Finally Lawmakers to Ban Congressional Insider Trading

The house and the senate are finally expected to ban insider trading by members of Congress. It wasn’t until there was a huge public outcry after 60 Minutes and a ton of blogs let the cat out of the bag. They reported that members of Congress could legally use information they learn on the job to make a ton of money in the stock market. See two of my prior posts from November 13, 2011 and November 16, 2011.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on legislation to ban insider trading by members of Congress, but it is not the proposal put forward by Rep. Sean Duffy.

Instead, lawmakers will vote on an amended version of legislation the Senate passed last week. The measure has broad bipartisan support, though some House Democrats are grumbling about how Republican leadership is reshaping the bill.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has appropriated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act and revised some key elements. In one case, he deleted a provision that would require “political intelligence consulting” firms to register as is required of lobbyists. And the amended version would prevent lawmakers from participating in initial public offerings, or IPOs.

House Democrats Louise Slaughter of New York and Tim Walz of Minnesota introduced the original bill in March 2011, but it seemed to be going nowhere until a Nov. 13 CBS “60 Minutes” report on lawmakers using information acquired through their position to profit off the stock market.

That report renewed ethical questions about members of Congress at a time when public confidence in federal lawmakers was sinking to an all-time low.

Duffy, R-Weston, responded to the uproar with his own proposal on Dec. 2. His bill would encourage lawmakers to place their stocks, bonds and other securities into a blind trust. Those who spurn that option would be required to fully disclose transactions.

“It’s time for Congress to lead by example and enact this high standard of openness and accountability,” Duffy said at the time he introduced his bill.

Duffy’s bill drew just six co-sponsors. Meanwhile, lawmakers were tripping over one another to support the Slaughter-Walz proposal. That measure has attracted 284 co-sponsors, with all but a handful having signed on since the “60 Minutes” report.

Last week, the Senate passed its version of the Slaughter-Walz bill 96-3. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, voted for the proposal that extended the ban to White House officials who must be confirmed by the Senate and senior federal employees.

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, was the only Republican in the Wisconsin delegation to co-sponsor the House bill. All three Democrats – Tammy Baldwin of Madison, Ron Kind of La Crosse and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee backed the proposal.

None of the Wisconsin lawmakers endorsed Duffy’s bill. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, co-sponsored a blind trust proposal introduced by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., that is similar to Duffy’s.

Ribble intends to support the version expected to come up today, according to spokeswoman Ashley Olson.

New York Rep. Slaughter complains the bill was “weakened by House Republican leadership behind closed doors and in the dark of night.”

Today’s debate on the bill will be under suspension of the rules, meaning no amendments can be offered to restore the language regarding the political intelligence industry.

Petri, and Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, are expected to support the bill, according to aides.

Reps. Kind and Moore also are leaning in favor of it.

Duffy said through a spokeswoman that while he thinks his bill was stronger, he will support the Republican makeover of the STOCK Act.

“The STOCK Act has been improved in the last couple of weeks, and I have been working closely with House leadership to incorporate ideas from my (bill) in order to strengthen the legislation,” Duffy said. ‘While I would rather see (his bill) implemented into law, I believe the STOCK Act still contains the right provisions needed to ban congressional insider trading.”

The legislation is expected to pass and then will go to a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

See Appleton Post Crescent for more on the story

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