In Throw Them All Out, Peter Schweizer argues that Congress is a route to riches that is exempt from the same sort of laws that govern mere mortals. He shares an anecdote about George Washington Plunkitt and "honest graft" that reflects the largess of Tammany Hall, New York's infamous political machine. He argues that modern Congressional graft is more insidious.
Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His book was released just before Thanksgiving, the same day that Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) introduced S 1871, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. Two days later, Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand (D-NY), filed S 1903. There is also a companion bill: HR 1148.
According to news reports, the Senate voted bill 93-2 on Monday on the motion to consider the bill (cloture). The AP wire story omits the niggle of which two Senators voted no. Looking for the info at The Library of Congress is a nightmare; bless its pea-pickin' heart, LOC doesn't link the original bill to the Johnny-come-lately bill, S 2038. The bill voted on Monday was introduced on Thursday, Jan 26, 20102 (the State of the Union address was Jan 23) and is where roll call vote information resides.
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, and Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, voted against advancing the bill. Mr. Coburn filed three amendments Monday that would set up a permanent earmark ban, require legislation be online 72 hours before the Senate votes on it, and require that bills be reviewed to see if they overlap with existing programs.
So it's not that they are voting against the bill; Coburn voted no because he wanted more discussion, in the form of amendments.
Not voting: Isakson (R-GA); Kirk (R-IL); Landrieu (D-LA); Menendez (D-NJ) and Wicker (R-MS.
There is an existing act that governs Congress critters and their playing the stock market; it was passed (wait for it) in 1934. What will this one do? From the original Senate bill summary:
Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act - Amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Commodity Exchange Act to direct both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities, security-based swaps, or commodities for future delivery or swap by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action if the information was obtained: (1) knowingly from a Member or employee of Congress, (2) by reason of being a Member or employee of Congress, or (3) from other federal employees and derived from their federal employment.
It also imposes disclosure requirements and "calls for the comptroller general and the Congressional Research Service to prepare a report on the role of political intelligence in the financial markets."
Whether or not the bill has teeth (or is merely symbolic), the push for passage comes from a very real place:
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of registered voters found 56 percent favored replacing the entire 535-member Congress. Other polls this year have given Congress approval ratings between 11 percent and 13 percent, while disapproval percentages have ranged from 79 percent to 86 percent.