It's amazing how fast folks in Washington can move after they wind up on 60 Minutes. Perhaps we should call it the insider trading hot potato.
Yesterday the Senate passed the STOCK* Act on a vote of 96 to 3, which is as close to unanimous as it gets these days. President Obama urged the House to pass the bill as well.
Last week, I called on Congress to pass a bill that makes clear that Members of Congress may not engage in insider trading. No one should be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information gleaned on Capitol Hill. So I’m pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to pass the STOCK Act. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill, and I will sign it right away.
The House of Representatives is where the problem may arise for the insider trading ban. Alabama Rep Spencer Bachus (R, AL-06) and his beautifully timed and amazingly lucky stock trades were the unwilling stars of that 60 Minutes insider trading episode.
Bachus also chairs the House Financial Services Committee, which held hearings on the STOCK Act late last year -- after the 60 minutes episode aired. You might say the bad publicity motivated Bachus to act on insider trading. However, the Republican House leadership then pulled the rug out from under Spencer Bachus, pressuring him to cancel a scheduled mark up of the insider trading bill.
Will Eric Cantor and John Boehner let the STOCK Act come up for a vote in the House, or is this another good government reform that will be allowed to die in the Republican House, bogged down with amendments, changes and poison pills? Complicating the politics on this issue is the fact that Spencer Bachus -- never on great terms with the House Tea Party caucus -- is facing a primary challenge from ultra-right winger Scott Beason. House passage of the STOCK Act before the March 13 primary would be a boost for Bachus. Does
Beason have enough buddies Bachus have enough enemies in high places to keep that from happening?
The President called the STOCK Act "an important step to rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people," then asked Congress to go even further by prohibiting elected officials from owning stocks in industries they impact, and prohibiting people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress from lobbying Congress. He said those straightforward steps would help eliminate the "corrosive influence of money in politics."
The problem, of course, is that we must depend on representatives who need that corrosive money for re-election efforts to take steps to get that corrosive money out of politics. And also to cut their potential incomes by eliminating insider stock trading. How much public pressure will it take to overcome the influence of money?
*Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge