Today, President Obama will sign into law the Stock Act, which was passed by Congress on March 22, 2012, nearly six years after its introduction. The bill bans Members of Congress, their staff, executive branch and other federal employees from using information obtained through their jobs to profit on the stock market. It also strengthens reporting requirements, requires Members to disclose the terms of mortgages on their homes, prohibits Members' access to initial public offerings, and will deny federal pensions to Members who are convicted of an expanded list of public corruption felonies while in office.
In response, GOP 5th Congressional District candidate Susan Brooks said that while today's action is an important first step, much more needs to be done to restore public trust in Congress and issued the following statement:
"America faces serious issues that required immediate attention by leaders capable of solving big problems: Putting Americans back to work. Tackling the nearly $15 trillion in debt and restoring America's AAA credit rating. Cutting the insatiable, out-of-control spending habits of the federal government. Eliminating regulations on businesses that impede job creation. Reforming the federal tax code.
"As I have traveled the 5th Congressional District during the past nine months talking to voters, I've heard firsthand the frustration Hoosiers feel toward Washington with not only the lack of results, but also the absence of civility and genuine unwillingness to put our future generations ahead of politics and start tackling America's greatest challenges.
"With the approval rating of Congress at historic lows -- ranging between 9 percent and 12 percent depending on what poll you read -- many conclude that our problems will never be solved until we restore the trust and confidence of the American people.
"The Stock Act that takes effect today (April 4, 2012) is an important step, even though it took more than five years, an expose in a published book and on 60 Minutes, and an election year to accomplish it.
"A book released last fall by Hoover fellow Peter Schweizer, titled "Throw Them All Out," details the latest examples of corruption and cronyism: insider trading using confidential government information, access to special IPO offerings, Congressional earmarks that increase the value of personal real estate holdings, among others. Added to what have become routine relevations of unethical and sometimes criminal conduct without consequences, the American public is feeling disillusioned, dishearted, and dissatisfied. Our leaders should be a point of extreme pride, held in the highest esteem, and admired as role models for our youth and aspiring leaders -- not the subject of criminal indictments, ethics investigations, news scandals, and late night jokes.
"The only way we can restore the public's trust and confidence in Congress is to continue to reform Washington beyond the Stock Act and replace the current culture with the highest standard of ethics and accountability -- something that Hoosiers and all Americans want and most certainly deserve.
"Therefore, today, I am proposing five measures that I will either introduce or support if elected to Congress that are important steps in raising the standards of conduct and restoring the public trust."
Insider Trading: The Stock Act, to be signed into law by President Obama today, is an important step. It should be a clear signal to all members that it is no longer acceptable for members -- either directly or through a third-party investment professional -- to trade stocks or make land deals while Congress is considering legislation that could impact that business sector. The law should be monitored and strengthened to make sure that it serves as a strong deterrent from taking advantage of one's office, with equally strong compliance and enforcement provisions. The growing concern about "political intelligence" firms -- those who obtain confidential political intelligence from Congressional insiders and sell it to Wall Street for personal financial gain -- should be addressed and proper restrictions put in place in subsequent amendments to the Act. Further, all credible accusations of insider trading by Members of Congress should be forwarded to the Securities & Exchange Commission for investigation.
Stop the Congressional Revolving Door: Today, Members of the House only have to wait one year and Members of the Senate only two years before becoming a Congressional lobbyist. Even with this "cooling off" period, these Washington insiders received unfettered access to, and exercise influence on, key decision makers on behalf of Washington-based special interests. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, at least 34 former members of the 111th Congress are already employed by federal lobbying firms in Washington lobbying the 112th Congress. Voters elect representatives to serve their interests in Congress, rather than to profit from a handful of high-powered special interests. Profiteering from Congressional service should be strongly discouraged. Former members of Congress should be prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for more than just one year, and I propose increasing the current law to six years (three terms for House members and one term for Senate members) after the former Member leaves office.
Pass Term Limits: Voters of the 5th Congressional District have made it clear to me that they believe the longer someone serves in Congress, the more disconnected they become from the voters they serve, resulting in the increased likelihood of self-serving judgment, entrenched partisan conduct, and the gridlock that has prevented the serious results required to put Americans back to work. Accordingly, they believe Congress should not be filled with career, professional politicians who become more enamored with Washington than the interests of their constituents at home. In response to the wishes of voters, it is time that we have a serious bipartisan discussion about term limits for members of Congress, including the appropriate length of time to serve and whether terms should be counted cumulatively or consecutively.
Congressional Health Care Privileges: Congress should not pass legislation that includes mandates on the American people that do not apply to Members of Congress. One strong criticism of the Affordable Health Care Act is that Congress attempted to exempt itself from compliance, which is a strong signal to Americans that Congress does not have to live by the same rules. If Obamacare is not ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, it should be repealed and replaced with sensible reforms that reduce the cost of health care while improving access and quality, while requiring that all provisions apply to Members of Congress, their staff, executive branch and other federal employees just like all Americans.
Prevent Corrupt Politicians From Receiving Federal Pensions: The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act currently holds that members of Congress forfeit their pension if only certain federal crimes for which they were convicted occurred while they served in Congress. The Stock Act adds additional federal public corruption felonies to the list. This would leave the impression that certain felony convictions are acceptable and others are not. Federal law should be expanded to prevent current and former members of Congress from receiving federal pensions if they commit any felony while in office or while receiving federal benefits.