she shouldn’t be allowed to pay a petty fine and walk away," Kaufmann said. "We’ve never had this type of criminal activity from an elected official in Iowa before and we must take this very seriously." 

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