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Gender: Do not display
Hometown: Chicago area in Indiana
Home country: USA
Current location: Burlington, Vermont
Member since: Tue Jan 18, 2005, 11:05 AM
Number of posts: 59,306

Journal Archives

I think that is more semantics than real

"Insider trading" is something monitored by the SEC and they oversee publicly traded companies. The rules specifically list the positions in companies that are subject to its provisions. As legislators are not included in this, it is true to say that they are not subject to insider trading rules.

That said, there are ethics rules in both the House and the Senate. They can investigate whether a legislator used his position for financial gain. Highly publicized recent examples include both the House and the Senate looking at Countrywide giving preferential loans to legislators, including Senators Dodd and Conrad. The same could be done for any REAL, provable insider trading or use of inside information. Here, the most obvious example would be positioning oneself to gain from a not yet public earmark that has been accepted in a bill. (Here's an example of Speaker Hastert - http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2006/06/15/5792/hastert-pictures-of-corruption/?mobile=nc )

Strengthening the ethics rules could more explicitly prohibit some unethical behavior, but the current wave of action is really more political than reality based. The sudden desire to act against this - though Louise Slaughter's bill has been pretty dormant since 2006 when it was first introduced was caused by Sarah Palin's "national security" adviser's book that 60 Minutes profiled in an explosive expose. The problem is that the research methods are simplistic and beyond that there are some pretty mindbogling "mistakes". Palin "wrote" an op-ed on insider trading for the WSJ and has spoken of Schweitzer as one of her posse.

Here is the method used. He looked at all committees a legislator was on and then looked at the legally mandated disclosures made. He then identified all transactions made that are for companies in the businesses that the legislator oversees. One example is that he labeled ANY purchase of any health care stock or fund in 2009 suspect for Senators on the Finance or HELP committee suspect - because apparently it was insider information that they were working on a health care bill. Then, to add more smoke to that fire, he found that a year later when the bill passed, the value of these stocks were way up. Ignored is the fact that the market itself rose about 59% from the bottom in 2009 to the spring of 2010. (In fact, they would have done better buying Tiffany in March 2009 - as it went up about 250% by April 2010) It should also be noted that he ignored if the transactions occurred in blind accounts or accounts managed by others.

As to the errors, the ones I saw in the excerpts in the media included saying that Kerry was chair of the Finance committee's subcommittee on health in 2003 and thus led the effort on the 2003 drug bill - so like with 2009, any healthcare stocks are suspicious. In fact, it was a Bush supported bill and the republicans controlled the Senate and the bill was written in the full Finance committee. Kerry was running for President speaking against the bill and voted against it. I doubt many here do not know the 2003 bill was not a Democratic bill. Another error - likely coming from having created the above "truth" was to then suggest that Kerry was on the Health committee (HELP) and could have been informed of any Bush HHS change in drugs covered. Kerry was not on Kennedy's committee and before arguing insider information it would seem prudent to actually determine if the HHS department notifies the House and/or Senate about routine executive functions - such as which drugs are covered. My guess - they don't - - thus the weasel word "could".

The Boston Globe looked at a more comprehensive analysis that showed that if you look at all transactions - instead of cherry picked ones - legislators do not do better than others. http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-14/bostonglobe/30516909_1_insider-suspicious-trades-portfolio

Here is a defense one Colorado Democrat, who had done everything anyone would have asked to avoid conflict of interest, but was still named by Palin's goon, wrote. http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_19801816

In addition, there is something wrong when an analysis like that is made and the person intending to level serious charges at public officials that will damage their reputations and question their integrity, that NO effort was made to ask the accused for any response. In addition, publicly available information that diminishes the likelihood of culpability is ignored. That is true in the case of the Colorado legislator and in the case of John Kerry. (In Kerry's case all the transactions mentioned were made by the Heinz trust, that Teresa is one of many beneficiaries but not a trustee of - and that was clear on the Senate disclosure.) When the allegation came out, Kerry demanded a retraction - http://www.businessinsider.com/insider-trading-congress-john-kerry-retraction-peter-schweizer-2011-11 )

My guess is that Obama is attempting to head off in the pass what otherwise would be a Palin led attack in the 2012 election. Counterintuitive as it is, the republicans may see that further diminishing the historically low confidence in Congress is good for the anti-Government wing of the Republican party. Not to mention - it could make the ethics rules tighter which was one of the things Obama did as a Senator. Oddly, this might be the only regulation the republicans are for.

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