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House GOP introduces its insider trading bill
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON — House Republicans have introduced their version of a bill to ban insider trading by thousands of federal officials, and have added provisions to bar lawmakers convicted of a felony from collecting their government pensions.
In a provision aimed directly at Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the bill, introduced late Tuesday, would ban lawmakers from using their positions to invest in initial public offerings of stock. Pelosi has denied that she did anything like that.
The Republicans wiped out a key provision in the Senate version of the bill that would have required so-called “political intelligence” firms to register and file disclosure reports, as lobbyists must. These are companies that try to pick up information from lawmakers, then pass it on to investment firms and their clients.
The growing political intelligence industry had lobbied hard to get the Republicans to either modify or eliminate the provision, arguing that the language was too broad. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, substituted a congressional study of these firms — essentially taking no action. The reporting requirement was inserted into the Senate’s bill by a Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.
Under the House bill, new stock transactions would have to be reported either 30 days after a covered individual was notified of a transaction in his or her account or 45 days after the transaction. The bill would apply, according to Cantor, to about 30,000 employees in the executive branch. It would cover the president and vice president, and President Barack Obama has said he would sign the legislation.
In addition, Republicans were considering bringing the bill to a vote Thursday under a procedure that would not allow any amendments.
That was especially galling to Rep. Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat, who has been trying to get an insider trading bill passed for six years and has close to 300 co-sponsors, including nearly 100 Republicans.
Sponsorship of the bill by Slaughter and Rep. Tim Walz, Minnesota Democrat, soared after a recent CBS “60 Minutes” segment that reported current and former members of Congress used information received during their official duties to invest in the stock market.
The show reported that Pelosi’s husband invested in a large Visa IPO in 2008 around the time the House — then under Democratic control — was considering legislation to lower credit card fees. Pelosi denied any wrongdoing, and said there was no connection between the investment and the legislation.
The bill passed two years later, and Pelosi voted for it. It did not pass in 2008, a Pelosi aide said, because it came to floor at the end of the session — when the House was passing the biggest bailout of financial institutions in the nation’s history.
The aide, who was not authorized to be quoted by name to discuss the investment, said Pelosi’s husband made the IPO purchase through his existing broker at Wells Fargo.
The aide pointed out that the Visa IPO was among the largest ever at $17.9 billion.
The “60 Minutes” program also raised questions about stock purchases by House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican, the current chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Both denied any wrongdoing.
The House is expected to pass the bill overwhelmingly, and it almost certainly will end up in a conference committee to reconcile the differences with the Senate.
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