Senators' investments raise ethics issues

Sen. Robert Torricelli has become an active stock trader, including a company that would benefit from legislative language he is sponsoring, in a vivid illustration of a growing turn toward Wall Street investments by US senators.

According to 1999 financial-disclosure statements unveiled this week, the New Jersey Democrat owns stock in Global Crossing, which is involved in a battle on Capitol Hill over disputed radio spectrum worth billions of dollars. He has been seeking to aid NextWave, a bankrupt wireless firm in which Global Crossing has invested.

Many members of the Senate have watched their portfolios swell, courtesy of the stock-market boom. And with gifts and speech fees banned over the past decade, it's a welcome boost to their $136,000 annual salaries.

With Congress focused on issues affecting the technology-driven New Economy, many senators are invested in high-tech firms: 11 in Microsoft, 14 in America Online, 16 in Lucent Technologies, and 13 in Cisco Systems.

There is nothing illegal about members of Congress investing in stocks. But the buying and selling could lead lawmakers down a murky path as they vote on legislation that may affect companies they own.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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