One-hundred-thirty members of Congress or their families have traded stocks collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars in companies lobbying on bills that came before their committees, a practice that is permitted under current ethics rules, a Washington Post analysis has found.
The lawmakers bought and sold a total of between $85 million and $218 million in 323 companies registered to lobby on legislation that appeared before them, according to an examination of all 45,000 individual congressional stock transactions contained in computerized financial disclosure data from 2007 to 2010.
Almost one in every eight trades — 5,531 — intersected with legislation. The 130 lawmakers traded stocks or bonds in companies as bills passed through their committees or while Congress was still considering the legislation.
How is this not insider trading? They have privelaged access to private information, and use that information to make personally profitable trades on the stock market. Depressing!
Let’s take The STOCK Act, authored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), which would ban trading by members of Congress guided by “nonpublic economic or political information.” The problem with the bill? As The Huffington Post reported on Jan. 26, while the legislation bans trading, it does not bar legislators from returning favors for companies whose stock they hold. Sen. Scott Brown, who owns up to $50,000 of Bank of America stock, used his leverage to not only carve out an exemption to the Volcker Rule that allows banks to keep betting in the securities markets with taxpayer money but axed a plan that would have required banks to pay into an emergency fund to cover the costs of their failures.
So you can bet that when justifiably outraged voters replace Brown with Elizabeth Warren, he’ll simply shrug it off since he’ll look forward to a cushy job as a lobbyist for the banking industry.
This level of corruption is why nothing gets accomplished on Capitol Hill, whether it’s campaign finance reform or financial dis-services reform. What typically happens when the members of Congress in charge of election reform have a discussion about it? In a 2006 hearing before the Senate Governmental Affairs committee in which the topic was dispensing contributions to members so they’ll vote a certain way, not only did only two of the 16 members sit through the hearing but the man designated to draft a reform bill was now-presidential candidate Rick Santorum. In 2006 Santorum led all federal candidates in contributions from lobbyists and family members, taking in roughly $500,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). While in office, Santorum held regular breakfast meetings with K Street power players, which included circulating a list of open jobs at trade associations.
This is seriously scary stuff. It seems like corruption is built into our leglative system at the most fundamental level. When even the people who are supposed to directly represent us can’t be held accountable for their actions, the people, and the nation itself, begins to be held hostage by forces outside Constitutional control. Is it too late to reverse the tide of Washington insider trading?
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