It Isn’t Insider Trading When Congressmen Do It: Ann Woolner

October 14, 2010 04:02

Laws that criminalize insider trading cover corporate insiders and those they tip, but not specifically Congress. And while scholars differ on whether existing law could be applied on Capitol Hill, it hasn’t been.

Ann Woolner at


This week the Wall Street Journal reported that during the past two calendar years, 72 congressional aides from both parties made trades in companies that their bosses’ help oversee. Among them are top advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Their timely investments proved profitable, but the staffers deny the trades sprung from inside knowledge, the Journal reported.

U.S. senators, representatives and congressional staffers routinely attend high level, closed briefings or engage in conversations where secrets are disclosed that might send shares climbing or slumping if widely known.

“This is an area in which the public is quite justifiably suspicious about dual standards,” says Representative Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state.

Congress should be ashamed of itself for not passing a law forbidding conduct that is criminal if anyone else does it. Why not assure voters that the people they put in Congress aren’t putting their portfolios ahead of solid public policy?


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