Southwest Washington’s former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird was on “60 Minutes” on Sunday as part of a segment that highlighted how insider trading laws don’t apply to members of Congress.
Baird, a former psychology professor who served six terms in Congress before deciding not to seek re-election in 2010, told CBS correspondent Steve Kroft that he and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, were unsuccessful co-sponsors of the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act. The act would have made it illegal for lawmakers to trade stocks on nonpublic information.
The legislation quickly died, said Baird. There are members of Congress who make serious money in stocks, he added, and nobody wanted to even talk reform. He thinks they got maybe six co-sponsors.
“You can have National Cherry Pie Week and get 100 co-sponsors,” said Baird, a Democrat who lives in Edmonds.
The Baird-Slaughter bill would have:
o Required members of Congress and employees to report the purchase, sale, or exchange of any stock, bond, or commodities future transaction exceeding $1,000 within 30 days. Members and employees who placed their stock holding in blind trusts or mutual funds would be exempt from this requirement.
o Required firms that specialize in political intelligence gathering to register with the House and Senate, as lobbying firms are now required to do.
o Prohibited members or employees of Congress from buying or selling stocks, bonds, or commodities futures based on nonpublic information they obtain as part of their official duties or status.
o Prohibited investors outside Congress from buying or selling stocks, bonds or commodities futures based on nonpublic information obtained from sources inside Congress.
o Prohibited members of Congress, their employees, or others to disclose nonpublic information about pending or prospective legislation if they believe it will be used to trade stocks, bonds, or commodities futures.
In Sunday’s segment, Kroft interviewed Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Schweizer and a team of students pored over financial disclosure records of Congressional members and learned how many have incredible luck in the stock market.
Baird said lawmakers should only be asking one question when drafting legislation: “Is this good for the United States of America?” Lawmakers should not be thinking about how a bill will affect their stocks, Baird said.
“One line in a bill in Congress can be worth millions and millions of dollars,” Baird said. “There was one night, we had a late, late night caucus and you could kind of tell how a vote was going to go the next day. I literally walked home and I thought, ‘Man, if you, if you went online and made some significant trades, you could make a lot of money on this.’ “
Miss the show? The segment is available online at http://www.cbsnews.com. Click on “60 Minutes.”