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Westmoreland: "You Can't Legislate Ethics"


Location: Washington, DC

Today, the House passed S. 2038, the STOCK Act. The legislation was brought up in Congress after a news report surfaced that accused a few Members of Congress of using the private information they sometimes receive during the course of their job to make money in the stock market. In essence, the bill reiterates the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and repeats that insider trading is illegal for Members of Congress. It also dramatically expands the financial disclosure obligations for approximately 30,000 federal employees, requiring monthly filings. Although Congressman Westmoreland strongly believes that insider trading should be illegal and that any Member of Congress who is convicted of insider trading should have the same punishment as any other American, he opposes the legislation because it was duplicative and unnecessary. Unfortunately, he was delayed at an Intelligence Committee hearing and was unable to make the vote in time. However, he registered his opposition with the Clerk of the House. Below is Congressman Westmoreland's statement on the STOCK Act.

"Today, the House passed legislation declaring insider trading illegal for Members of Congress. Well, insider trading is already illegal. In fact, it's been illegal since the Securities and Exchange Act was signed into law in 1934. And it is illegal for everyone. Do we really need an additional law to reiterate that Members of Congress are held to the same law as every other American? I don't find myself to be above the law. If I rob a bank, for example, I'm going to jail. I don't need to pass a new bill that points out that bank robbing is illegal for Members of Congress. It's illegal for everyone.

"I can guarantee that if you asked most of the Members who voted for this bill today their opinion of it in private, they would tell you it's nothing more than a big waste of time. That's because Congress only passed it in some misguided effort to prove to the American people they are trustworthy. Well, you know how to do that? Do your job. Represent your constituents to the best of your ability. Do everything in your power to make this country the best in the world.

"I've always said Congress has two speeds: stop and knee-jerk. This bill is that knee-jerk speed at its worst. I mean, while important bills like the Fair Tax Act, which was first introduced to Congress in 1999, sit idle in committee with no hearings and no markups, we have wasted two weeks debating legislation that already exists. The people in this country are facing serious problems right now. We are still suffering from record high unemployment, a high rate of home foreclosures, overwhelming national debt, and rising energy prices. Instead of coming up with solutions to those problems, we spent the time passing duplicative legislation in order to earn political points in the media.

"Insider trading is illegal already -- and it should be. It is unfair for any American to use private information gained in the course of their job to distort our market and make money. But we already have laws and regulations in place to guard against this. In fact, we have one of the strictest and most well-enforced insider trading laws in the world. Reiterating current law and creating mounds of new paperwork with this monthly disclosure requirement for some 30,000 federal workers will not make our law any stronger. All it's going to do is create even more bureaucratic redtape than we've already got.

"Look, this law doesn't affect me. I don't own any stock and don't plan on owning any stock. But, at the core of my principles, I truly believe that bigger government is not better government. I know that laws do not make people honest -- you can't legislate ethics. The more duplicative and unnecessary laws that we pass in Congress, the more power we take from the states and give to the federal government. And I don't know about you, but I think this federal government has given itself enough power," stated Westmoreland.

The bill was sent back to the Senate, with the amendments added in the House. It is unclear when the Senate will vote on the bill and whether or not they will offer another round of amendments.

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