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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Can Rep. Bachus And His Money-Crazed Congressional Colleagues Be Stopped From Insider Trading?

A growing list of legislators use their office to play a game of "Who Wants to Be a Multi-millionaire?" But there is legislation that could potentially stop them.

Back in the Gilded Age, venality was the rule in Congress. Bribes were as common as tobacco pipes. Lawmakers fattened their bank accounts through insider deals, with the needs of ordinary people an afterthought. Nelson Aldrich, a powerful Republican who served in the Senate from 1881 to 1911, was that corrupt era’s political poster boy, serving on the Finance Committee and using his position to invest in railroads, sugar, rubber and banking deals that made him rich.

Sound familiar? It should. We’re well on our way to repeating that money-crazed chapter in American history as a growing list of legislators use their office to play the game, "Who Wants to Be a Multi-millionaire?”

Last week we learned that Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Alabama, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics – the first such case involving a member of Congress. The probe comes at a time when America’s ethics alarm bells are ringing loudly. In the business world, trading on insider information is a crime punishable with prison time, but Congress operates in a different – and very lucrative -- universe. Recently, the House and the Senate have been debating legislation to stiffen rules on insider trading by lawmakers in the wake of a "60 Minutes" report and a book focusing on the topic, Throw Them All Out, by Peter Schweizer of the conservative Hoover Foundation. But the legislation, known as the STOCK Act, appears to be stalling.


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