Today, the House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing designed, it seems, to derail growing momentum in favor of the Stop Trading Congressional Knowledge Act (the STOCK Act). In response, Sunlight along with the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and US PIRG sent a letter to all members of Congress urging them to quickly enact legislation that would clearly state that Members of Congress are prohibited from engaging in insider trading.
For years, efforts have been made to enact a version of the STOCK Act. The bill recently gained momentum when news reports disclosed the unseemly specter of congressional insider trading. Now it seems some in Congress would like to slow that train by saying a new law isn’t necessary because insider-trading laws have always applied to Congress.
That argument misses the very relevant point that whether or not current laws apply, they clearly aren’t working. As far as we know, there has never been an enforcement action against a Member of Congress for insider trading. Yet some members do remarkably well in the market.
The groups on the letter to Congress—none of whom were invited to testify today, by the way—recognize the need for strong, clear legislation that would eliminate any doubt about Congress’s obligation to abide by the same rules as the rest of us. In addition, legislation should also ensure that when Members’ engage in legal stock transactions, those are made publicly available in real time and online in a searchable database.
A law that curtails congressional self-dealing and increases transparency should not be controversial. The STOCK Act should pass.