After the CBS news show “60 Minutes” reported last year that members of the U.S. House and Senate were making financial transactions that hinted of insider trading, Congress swiftly passed a bill making the records of such transactions open to the public.
Congress was embarrassed then, and it should be ashamed now. Just a few weeks ago, Congress quietly repealed portions of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK), and made it harder for the public to get this information.
The CBS report found suspicious trading activity. Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, for example, who then was chair of the House Financial Services Committee, made more than 200 trades in December of 2008. That was the peak of the nation’s financial crisis and his committee would have had intimate knowledge unknown to the general public.
The online documents don’t contain detailed information, but under the guise of protecting identity theft, Congress changed the STOCK act and President Barack Obama signed it. Congressional staff no longer will have to post their trading records online.
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Perhaps we’re being too cynical. Perhaps federal lawmakers have no ill intent. It’s still a shameful blow to government transparency, and we oppose it.