The House overwhelmingly passed a slimmed-down version of a bill to ban lawmakers from insider trading Thursday, setting up a battle with senators and the White House over what kind of contact citizens may have with their representatives in Washington.
Known as the Stock Act, the legislation has wide support in both chambers, but partisan divisions are threatening to impede what all sides say is a key test of whether Congress can reach consensus on something President Obama requested in his State of the Union address last month.
The Senate, which passed its bill last week, tried to crack down on what lawmakers say is a burgeoning market in “political intelligence” by expanding the definition of who qualifies as a lobbyist, and added language making it easier to prosecute criminal conduct by public officials.
House Republicans powered their bill through on a 417-2 vote Thursday after dropping the public corruption provision and slimming down the political intelligence language to a study of the consequences of reining in the trade in congressional secrets.
“Think of the wording ‘political intelligence,’ ” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters. “I mean, there’s so much question about what that even means. And there’s a lot of discussion in this building and elsewhere about what is the consequence of that provision.”
As examples …
Offenders of Crony Capitalism
Many members of Congress are said to have made suspiciously timed trades, including John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and Jim Moran. But Rep. Spencer Bachus takes the cake.
According to a new book called Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer, as relayed by Dave Weigel at Slate, Rep. Bachus made more than 40 trades in his personal account in the summer and fall of 2008, in the early months of the financial crisis.
The fact that Bachus personally traded while getting private government briefings is bad enough. The fact that he was the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee at the time is simply outrageous.
In one case, the day after getting a private briefing on the collapsing economy and financial system from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, Rep. Bachus effectively shorted the market (by buying options that would rise if the market tanked.)
A few days later, after the market tanked, Bachus sold his position and nearly doubled his money.