Rooting Out the Corrosive Influence of Money in Politics

In last week’s State of the Union Address, the President laid out a blueprint for an economy built to last, where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules, especially those elected officials who have been sent here to Washington.

During the speech, the President called on Congress to pass a bill that makes clear that current insider trading laws apply to Members of Congress. No one should be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information they learned on Capitol Hill. This is a no-brainer. 

I’d like to point out that Executive Branch employees are already covered by the insider trading prohibitions. That’s right -- there are laws on the books to prevent Executive Branch employees from trading stock based on information that is not public. In fact, the SEC and the Department of Justice have brought insider trading actions against employees of the Executive Branch based on this clear authority under the law. So, the Executive Branch is covered. It’s time to make it clear that Congress is subject to the same rules. 

Now, there are some folks out there who suggest the Administration is trying to impose a higher standard on Congress. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only do the insider trading laws already apply to the Executive Branch, but there are other laws on the books that prohibit Executive Branch employees from using their positions to benefit their own personal financial interest. These laws don’t apply to Congress.  

For instance, as a matter of criminal law, Executive Branch employees can’t work on matters that would affect their personal financial interest. There is no criminal conflict of interest law that likewise applies to Members of Congress. Additionally, Executive Branch employees must get rid of private assets that conflict with their official duties or be walled off from decisions that affect their private assets. Members of Congress can hang onto those assets and make decisions that could affect them. 

The Executive Branch employees are currently held to a higher standard. The STOCK Act simply brings Congress closer to that standard. So, we are pleased the Senate is one step closer to passing the STOCK Act.  We urge Congress to pass this bill, and President will sign it right away. 

Dan Pfeiffer is the White House Communications Director
Related Topics: Additional Issues