A year ago President Obama signed the so-called STOCK Act. The point of the act was to allow the public to see for themselves if members of Congress and their employees were trading on material, non-public information. "The STOCK Act: Bans Members of Congress from Insider Trading" was the bolded headline at the top of a lengthy and self-congratulatory press release.
Last Monday the White House website took the guts out of the STOCK Act in one run-on sentence under the headline "Statement by the Press Secretary on S. 76." Those so inclined are invited to read the memo themselves. The gist is that disclosures will no longer be practically available for all employees but only for the elected officials, which means staffers, lobbyists, employees, aides and anyone who works for or is close to a serving politician can do whatever they want. Corrupt officials could theoretically still dish insider info with little fear of discovery — it's just hard for them to trade off of the information themselves.
The idea of transparency is to remove doubt about conflicts of interest and malfeasance, real or imagined. When the rules are quietly changed to such a degree, it defeats the purpose entirely.
Hank Smith of Haverford joined Breakout to discuss this backtracking. "We only have ourselves to blame because we're the ones voting these clowns in," notes Smith in the attached video. It's a fair point, but the government doesn't make it easy for the public to see these flip-flops. The STOCK Act passage was on the front page. When it got de-fanged, the announcement was so buried that only the most hardcore of wonks could find the news.
Smith thinks the existing regulations are deeply flawed but more than sufficient to level the investing playing field if the same rules applied to everyone and were enforced consistently. When the laws are baffling and when those entrusted by the public to look out for citizens quietly carve out exemptions for themselves, the STOCK Act and everything of the sort is little more than a cynical attempt to con the unwitting.
It is our responsibility, as voters, to raise our collective voice against the double-dealing sleaze like the phony STOCK Act and its quiet neutering. If you've read this far, take it to the next level: Let your Congressperson know you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore.
- Politics & Government