The U.S. Senate voted 93-2 to move forward on the STOCK bill, which lowers the boom on Members of Congress who use info they gain via their regulatory and oversight duties to make investment decisions. The legislation arose from allegations raised in a great book by Peter Schweizer, and an ensuing 60 Minutes segment on the allegations contained in the book.
Of course, North Carolina’s John-McCain-and-Lindsey-Graham-worshipping senator Richard Burr was one of the two votes against the legislation. Why did he vote this way?:
“Sen. Burr voted against cloture on the bill because there are already laws in place to address this critical issue,” Burr spokesman David Ward told WWAY. “Laws regarding insider trading that apply to the American people also apply to members of Congress and their staff. Members of Congress are elected to serve the people, not make money for themselves, and any member or staff member who breaks the already existing insider trading laws should be held responsible.”
Oh, really? Read the book. Several Members of Congress — who appear to have done exactly what got Martha Stewart busted — are still in office and holding leadership positions. If you or I had done what these politicians have done, we’d have more FBI, SEC, and IRS attention than we can stand.
Louisiana congressman Bill Jefferson used a military helicopter to go to his home, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to remove a big bag of cash from his freezer. When the feds tried to investigate Jefferson, they got A LOT of grief from Members of Congress in both parties about separation of powers, The Constitution, yadda, yadda, yadda …
Members of Congress have amazing levels of access to information that average people don’t — from national security data to business intelligence. Burr has the power to introduce legislation that benefits specific companies he invests in. He also has the power to lead budget cutting efforts against agencies that investigate this kind of thing. Penalties for insider trading actually need to be tougher on Members of Congress and their staffs than they are on you and me.
This almost makes you wonder if Burr has something to hide in this area.