In 2011, CBS’ 60 minutes ran a report on some of the perks advance knowledge offers to members of Congress, and how some have availed themselves of them. The two videos below comprise both the original story and a follow up by Steve Kroft, based on the research of a conservative Stanford University professor.
I post these here as a reminder of the many ways the neo-conservative and liberal bents in politics drive members’ votes and then are enshrined in policy.
Note: CBS no longer offers an embed code for these segments. They are available from YouTube:
From the 60 Minutes website:
Congress: Trading stock on inside information?
Steve Kroft reports that members of Congress can legally trade stock based on non-public information from Capitol Hill
Editor’s Note: The report “Insiders” received quite a reaction the week after it aired. Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office called the report a “right-wing smear.” While Republican Speaker John Boehner’s office called his inclusion in the story “idiotic.” But now, at least 93 members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of the Stock Act, and for the first time the bill has been introduced in the Senate.
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.
The following is a script of “Insiders” which aired on Nov. 13, 2011. Steve Kroft is correspondent, Ira Rosen and Gabrielle Schonder, producers.
The next national election is now less than a year away and congressmen and senators are expending much of their time and their energy raising the millions of dollars in campaign funds they’ll need just to hold onto a job that pays $174,000 a year.
Few of them are doing it for the salary and all of them will say they are doing it to serve the public. But there are other benefits: Power, prestige, and the opportunity to become a Washington insider with access to information and connections that no one else has, in an environment of privilege where rules that govern the rest of the country, don’t always apply to them.
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.