Critics of lawmakers using DC information for Wall Street pay dirt found an unlikely ally Tuesday night: Jon Stewart, the host of the left-leaning Daily Show.
Stewart lambasted Congress and President Barack Obama for quietly killing a key provision of the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act that would have required federal officials to post their already publicly available financial disclosures online to increase transparency and ensure bureaucrats do not engage in insider trading, crony kickbacks, or doling out lucrative contracts to friends, family, or associates.
Stewart featured a 60 Minutes clip of Breitbart News contributor Peter Schweizer, whom Slate says authored “the book that started the STOCK Act stampede”–the New York Times bestseller, Throw Them All Out.
“Amazingly,” said Stewart, “that 60 Minutes piece yielded results.”
After the release of Schweizer’s book and the 60 Minutes exposé it spawned–as well as the myriad follow-up pieces Breitbart News published on the story–Obama included the issue in his 2012 State of the Union Address.
“Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress and I will sign it tomorrow,” Obama said to applause. “Let’s limit any elected official from owning stock in industries they impact.”
The groundswell of public support for the STOCK Act had been the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes work by the Breitbart News team who drove the story. For years, the STOCK Act had gathered dust and garnered but a handful of cosponsors. Still, Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart passionately pursued the STOCK Act’s passage and implementation.
“Andrew was infuriated to learn of Congressional insider trading,” says Breitbart News CEO and President Larry Solov. “In fact, it may be the only time that he actually called on a politician to resign.”
Indeed, when Schweizer’s book uncovered well-timed trades by then-Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Andrew Breitbart was the first to call for his 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… I seldom call for resignations. Even at the height of the Anthony Weiner scandal, I remained silent on whether Rep. Weiner should leave office. But what Spencer Bachus did was egregious and fundamentally unethical.
Spencer Bachus: it’s time for you to go.
When the STOCK Act finally came to a vote, the bill sailed through the House and Senate in 417-2 and 96-3 votes respectively.
“The STOCK Act is the first small step on the path to reform,” Schweizer told Breitbart News at the time. “This is not the end but the beginning. We need to keep pushing the message of reform to root out insider dealing in government.”
Schweizer’s caution proved prescient.
Last week, Congress passed and the President signed a law striking the online public financial disclosure requirement from the STOCK Act. The decision to gut the bill came after federal employees fiercely opposed the transparency provision; they claimed putting documents that are already available to the public in an online format would create a “jackpot” for “enemies of the United States intent on finding security vulnerabilities they can exploit.”
Government watchdog groups called such ominous warnings hyperbolic scaremongering. And last night on The Daily Show, Stewart mocked the rationale for striking down the transparency provision by highlighting quotes from four cyber security experts cited in a Columbia Journalism Review article who said “the national security bit is bulls–t.”
The only risk to federal officials, said Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies James Lewis, “is the risk of going to jail for their insider trading.”
The rare fusion of conservative and progressive outrage over the STOCK Act’s gutting is one that may further stoke the public’s disdain for the fecklessness of America’s powerful Permanent Political Class, says Executive Chairman of Breitbart News Stephen K. Bannon.
“Nothing shows the real focus of the Permanent Political Class better than the shredding of the STOCK Act,” says Bannon. “It’s all about a shake down of the American people, not a fair shake.”
“Insider trading by members of Congress is no joke,” said Schweizer in a Wednesday interview with Breitbart News. “It’s a disgrace.”