The Senate overwhelmingly approved good government ethics legislation Thursday that would ensure members of Congress and their staffs are held to the same insider-trading standards as the rest of America. The measure was approved 96-3, after votes on 17 amendments.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Senator Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., co-sponsored the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, S. 2038, to eliminate any ambiguities in the law that governs insider trading.
"With this vote, the Senate has established that members of Congress and their staffs have a duty of trust to the American people that explicitly bars them from insider trading," said Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn. "We have responded to public concern that different legal standards apply to members of Congress by removing any shadow of a doubt that's the case.
"I hope this vote will help assure our constituents that we are in Washington to address their concerns and not to profit personally while we are at it. I also hope that the bipartisanship demonstrated here today bodes well for future legislation."
Collins said: "I am pleased the Senate has moved in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that Members of Congress do not profit from trading on insider information. I particularly want to commend Senator Scott Brown for his leadership on this issue. At a time when polls show low public confidence in Congress, there is a strong desire to address the concerns that underpin the public's skepticism and assure the American people that we put their interests above our own. The STOCK Act affirms that Members of Congress are not exempt from our laws prohibiting insider trading. We need to reassure the public that we understand that elective office is a place for public service, not private gain. Underscoring that important message is clearly the intent of this legislation, and that is why I supported it."
Gillibrand said: "We are entrusted with a profound responsibility by the American people to look out for their best interests, and nothing else, certainly not our own financial interests," said Senator Gillibrand, the first member of Congress to post her official daily schedule, all earmark requests and personal financial disclosure online. "Today, we took the first step toward restoring the trust that's been lost in Washington by ensuring that members of Congress play by the exact same rules as everyday Americans."
Brown said: "Members of Congress have access to all kinds of sensitive information, and it has to be clear that the information is being used to serve our country -- not to make a personal profit. I'm proud that our bipartisan effort to pass the STOCK Act succeeded. This is good step toward closing the deficit of trust with the American people, and it's an important reminder that every seat in Congress is the people's seat."
Gillibrand and Brown introduced the first Senate version of the STOCK Act last year, which the Committee perfected and approved December 14, 2011.
The STOCK Act clarifies an ambiguity in the 1934 Securities and Exchange Act by prohibiting 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 $1000 and would require all disclosures to be available electronically.
Amendments added to the bill on the Senate floor would require:
· Securities trades and financial disclosure statements of about 300,000 Executive Branch employees to be published online;
· Mortgages of members of Congress, their staff, and top level Executive Branch employees to be published on line;
· So-called "political intelligence consultants" -- who gather information to sell to investors -- to disclose their activities and clients the same way lobbyists do.