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Public Statements

Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I rise to express my concerns about amendment No. 1483 to the STOCK Act. While we all oppose public corruption and recognize the need for tough laws in this area, I believe this amendment may blur the line between innocent behavior and criminal public corruption offenses. This amendment expands the Federal criminal gratuities statute to cover the gift of anything of value, over $1,000, that is given to a public official simply because of their status as a public official. A unanimous Supreme Court in United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California interpreted the honest services law to require the government to actually prove a link between the thing of value given and the specific act. The Court said the thing of value must be given ``for or because of'' an official act. I am concerned that expanding the crime to include items given merely on the basis of the public official's status goes too far and criminalizes some legitimate conduct.

However, my primary concern with this amendment is the section that gives the Federal Government the authority to interpret, prosecute, and enforce State and local laws. I believe this provision violates the basic principles of federalism embodied in our Constitution. Amendment No. 1483 expands the definition of ``scheme or artifice to defraud'' in Federal criminal law to include the ``undisclosed self-dealing'' of an ``officer, employee, or elected or appointed representative, or person acting for or on behalf of the United States, a State, or a subdivision of a State, or any department, agency or branch of government.'' The amendment defines ``undisclosed self-dealing'' as an official act that furthers or benefits a financial interest of the official or certain family members and associates of the official. Undisclosed self-dealing also occurs when the official knowingly falsifies, conceals, or covers up material information that is required to be disclosed by any Federal, State, or local statute, rule, regulation, or charter or the knowing failure to disclose material information in a manner that is required by a Federal, State, or local statute, rule, regulation, or charter. Thus, this provision makes it a Federal crime for a State or local official to fail to comply with a State or local law, including the mere filing requirements of State or locality. This provision gives the Federal Government the power to enforce State and local laws.

I do not believe our Founders intended for Federal prosecutors to be able to bring Federal criminal cases against State or local officials based on that official allegedly breaking or failing to comply with a State or local law, and the Founders did not intend for Federal judges and Federal courts to be interpreting the State or local laws, expect in limited circumstances. Corruption of State and local officials is a serious problem, but it is not the Federal Government's problem to solve. For these other reasons, I oppose this amendment in its current form.


The Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. This is a simple, bipartisan amendment, and we have voted on an identical amendment before, 63 yeas, 33 nays. My colleague, the Senator from Colorado, has been gracious enough to support this amendment. This is straightforward. We just need to know what we are doing when we do it. It requires the CRS to show us if we have duplicated anything before a bill comes before the Senate.

I yield to my colleague from Colorado.


Mr. COBURN. I have the greatest respect for my chairman on homeland security. I love him dearly.

GAO has already told us we are not doing our job. The first study of the Federal Government showed $100 billion worth of duplication. The second study is coming. CRS will have this easy because GAO will have already shown them where all the duplication is.


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