I'm Just Sayin
By T.L. Johnson
Equal Protection Under The Law (Don’t Count On It)
Let’s talk about organized crime, or more specifically, the U. S. Congress. On the evening of November 13, 2011, the long running CBS television news magazine show, 60 Minutes, ran an expose’ delineating how members of Congress, their employees, as well as friends and family have access to information not available to the general public (Miller). Members who sat on financial committees were given information on banking laws in the works and members of the defense committees knew which defense contracts might or might not get approved and the list goes on. By itself, this fact would appear rather innocuous since, if you sat on one of these committees, it would be expected that you would have this knowledge. It only becomes disturbing and unfair when members of these committees and many others use this information to attain personal wealth while, if an ordinary citizen acted in this manner, he would most likely go to prison if caught. Other Congresspeople are a bit more devious in how they go about manipulating their power to enrich themselves. They will manipulate legislation to benefit themselves in ways that aren’t obvious to the casual observer i.e. making land purchases near the site of a proposed new highway (see Dennis Hastert, http://www.sprawlway.org/sunlight.html), all done by a trust with some generic sounding name.
This sort of thing isn’t new to Washington. It was widely used after the Civil War by carpetbaggers and is used all of the time by both parties in the form of gerrymandering or redistricting. There are, no doubt, many more and far more egregious examples of this sort of underhanded thing that one could find with little effort. These sorts of things have become part of the “fabric” of Washington D.C.
It is the exception rather than the rule that a person of modest means gets elected to Congress and serves more than two terms and returns home with the same modest means, if he/she returns home at all. Apparently, “working” only a few months a year and getting paid $175,000 for your troubles just won’t do. It has become part and parcel of being in Congress that you sell your vote, your influence, and your integrity. And, as always, when confronted or questioned on some of these matters, the two most common reactions are indignation and denial or stonewalling and avoiding the media.
The upshot of all of this is that, after the 60Minutes piece aired, a bill was introduced in Congress and eventually became the “STOCK Act” or the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act”. It was supposed to make it illegal, even though there were already laws on the books to address this, for members of Congress, the legislative and judicial branches to make stock trades based on information that was not available to the general public, thus taking away any advantage that they might have in regard to insider information. All transactions that fell under the purview of this act were supposed to be reported within 30 days and no later than 45 days after having occurred. It was considered in compliance if this information was posted on the House of Representatives or the Senate’s official website within the allotted time and thereby making the dealings of our elected officials more transparent and available to the public.
What follows is a partial quote from President Obama as posted on the Huffington Post website on May 2, 2013 in reference to signing the STOCK Act on April 4, 2012.
“WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed legislation Wednesday barring members of Congress, the president and thousands of federal workers from profiting from nonpublic information learned on the job, calling it an embodiment of the fundamental American value of fair play.
Obama said the move to bar insider trading among lawmakers would assure everyone "plays by the same rules."
"It's the notion that the powerful shouldn't get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else," Obama said.”
Now; as reported by the Forbes website on April 21, 2013, in true Washington fashion, Congress quietly repealed the part of the STOCK Act that required them to post their financial dealings on the respective Senate and House of Representatives websites citing findings by the National Academy of Public Administration that to do so could possibly put Congressional aides and White House staffers at risk. What they fail to mention is that the information is still public and can still be found in Washington. Hmm, makes you wonder if the enemies of the United States, you know the ones who study everything there is about the U.S, would ever think or go to the trouble to look up the dealings of some low level staffer and link them to a particular senator or representative and blackmail them into divulging information that was to be top secret, so sensitive that our national security would be at risk, or if that would even be possible. Not likely.
Here is the quote from NAPA that set the wheels in motion for Congress to, once again, absolve themselves from any responsibility for their actions or make them accountable to anyone for their murky ethics.
“NAPA concluded that the online database would result in “negative outcomes to the missions of national security and law enforcement agencies and their staff members,” citing national security and law enforcement officials. It pointed to a letter by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and others warning that the online database “would be a jackpot for enemies of the United States intent on finding security vulnerabilities they can exploit … (and) will jeopardize the safety of executive branch officials.””
These days Congress couldn’t agree on what the date was much less do anything that would help the people who elected their sorry butts. But when it comes to enabling themselves to cheat the system, to breach the trust put in them by the public, to give themselves every advantage, there is not an iota of difference between the parties and the repeal of the public disclosure part of the STOCK Act that was passed unanimously.
It’s easy to win the game if you’re the one who gets to make the rules. And, if it looks like the game isn’t going your way, even though you wrote the rules, no problem, just change the rules to suit yourself to ensure a win. We don’t get to do that, why should members of Congress, the President, the Judiciary?
Associated Press, . "Obama Signs STOCK Act Into Law."Huff Post Politics. TheHuffingtonPost.com Inc, 02 May 2012. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/obama-signs-stock-act_n_1402669.html>.
Miller, Zeke. "'60Minutes' Blows the lid off congressional insider trading." Business Insider. Business Insider Inc, 14 Nov 2011. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-11-14/politics/30396448_1_stock-market-market-moving-information-trades>.
Vardi, Nathan. "Did Obama And Congress Use National Security Fears To Gut The Stock Act?." Forbes. Forbes.com LLC, 21 04 2013. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2013/04/21/did-obama-and-congress-use-national-security-fears-to-gut-the-stock-act/>.