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U.S. Rep. Baird Persistent on Insider Trading Bill

By Chris Kissel February 2, 2009

Every year since 2006, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA, 3) has proposed a measure to ban questionable trading practices by his colleagues in Congress. And every year, the measure dies before it can make it through the legislature.

Considering how cozy Congress got with Wall Street late last year, Rep. Baird thinks the political climate is perfect to finally pass his bill.


A statement from Baird's office pointed to a 2004 study that claimed U.S. Senators get returns on their investments that beat the returns typical Americans get by about 25 percent. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-CA) is co-sponsoring, would ban members of Congress from trading on knowledge they obtained while Congress was in session.


The bill also calls for members of Congress to report any stock purchases they make exceeding $1,000 within 90 days.



“The American people expect Members and staffers to work on their behalf and to represent their interests, not to increase the returns on our investments and fatten their stock portfolios,” said Rep. Baird in a statement.

The bill would also clamp down on "political intelligence firms" that profit from information about upcoming Congressional hearings, requiring them to register with the government the way lobbying firms do.

In the statement, Baird's office points to situations like this one that illustrate the influence of "political intelligence firms":
On November 15, 2005, the stock of a building materials company in Chicago (USG Corp) suddenly doubled, despite the fact that there was no publicly available news about the company, or industry, which explained the increase in volume. What the public didn’t know yet, but what some investors discovered through back channels and political intelligence companies, was that then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had quietly decided to move forward with legislation to relieve companies, such as USG Corp, of their liabilities in asbestos related lawsuits.

This part of the bill was particularly contentious when it was introduced for the second time in 2007—how would the bill define and restrict these intelligence groups? Many Washington information gatherers could fall under a designation this broad, including law firms and journalists.

For an even fuller view of the issue, a site called Procon.org features an extensive discussion of the bill. Currently, the bill has two co-sponsors and has been referred to the Financial Services Committee.

 

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