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Out of Control Policy Blog

Senate Approves Lawmakers Insider Trading Ban. Whatever.

James Groth
February 3, 2012, 11:01am

After a “60 Minutes” report brought to the attention of the American public that Congress was capitalizing on non-public information, lawmakers quickly collaborated with one another and proposed two bills banning insider trading by members of Congress and their staff. One in the House and one in the Senate. The House bill had floated around for six years largely ignored until it was immediately embraced by 270 House members the week after the public became informed.  The Senate bill took about two weeks to craft following the “60 Minutes” report. Isn’t it amazing how quickly our representatives can act when the issue threatens their lives and jobs?

This whole hoopla over Congressional insider trading is a non-issue. I wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times about this bill being largely a public relations campaign, a sorry and despicable attempt by members of congress to regain America’s trust by drafting and passing a law that at first glance looks like our representatives protecting our interests, but in reality accomplishes next to nothing and may even disrupt existing insider trading laws.

Congress has a public approval rating below 15 percent, and this bill reeks of desperation.

One of the creators of the Senate bill, Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, had this to say:

"We can send the message to the American people that we're trying to re-establish the trust that seems to have been lost with them, and who knows, maybe we'll be in double figures in terms of the approval rating pretty soon."

Co-sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Tim Walz, Minnesota Democrat, had this to say:

"If this thing doesn't move and doesn't happen, hepatitis will be more popular than the U.S. Congress, I can guarantee you that.”

The only thing that was accomplished throughout this lawmaking process was media time for our representatives to return to the pulpit, clamor to regain our trust, and most importantly, waste our time while not devoting much needed attention to real issues like deficit reduction, tax reform, a slew of government housing issues, relentless money printing, and the list goes on.

At least some sense came from one Congressman who voted no to the legislation. Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, had this to say:

“The assumption here is that some of our colleagues are doing insider trading on the stock market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real insider trading is the horse-trading that goes on in this body that is not always in the best interest of the country.”

Well said.


James Groth is Research Associate


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