The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 22, 2012
Congress passes insider trading ban, but is it tough enough?

It's amazing how a little shame can go a long way.

For years, Congress ignored calls to put itself under the same insider trading rules as the rest of us. But after a "60 Minutes" report in November unleashed a tidal wave of criticism, bills started moving.

And on Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved and sent to President Barack Obama a measure that would ban members of Congress, along with other government officials, from trading stocks and other securities based on confidential information they learn from private briefings and other venues. The STOCK Act would also require them to disclose their trades.

But this being Washington, the House version of the bill headed toward becoming law isn't as strong as it could or should be.

As The Bee editorial board pointed out last month, the original Senate version is much stronger and preferable. It would make it easier for federal prosecutors to go after public corruption. It also included a provision that would force "political intelligence consultants" -- people who gather information of interest to hedge funds and other investors -- to register like other lobbyists.

On Tuesday, however, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he lacked the votes to push those changes.

And this being Washington, Democrats blamed Republicans for the weaker law.

"Despite this victory, we know more must be done to change the ways of Washington," top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said in a statement "House Republicans had the opportunity to take up the original, stronger, bipartisan Senate proposal, but refused to bring it up for a vote. Now, we must work to strengthen this legislation and uphold the confidence of the American people."

So while this legislation is better than the status quo, it would let a lot of nefarious activity continue on Capitol Hill. And it would all be legal.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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