Congress can’t get out of its own way.
Nobody trusts what people on the Hill are doing, and it seems only a handful of representatives is intent on doing the “right thing.” Governing responsibly? Listening to the people? You would think the people who took an oath to do just that and uphold the Constitution weren’t listening when they raised their right hand.
That is why we are exposing the shocking hypocrisy and blatant ethics problem of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act that was signed into law on April 4th of last year. STOCK barred insider trading on non-public information by Members of Congress and other government employees. It was almost unanimously supported in Congress by Members trying to curry favor with their constituents, as it should have been.
But, while this should have been a unanimous vote, it wasn’t. There were still Members of Congress who voted against it, or abstained. We are going to list those who are still Members of Congress so you will have an accurate reporting (from Open Congress) of who voted to allow insider trading, and who declined to vote altogether. They should be held accountable for their position.
That anyone could vote against such a bill, especially after an explosive “60 Minutes” piece a few months before exposing insider trading on the Hill, is crazy. But that is not where the STOCK Act saga ends.
A couple of weeks ago, on April 15th, Senator Harry Reid introduced S.716, which removed the online disclosure portion of the STOCK Act. What that means is that Congress is more protected and less transparent, and if you want information about what Members of Congress are doing with regard to stock transactions, it is going to be a huge pain in your rear end to get it.
Congressional aides and executive branch staffers are exempt altogether from the online database, and the President, Vice President and Members of Congress do not have to provide sortable or searchable information.
That vote, it turns out, was unanimous. S.716 was debated for a full 10 seconds in the Senate, and 14 seconds in the House, before it passed with flying colors by a Congress who is doing everything in its power to protect itself.
When Obama signed the Act he said, “It's the notion that the powerful shouldn't get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else…Congress should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people.”
But despite their public statements and their “aye” votes, Congress didn’t like it; and as we’ve pointed out, there were a few Members who didn’t like it so much they actually voted against it, without worrying what the public would think.
They spent the next year delaying implementation and “temporarily” amending provisions. Supposedly, their heartburn was over the fact that the Act requires them to post their financial information and communications online, and they said this would jeopardize their safety and also discourage others from entering public service.
That is why it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that they slipped the amendment S.716 through, but it is, because in the face of transparency and accountability, it is just shocking that our representatives think they can get away with it.
Remember, EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF CONGRESS just voted to make STOCK Act information harder to get, exempting thousands of federal employees; but a handful of Members voted against the Act in the first place—which is to say they refused to sign on to legislation that would prevent insider trading in Congress. Some lost their seats, but those who are still in Washington are listed below:
In the Senate, Mark Kirk (R-IL) abstained, and Richard Burr (R-NC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) voted against it.
In the House, John Campbell (R-CA) and Rob Woodall (R-GA) voted against it, and these representatives abstained: Democrats Earl Blumenauer (OR), John Carney Jr. (DE), Donna Edwards (MD), Marcia Fudge (OH), Michael Michaud (ME), and Bennie Thompson (MS); and Republicans Mike Rogers (MI), Bill Shuster (PA), Lynn Westmoreland (GA) and Don Young (AK).
No wonder everyone is fed up with Congress. As the government takes away our right to privacy, it tightens theirs. As they push for more of our online activities to become public and easily accessible to government and law enforcement, they block transparency into their activities.
We must also insist upon a transparent and ethical government. If those in office are unwilling to govern openly, or if they are unwilling to defend our system of checks and balances, they must go. And they must be put on notice right now that We, the People, are going to hold them to account.