The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

November 24, 2011

Prohibit insider trading in Congress

Mankato — For the longest time, Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz must have seemed like Diogenes looking for an honest man. Only four colleagues among the 535 members of the House and Senate joined him on a bill seeking to prohibit insider trading on Capitol Hill.

It all started in 2007 when U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., approached the freshman congressman asking if he’d join him in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. Walz’s reaction: “Are you kidding me? This isn’t a law already?” Walz became the chief sponsor once Baird retired.

The incredulity didn’t seem to affect other members of Congress. That is, until last week when CBS's “60 Minutes” reported that members of Congress were enriching themselves in the stock market, suggesting it was the result of Congress being exempt from insider trading laws.

The report gave examples of top legislative leaders — including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to present Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio — who may have reaped great wealth with advance knowledge that would affect stock prices.

Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus, GOP chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was cited as a congressional leader who was briefed in fall of 2008 by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve that a global financial meltdown could occur within days.

“Literally the next day Congressman Bachus would engage in buying stock options based on the apocalyptic briefings,”a Hoover Institute researcher told “60 Minutes."

Walz said he doesn’t believe the bulk of his colleagues are enriching themselves through insider trading but felt without a prohibition it could be a temptation. Passsage of the STOCK Act could show a disenfranchised public that lawmakers can police themselves.

The Free Press

Mankato, Minn.

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