The Senate’s 96-3 vote to ban members of Congress from using nonpublic information to inform their private investments brought with it important additional amendments that stand to shape the debate next week as the House takes up the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act.
In addition to outlawing members of Congress and their staffs from engaging in insider trading and requiring a 30 day public disclosure rule for all investments, an amendment by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) successfully expanded the STOCK Act to also include the executive branch’s 28,000 workers. Sen. Shelby said the reason for his amendment , which passed on a 58-41 vote, is simple:
It only seems fair that executive branch officials who are already required to file annual financial reports, also be directed to meet the same additional reporting requirements being imposed on the legislative branch.
The specifics of Sen. Shelby’s added provision will have to be hammered out in a House-Senate conference committee, as Sen. Shelby’s language conflicts with that of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) who wants to limit the provision to just include the 2,000 top policymakers, such as the president and vice president, as well as the Federal Reserve Board. Sen. Lieberman claims the amendment would apply to 300,000 federal workers and place an undue burden on them. Sen. Shelby’s aides contend that his amendment would only include 28,000 workers.
Another important amendment that was added to the STOCK Act would subject so-called “political intelligence” operatives to the same kinds of disclosure and registration requirements lobbyists must submit to. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), would apply to the $100 million, 2,000-person political intelligence industry that seeks to gather tidbits of relevant information in and around Capitol Hill and sell them to stock traders. According to Sen. Grassley:
Political intelligence professionals aren’t considered lobbyists, so they don’t have to disclose that they’re seeking information and are paid for it. As a result, members of Congress and congressional staff have no way of knowing whether such meetings result in information being sold to firms that trade based on that information. My amendment would shed sunshine on this kind of political intelligence gathering.
Finally, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) successfully passed an amendment that would require all members of Congress, the president, vice president, and most Senate-confirmed appointees to publicly disclose all residential mortgages, something current law does not require senators to do. Sen. Boxer said that:
This measure makes it clear that any mortgage held by a member of Congress must be disclosed to ensure that lawmakers are treated the same as every other American. The amendment corrects an omission in Senate ethics rules that did not require disclosure of all residential mortgages.
Sen. Isakson agreed and added:
I am a firm believer that the greatest accountability mechanism for members of Congress is transparency, and this amendment will add more transparency to our financial disclosures. The Senate’s passage of this amendment demonstrates a commitment to making ourselves more accountable to the American people.
The Senate’s overwhelming 96-3 bipartisan passage of the STOCK Act readies the bill for consideration next week in the House.