Days after ’60 Minutes’ blew the lid off congressional insider trading, support for a bill to ban the “honest graft” is picking up steam.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2011 was introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) in the House of Representatives earlier this year — and of its 27 co-sponsors, 19 have signed on to support the bill after Sunday’s ’60 Minutes’ report.
And in the Senate, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) introduced the same bill. “Serving the public is a privilege and an honour, not an opportunity for personal gain,” he said in a press release.
Allegations that members of Congress use non-public information they obtain through their official duties to engorge their personal fortunes began to draw wide-ranging scrutiny on Sunday, after ’60 Minutes’ aired a report on how lawmakers enrich themselves while in office. More details were revealed in Peter Schweizer’s new book “Throw Them All Out,” which hit book-stands on Tuesday.
In explaining why the legislation is needed — that members of Congress are not covered under existing laws — the press release from Brown’s office offers one of the most pointed critiques of the legislative body: “[Lawmakers] are also not considered to be ‘misappropriating’ information because it is unclear whether or not they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ or other ‘relationship of trust or confidence’ to Congress.”
A version of the STOCK Act has been considered in Congress since 2006.
- Prohibits Members and employees of Congress from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information they obtain because of their status;
- Prohibits Executive Branch employees from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information they obtain because of their status;
- Prohibits those outside Congress from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information obtained from within Congress or the Executive Branch;
- Prohibits Members and employees of Congress from disclosing any non-public information about any pending or prospective legislative action for investment purposes;
- Requires Members and employees of Congress to report the purchase, sale or exchange of any stock, bond, or commodity future transaction in excess of $1,000 within 90 days. Members and employees who choose to place their stock in holdings in blind trusts or mutual funds would be exempt from the reporting requirement; and,
- Requires firms that specialize in “political intelligence” and that obtain their information directly from Congress to register with the House and Senate, much like lobbying firms are now required to do.
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