The Senate overwhelmingly approved good government ethics legislation Thursday to ensure members of Congress and their staffs are held to the same insider-trading laws as the rest of America. The measure was approved 96-3.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., co-sponsored the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act to eliminate any ambiguities in the law that governs insider trading. The House passed a similar bill, and the Senate agreed to the House version.
"With Congressional approval ratings at historic lows, the STOCK Act offers us a chance to restore trust in Congress and to show those who gave us the honor of representing them that the only business that concerns us is the people's business," Lieberman said. "This bill represents Congress at its best. A problem was identified that cut directly into the public's faith in this institution, and we dealt with it quickly and on a bipartisan basis in both Houses."
Collins said: "At a time when public confidence in Congress is so low, we must act to remove any doubt that the law and rules against insider trading apply to Members of Congress. The STOCK Act will help assure the public that we understand that elective office is a place for public service, not private gain."
Gillibrand said: "I strongly believe that we have to make clear -- that nobody here is above the law, and that members of Congress need to play by the exact same set of rules as every other American. It is simply the right thing to do. This strong bill with teeth is a good step forward to begin restoring our trust with the American people."
Brown said: "I believe those who make the laws should live under the same laws as everyone else. With passage of the STOCK Act, members of Congress and their staffs can no longer use inside government information to make money in the stock market. Insider trading is wrong, whether it happens on Wall Street or on Capitol Hill. The passage of this legislation is an important step toward restoring trust in our government."
Gillibrand and Brown each introduced different versions of the STOCK Act last year, which the Committee improved upon and reported out December 14, 2011.
The STOCK Act prohibits members of Congress and their staffs from trading on non-public information they obtain by virtue of their positions that is not available to the general public. The bill also requires disclosure 30 days after any securities trade over $1,000 and would require all financial disclosures by members of Congress, senior Congressional staff, and high level Executive Branch employees to be available electronically.
The bill would also:
· Require Members of Congress, their senior staff, and top level Executive Branch employees to disclose their mortgages annually;
· Require a Government Accountability Office study of so-called "political intelligence" to determine who practices it and what type of information is being sold to their clients.
· Deny Congressional benefits to Members or former Members who commit public corruption crimes.