When the Senate passed the STOCK Act, the bill that bans insider trading on non-public information picked up in Congress (yes, that’s not against the law right now) along with some other ethics reforms, I thought that could be a vehicle that would move expeditiously through the House. However, even though Majority Leader Eric Cantor made promises that the STOCK Act would get a vote this week, instead what has happened is a free-for-all, with lobbyists gutting the bill at Cantor’s behest.
House Republicans and their floor leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said they would amend the bill, going to the House floor this week, to strengthen it.
But Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said, “I think ‘strengthening’ here is a euphemism for ‘weakening.’ ”
And Representative Tim Walz, Democrat of Minnesota, said the bill, to ban insider trading by members of Congress, was being rewritten behind closed doors by House Republican leaders.
“How ironic,” Mr. Walz said. “Insiders now appear to be writing a bill meant to ban insider trading.”
In particular, House Republicans have killed the provision that requires individuals who collect “political intelligence” to register with the government the way lobbyists do. This has drawn condemnation from Chuck Grassley, the provision’s sponsor, who claimed that House Republicans were “doing Wall Street’s bidding” by watering down that part of the bill. Certainly K Street is alarmed by it, and they are moving with great speed to weaken that element.
Moreover, you can see pretty clearly that House Republicans are less concerned about the legislation than about creating another “message bill”:
House Republicans said they would add a provision to prohibit members of Congress, their aides and executive branch officials from receiving special access to initial public stock offerings because of their positions.
Republicans call this “the Pelosi provision” because, they say, it was inspired by an investment in 2008 by Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who was then the speaker and is now the House Democratic leader. An aide to Ms. Pelosi said that neither she nor her husband, Paul F. Pelosi, had received “preferential treatment” when the company, Visa Inc., went public.
This was the most wrong part of the 60 Minutes piece on Congressional insider trading, as I pointed out at the time. But that’s hardly crucial to the House GOP efforts to stick it to the opposition.
So much for that whole bipartisan ethics reform thing. Democrats probably have an opening on this if they want to take it.