I rise in support of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge act, known as the STOCK Act, restoring the public's faith in government. I'm a co-sponsor of the STOCK Act and have been working to address concerns about insider trading in Congress.
I appreciate the leadership of my colleague from Minnesota, Tim Walz, over in the House, who spearheaded the bill in the House, as well as the work of my colleagues including Senator Gillibrand and Senator Brown, who have shown leadership in moving this issue forward.
Mr. President, no one is above the law in this country. Least of all the lawmakers. At a time when Americans are crying out for leaders who are willing to put public interest before political gain, the STOCK Act presents a rare opportunity for both parties to come together and pass a bill that not only makes for good policy, but that is, very simply, the right thing to do.
Over the last three years, we've worked to restore accountability and integrity to the major institutions in this country.
We've worked to rein in recklessness on Wall Street. We've enforced greater accountability in federal budgets. And in 2007, we passed historic reforms to strengthen Congressional ethics laws.
But I’m standing here today because we can and must do more. Those of us who have the privilege of writing the rules have a responsibility to play by the rules--to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk, and the STOCK Act is about making sure that we're doing just that.
This commonsense bill will strengthen our democracy by ensuring that no federal employee or member of Congress can profit from nonpublic information they've obtained through their position.
First and foremost, the legislation clarifies and strengthens laws for regulating insider trading by members of Congress and their staff. It redefines the practice to clearly state that it is illegal to purchase assets based on knowledge gained through Congressional work or service, ensuring members of Congress are held to the same standards as the people that we represent. That seems only fair.
Now, some people have argued that there are already laws on the books for this.
But the fact of the matter is that insider trading by members of Congress and their staff is currently not prohibited by the Securities Exchange Act or Congressional rules.
Furthermore, the status of trading on Congressional information has never been explicitly outlined.
The resulting ambiguity has made it incredibly difficult to enforce these rules, which is almost certainly part of the reason not a single violation has ever been prosecuted.
The STOCK Act would clear up the ambiguity and make these laws crystal clear. It would give both the SEC and the Ethics committee in each chamber the authority to investigate and prosecute cases of insider trading.
And it would make it a violation of the rules and the House and the Senate to engage in such activity--meaning that anyone who uses their role as a member of Congress to enrich themselves would have to answer to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The bill would also enforce better oversight by significantly strengthening reporting requirements. Members of Congress are already required to disclose the purchase or sale of securities and commodities on an annual basis, and the STOCK Act would take these requirements several steps further.
Not only would it mandate that members and employees disclose any and all transactions of over $1,000 within 90 days of the trade, but it would require that information about the transaction be published online.
Finally, to close the revolving door between Congress and special interest groups, the STOCK Act would introduce some much-needed transparency into the industry known as “political intelligence consulting”--the practice of reaching out to people working in the legislative and executive branches to gain market intelligence regarding proposed rules, regulations and bills.
The STOCK Act would require the Government Accountability Office to study this issue and see what we can do to ensure that these consultants are subject to the same reporting requirements and restrictions imposed on lobbyists.
Mr. President, trust is the tie that binds our democracy. But with faith in government now at an all-time low, it's clear that those ties have frayed. Why would we not want to strengthen those bonds? Why would we not want to show the people that sent us to Washington that we have nothing to hide by passing this bill?
America was built on the principles of hard work, fair play, and personal responsibility. Those are the rules that middle-class families in states like Minnesota and all across America are still playing by today. We in Congress need to be willing to stand up and say we'll do the same.
I want to end my remarks today by sharing two letters that were sent to my office on the subject of the STOCK Act. The first is from a Minnesotan named Robert and this is what he wrote.
He said, "elected officials need to get back to the business of representing those who sent them to Washington to serve, not increasing their personal wealth based upon information they learn from holding those of offices--information that were it not for their elected office, they would otherwise not be privy to."
The second letter comes from a Minnesotan named David, who makes this issue crystal clear.
He says, "Voters elect politicians to do what is best for the country, not to become rich." Well, I couldn't have put it better myself, and I couldn't agree more.
I arrived in this town, Mr. President, in a Saturn with my college dishes and a shower curtain from 1985 in the back seat, so, clearly, this is not as relevant to my personal situation, but I truly believe that if we're going to restore trust in government, we need to pass this bill.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.