POLITICO– Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) is making a renewed push to apply insider trading laws to Congress after a newspaper report showed that at least 72 congressional aides traded shares of the companies that their bosses helped oversee.
But Baird says his congressional colleagues have flatly indicated that they would block his legislation, which is aimed at preventing members of Congress and staff from trading stocks in companies where there’s a potential conflict of interest.
“There are some members who seem to think the rules just shouldn’t apply to us,” said Baird in an interview with POLITICO. “There’s money to be made, lots of it, and in ways that aren’t clearly illegal.”
Baird’s comments were spurred by a Monday report from the Wall Street Journal, which analyzed trading activity by Capitol Hill staffers between 2008 and 2009 and found market bets were made by high-level aides whose bosses helped influence related policy. Among those implicated in the story were a top policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who traded environmental company stock and a Republican aide who traded Bank of America Corp. stock while working for a Senate Banking Committee member. The Journal report did not reveal huge profits – in some cases it was a few thousand dollars – but Baird believes the story did show a hole in congressional ethics.
Currently, insider trading laws that apply to the corporate world do not apply to Congress, allowing members and their aides to exchange information and buy stock based on inside information coming from Capitol Hill. The corporate world, however, is held under severe penalities for insider trading, often resulting in extraordinary fines.
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Written by: Erika Lovely, POLITICO
Photography by: Loop_oh, Flickr
© POLITICO, 2010