FLASHBACK: Obama Borrows Breitbart Author’s Idea to Ban Congressional Insider Trading

Peter Schweizer
Nicole Myhre Photography

Americans are expressing outrage at reports that several members of the Senate, both Republican and Democrat, sold stocks shortly after being briefed about the coronavirus threat in January.

At the time, President Donald Trump was assembling a task force, and mulling a travel ban — while Democrats were preoccupied with impeachment. But some quietly cashed out, as well.

Breitbart News anticipated this problem almost a decade ago, with the publication of senior contributor Peter Schweizer’s book, Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison.

In it, Schweizer described how members of Congress from both parties had sold stock in 2008 after receiving closed-door briefings on the imminent financial crisis — among other examples.

The late Andrew Breitbart championed the cause of reform. And to the company’s surprise — and the country’s shock — President Barack Obama took up the idea in his State of the Union address in 2012:

I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad — and it seems to get worse every year.

Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. (Applause.) Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa — an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.

In April 2012, President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which had passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress.

He added: “The STOCK Act makes it clear that if members of Congress use nonpublic information to gain an unfair advantage in the market, then they are breaking the law.”

As Slate noted at the time, Peter Schweizer wrote “the book that started the STOCK Act stampede.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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