Senator Reid announced today that the Senate will take up the House passed version of the STOCK Act this week. Passage of the bill, which prohibits Members of Congress from engaging in insider trading, allows Members to go home and claim to voters that they did something to clean up Congress. It’s true, but they could have done so much more.
The STOCK Act languished in Congress until reports of congressional insider trading made the headlines. Then, bowing to public pressure, the House took up the bill, that originally included language requiring disclosure by “political intelligence firms” that use nonpublic information from Hill sources to enrich investors and manipulate stock markets. Those provisions, which Rep. Slaughter described as the most important in her bill, were stripped out by House Republicans. (The bill does include a number of other provisions Sunlight advocated, including the requirement that the new financial transactions disclosures be made public.)
The Senate, by an overwhelming majority, passed a bill that included the political intelligence disclosure provisions. Unfortunately, despite their support for the bill, Senate Republicans threatened to block going to conference with the House. We urged the Senate to reject the idea of bypassing the conference, but in the end, it appears there will be no conference and the weaker bill will become law. It’s very likely that this move will end any effort to disclose the activities of political intelligence firms, leaving those firms free to continue to operate in secret. But, perhaps something is better than nothing.