The culture that is Washington

by on April 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, Political Science | Permalink

The Senate has severely scaled back the Stock Act, the law to stop members of Congress and their staff from trading on insider information, in an under-the-radar vote that has been sharply criticised by advocates of political transparency.

The changes, if they become law, will exclude Congressional and White House staff members from having to post details of their shareholdings online. They will also make online filing optional for the president, vice-president, members of Congress and congressional candidates.

The House was expected to pass a similar bill on Friday.

Here is the FT article, here are other sources.  Some officials suggested that transparency “could threaten national security,” more detail on that here.  Here are some further interesting details.

1 Dan Weber April 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Oh, national security could be threatened? Then nevermind.

2 TuringTest April 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Politicians = Thieves

3 Joe Smith April 12, 2013 at 6:07 pm

“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
– Mark Twain

plus ca change etc

4 Anon. April 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I don’t understand why, if they are allowed to trade on inside info, the people in congress have to solicit so many political donations. Are they simply incompetent at abusing this gigantic edge that they have? Do they lack the capital? What is it?

5 Nate April 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Donations are OPM.

6 Mark Thorson April 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm

What makes you think they don’t do both, in addition to every other legal (or semi-legal) money-making scheme that comes with the office?

7 anon April 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

From the Sunlight Foundation blog:

The STOCK Act’s history has been one of knee-jerk reactions rather than reasoned decision-making.
. . .
The bill, S. 716, was voted on by unanimous consent last night shortly after it was introduced by Senator Reid, and apparently after many members went home for the weekend. The bill was not available to the public on the Library of Congress website until after the vote.

Insider trading is outlawed for mere mortals. But let’s certainly have more regulation and crony capitalism so our elected “leaders” and their cronies can benefit at taxpayer expense.

Insider trading laws should be applied to members of Congress, the executive branch, and anyone who works for either.

We also need a to claw back some of the outsized returns our “public servants” get after leaving “public service” and then using their connections and insider knowledge developed at taxpayer expense.

As others have said repeatedly, our country is in the very best of hands.

8 Norman Pfyster April 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

The changes apply to staffers, not to elected officials, and affect the method of disclosure of their holdings, not their ability (or inability) to trade on insider information.

9 Hadur April 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Devil’s advocate: congressional staffers are notoriously underpaid given their importance and workload, and there’s not much support for increasing their salaries. If we don’t let them get money otherwise, we are going to end up in a world where only the very wealthy, or those taking bribes, can afford to work on Capitol Hill.

10 Mike April 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Given the long line of people who’d gladly work as congressional staffers, I’m not sure their pay is viewed as a major drawback.

11 Dan Weber April 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm

That’s already the situation. You work as a staffer or aide for peanuts while supported by spouse / family, and after that you become a lobbyist making lots of money.

12 Hadur April 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

If you’re lucky. A lobbying position is far from guaranteed.

13 FrackYou April 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

That’s the risk these staffer/wannabes choose to take all on their own. Not my issue. Go choose another profession that pays more.

14 John Bailey April 12, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for alerting me to this situation.

15 Dana April 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm

If I were a FSO working in say Guatemala I don’t think I would be comfortable knowing that anyone with internet access could find out my net worth and probably pretty easily obtain my picture and home address too, the internet being what it is. You know since murder, kidnapping for ransom, and blackmail are all pretty popular in lots of places in the developing world. I don’t think the U.S. government should be comfortable with that either.

16 Dana April 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

And to revise Tyler’s characterization, it was not just “some officials” that “suggested” the act “could” threaten national security. According the Roll Call article linked in the post an independent institute report that was unambiguous about risks involved.

17 Ray Lopez April 13, 2013 at 12:17 am

Much ado about something [nothing]. The STOCK Act is already law, about a year old. Apparently it’s not about stock market insider trading (which is already illegal for congressmen*) but profiting from inside information. And this law was the subject of this recent scale-back, apparently taking issue with the “on-line” reporting requirement (making it not mandiatory that you report on-line, but rather it would be OK to make a report in paper that is filed in some filing cabinent in DC). I assume that the ‘national security’ is threatened when a cyber-terrorist could find out who a congressman* associated with, then do a Denial of Service attack on those people.

* since 80% of the US Congress is still male (a record low BTW), I’m safe to say men not people.

18 cubanbob April 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Find another career path.

19 lxm April 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm

i guess this proves the republicans are not obstructionists and that congress can act in a non-partisan fashion if the cause is just.

20 dirck April 13, 2013 at 7:35 am

Isn’t allowing Congress to write the rules for its own behavior exactly analogous to allowing inmates to write the rules for operating prisons ?

21 teapartydoc April 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

Has anyone seen my guillotine?

22 Nick April 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

You left it right next to the Brioche…

23 athEIst April 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm

At last some bipartisanship!

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