Conyers Calls on House and Senate to Move Quickly to Conference and Restore Political Intelligence Provision to Congressional Insider Trading Bill
Washington, DC, February 9, 2012
Today on the House Floor, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) called on the House of Representatives to move quickly to conference with the Senate in order to strengthen S. 2038, the “Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act” (the STOCK Act), a bill that clarifies that members of Congress, congressional staff, Executive Branch officials, and judicial officers are subject to the same insider trading rules as everyone else. Last week the Senate passed by a vote of 96-3 a strong version of the STOCK Act, which included provisions requiring certain political intelligence activities to be disclosed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
After months of pressure from Democrats, the Republican House Majority finally decided to take up similar legislation. However, last night House Republicans drafted a new, weaker version of the bill, refusing to consider a much stronger bipartisan House bill that is cosponsored by 285 members, including 99 Republicans. The House Republican version of the STOCK Act eliminates a provision requiring certain political intelligence activities to be disclosed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The removal of this particular provision by House Republicans is so stunning that even their Senate counterparts took notice. In comments to The Hill Newspaper yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded regarding the political intelligence provision’s deletion: "It’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision. If Congress delays action, the political intelligence industry will stay in the shadows, just the way Wall Street likes it.”
Below is the text of Ranking Member Conyers floor statement calling on the House and Senate to move to conference in order to strengthen this important addition to government ethics law.
“The ‘Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act,’ as it was originally introduced in the House by my colleagues—Ranking Member Louise Slaughter of New York and Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota—represents a serious, thoughtful, important amendment to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. The bill forces members of Congress to acknowledge that we have a fiduciary duty to the public, and that we should not benefit privately from information that has been entrusted to us.
“Unfortunately, the manner in which this bill has come to the floor today undercuts its importance. The Majority handed us this bill in the dead of night. We have had less than 48 hours to consider how they have amended—and weakened—the Senate-passed bill.
This issue deserves a thorough discussion and a full opportunity for members to offer amendments that strengthen the bill. “We owe it to our constituents to take up this measure quickly, but also thoughtfully and comprehensively. This process does not accomplish these goals.
“For instance, this amendment to the Senate bill omits a key provision—requiring certain political intelligence activities to be disclosed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Without that provision, there is little—if any—public disclosure of the interaction between Wall Street insiders and members of Congress.
“This provision was supported by the 285 members of the House—including 99 members of the Majority—who co-sponsored the original Slaughter-Walz bill. The provision was also supported by a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate. But, today, the Majority has stripped it from this bill without explanation.
“The ‘intelligence’ trade has grown into a multimillion-dollar industry. Hedge funds and other financial firms turn a profit by gathering information about pending legislation and investigations and selling it to the special interests they represent. These firms have no oversight—not by Congress, not by the executive branch, and not by the public.
“Under current law, these insiders have no obligation to identify themselves or disclose their clients. The public has a right to know who is paying for this access, and who in Congress is feeding inside information to Wall Street. We should not miss this chance to shed necessary sunlight on this industry.
“This is just one example of how this bill has been weakened by the Majority. A rushed process prevents us from making any attempt to improve it, and benefits only the special interests who profit off of the political intelligence trade. “Although we continue to have reservations about the process imposed on us, I will support the bill today. I ask my colleagues to do the same. “However, once we pass this bill in the House, I urge that we bring it to conference with the Senate bill as soon as possible. We have an opportunity to restore a measure of confidence in the Congress. We should do so by full measures, not half measures, and we should do so immediately.”