After serving eleven terms in Congress, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) announced on Monday he will not seek reelection. “It is time for someone else,” said Bachus.
After chairing the powerful House Financial Services Committee for six years, Bachus gave up his chairmanship in 2012 following a Office of Congressional Ethics investigation. In my book, Throw Them All Out, I, along with subsequent reporting by Breitbart News, uncovered evidence of insider trading. 60 Minutes and I partnered together on an investigation that uncovered insider trading by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Bachus. Congress then passed the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act to ban members of Congress from engaging in insider trading.
Not surprisingly, Bachus’s friends on the committee cleared him of the charges, but not before he was forced to spend $422,000 in legal fees funded by his campaign account and another $209,000 from his legal expense trust. In true crony fashion, as Politico reported, “the bulk of Bachus’s legal defense fund take came from croporations and PACs with ties to Alabama, including Mortgage American, Inc., Bryant Bank, and Citizens Bancorp of Winfield, Inc.”
This brand of cynical, crony capitalist behavior led the late Andrew Breitbart to be the first to call for Bachus’s resignation.
“What Congressman Spencer Bachus did was wrong, vile, and an affront to the decency of the American people and the principles of honesty and fairness upon which our system rests,” wrote Breitbart. “Our Founding Fathers believed political leadership was a call to stewardship, not self-enrichment….Spencer Bachus: it’s time for you to go.”
During the summer and fall of 2008 leading up to the financial meltdown, Bachus used his post as the ranking Republican on the House Financial Service Committee to gain access to high-level meetings with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other top senior officials. The meetings were so secretive that all those attending were required to leave their cell phones outside the room so that no information would leak or be misused. Bachus then executed a series of expertly-timed stock trades that resulted in as much as $50,000 (politicians report in ranges, not specific amounts) in capital gains from July to November 2008. Put simply, even as everyday Americans’ personal portfolios were going up in smoke, Bachus used material, non-public information to protect and profit his own portfolio.
“Spencer Bachus did something I believe is unforgivable–he sold out his country by shorting stocks during the worse days of the financial collapse,” said Stephen K. Bannon, Executive Chairman of Breitbart News. “Spencer Bachus will always be an emblem of everything wrong with the ‘District of Corruption.’ Good riddance.”
Free markets flourish only when those who claim to champion them abide by the rule of law. Ironically, Bachus’s actions helped mobilize and reinvigorate the foot soldiers in the economic freedom movement; on November 17, 2011, Tea Party members assembled outside Bachus’s Alabama offices in protest. Their efforts sent a strong signal that true capitalists believe in competition and fairness–not insider access to top secret government information that can be used to subvert markets and poach profits.
“Spencer Bachus holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only member of Congress that Andrew Breitbart called on to resign, and that includes Anthony Weiner,” said Larry Solov, CEO and President of Breitbart News.
Spencer Bachus will soon be gone, yet the fight against the cronyism continues. Here’s hoping it won’t take another Spencer Bachus to keep the free market torch alight.