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Signing of STOCK Act ends congressional ‘insider trading’

This news story was published on April 5, 2012.
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By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — Bill-signing ceremonies are pretty rare events in these times of gridlock and congressional backlog; so are moments of bipartisan backslapping and handshaking. But both happened briefly Wednesday when President Barack Obama, surrounded by a few actual Republicans, signed and praised legislation passed by Congress.

The measure was the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, better known was the STOCK Act. A long-lingering piece of legislation, it shot to the top of the priority list after a “60 Minutes” investigation highlighted instances of what the program called congressional “insider trading” — lawmakers using information gleaned on the job, “non-public information,” for personal profit.

The STOCK Act affirms that lawmakers and staff are not exempt from federal insider-trading laws and gives the House and Senate ethics committees the authority to enforce new rules. It also requires lawmakers to disclose more information about their stock trades.

The bill as it passed was watered down in the House, angering some advocates. The House stripped out a provision that would have required people who gather “political intelligence” to register as lobbyists, and left out measures relating to prosecuting corruption.

The liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said it was “lukewarm” on the legislation.

Still, lawmakers and the president, who pushed for the legislation in his State of the Union speech, took a victory lap.

“It shows that when an idea is right that we can still accomplish something on behalf of the American people and to make our government and our country stronger,” Obama said, a day after he accused the House Republican majority of pushing a “radical” agenda.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., called the signing an important step toward ensuring that lawmakers “abide by the same rules as everyone else.”

“This bipartisan bill shows that we can come together and deliver results for the American people,” Cantor said in a statement.

Cantor did not attend the signing ceremony. The president was joined by a handful of Democratic lawmakers, as well as GOP Reps. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Robert Dold of Illinois, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

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