Washington, D.C. is a town that runs on inside information – but should our elected officials be able to use that information to pad their own pockets? As Steve Kroft reports, members of Congress and their aides have regular access to powerful political intelligence, and many have made well-timed stock market trades in the very industries they regulate. For now, the practice is perfectly legal, but some say it’s time for the law to change.
Most former congressmen and senators manage to leave Washington – if they ever leave Washington – with more money in their pockets than they had when they arrived, and as you are about to see, the biggest challenge is often avoiding temptation.
Peter Schweizer: This is a venture opportunity. This is an opportunity to leverage your position in public service and use that position to enrich yourself, your friends, and your family.
Peter Schweizer is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University. A year ago he began working on a book about soft corruption in Washington with a team of eight student researchers, who reviewed financial disclosure records. It became a jumping off point for our own story, and we have independently verified the material we’ve used.
Schweizer says he wanted to know why some congressmen and senators managed to accumulate significant wealth beyond their salaries, and proved particularly adept at buying and selling stocks.
Schweizer: There are all sorts of forms of honest grafts that congressmen engage in that allow them to become very, very wealthy. So it’s not illegal, but I think it’s highly unethical, I think it’s highly offensive, and wrong.
Read the rest here.
Pelosi’s camp has since blasted CBS and “60 Minutes” for the report:
“Congress has never done more for consumers nor has the Congress passed more critical reforms of the credit card industry than under the Speakership of Nancy Pelosi,” Pelosi spokesman, Drew Hammill, said in a statement soon after the report aired Sunday night.
“It is very troubling that 60 Minutes would base their reporting off of an already-discredited conservative author who has made a career of out attacking Democrats,” he added.
Pelosi’s spokesman criticized the CBS story for failing to note that the “legislation in question was reported out of the Judiciary Committee on October 3, 2008 — the day the House was consumed in passing TARP and also the last day the House was in session before the November election.”
It also failed to note that in September 2008, the House passed the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, Hammill said.
This story has been updated.