House passes anemic STOCK Act, corruption is business as usual

 

Last week, Congress passed a much-weakened version of the STOCK Act banning insider trading by its members and their staffers. The law was significantly weakened by failing to place curbs on “political intelligence,” as well as failing to provide new clean-government rules for oversight of the financial dealings of Congressional members.

The legislation makes clear that lawmakers and key staffers are bound by the insider trading laws, but members of Congress are already bound by the laws of the United States so it is unclear what the purpose of this legislation is—except perhaps to promulgate convoluted language so they may continue to practice questionable financial dealings without much oversight. For example, the House version of the bill bars lawmakers from participating in IPOs, but whether this provision will remain in the conference version of the bill, which is reconciled between the Senate and House, remains to be seen.

Further proof that the law is anemic and intended to protect corruption in Congress can be found in two provisions that were cut at the last minute. One provision found in the Senate version requiring members and staffers who collect and trade so-called political intelligence—information from government that can move markets and stock prices—to register just like lobbyists was eliminated by House Republicans. Their version of the bill also cut a provision that cracks down on officials who are guilty of taking actions on the job to benefit themselves financially.

The STOCK Act represents an attempt by House Republicans to take the teeth out of the Senate version of the bill, and thereby preserve the political and financial corruption that have become hallmarks of Congress. The revisions even led Republican sponsors of the Senate version to criticize members of their own party. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called the changes “astonishing and extremely disappointing.”

Super PAC’s fund American elections

America’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United ranges from public outrage visible in the Occupy Wall Street movement to barely concealed glee among wealthy donors who seek to influence the outcome of elections with an avalanche of dollars.

Recent data compiled by the NYT from Federal Elections Commission (FEC) records reveal the following:  A supermajority of the millions is spent on wealthy or conservative candidates with financial ties to the financial and energy industries. Much of the money provided by individual donors is helping individual candidates win primaries that should be decided by intelligence, experience, believability, and integrity (virtues which few if any of the Republicans possess all together).

1. Restore Our Future—Mitt Romney’s PAC—$36.8 million total with 10 individuals contributing more than $1 million each. Most of this money has been spent on ads attacking Newt Gingrich.

Super PAC spent $38 million criticizing Gingrich to make this mediocre candidate appear more appealing.

2. American Crossroads — No known candidate ties. Spent $20 million on ads attacking President Obama before the general election has started.

3. Winning Our Future—Newt Gingrich’s PAC—$13.1 million with 2 individuals contributing $5 million each and 1 individual contributing $1 million by a PAC the candidate funded.

4. Make Us Great Again—Rick Perry’s PAC—$5.5 million spent on a candidate who is literally more stupid than that other governor turned president, George W. Bush.

5. Priorities USA Action—President Obama’s PAC—$4.5 million spent on a sitting President who has been in office three years trying to fix the problems caused by a decade of deregulation. Super PAC support of the President during the general election will likely increase significantly.

More to follow from a political system that permits private individuals to finance candidates without much public oversight. If money is free speech, then some people have more speech than others! So much the worse for the democratic principle “one person, one vote.”