The president recently gave Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, well-deserved recognition before signing legislation banning insider stock trading by members of Congress and other top federal officials. But, as the congresswoman stated, there is more to be done.
Slaughter advocated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act for six years before it finally passed Congress and was signed by President Obama. After languishing for years, the bill began receiving widespread support after CBS aired a "60 Minutes" report on the subject last November.
Slaughter was unable to attend the signing because of a broken leg, but conveyed her pride at the outcome. She says that the American people can rest assured that their members of Congress and other top federal officials are not acting on information obtained when they're supposed to be representing constituents.
However, the final version of the legislation is missing an important piece of the original bill.
The Senate had originally passed a stronger version of the bill, one that included a requirement that "political intelligence" operatives who pass along congressional information to companies and investors have to register, as lobbyists do.
It's a shame that the GOP-led House decided to pass a narrower bill without the political intelligence provisions. While elected officials were busy offering each other praise and highlighting the passage of the legislation to their constituents, they've left out a key self-policing provision. The law unfortunately still allows a federal aide to pass along information that would otherwise be deemed insider information, whether purposely or accidentally.
Slaughter has waged a battle in getting her colleagues to do the right thing. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., attended the signing ceremony and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was an early advocate in the Senate.
But it shouldn't be forgotten that it took a long time for this bill, though not as strong as the original, to gain traction. The "60 Minutes" report shone a spotlight on business as usual in a down economy. It doesn't take a genius politician to figure out that backing the STOCK Act would look good back home.
Slaughter, Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are now pushing for separate legislation that would add the political intelligence provision, which Slaughter had called the most important part of her proposal. All three need to keep pushing their colleagues to strengthen the law.
Let's just hope that final provision wins approval before another six years pass.