Friday, February 17, 2012

Elected insiders should not profit

If you work at an investment banking firm and you overhear some private insider information and you act on it to buy a stock, or you hear some bad news and you sell a stock short, you can find yourself in big trouble. But if you're a member of Congress on an oversight committee and hear that same insider information about a company and you buy or sell its stock, well that's just fortuitous.

There is little that irritates or infuriates us more than members of Congress using their offices to enrich themselves rather than to serve their constituents.

And now, with great flourishes, they've taken action that should have been taken years before, and they wonder why Congress has only a 10 percent approval rating. One might ask why it's that high.

Even more infuriating is that only after this insider trading skullduggery was brought to light, the House of Representatives rushed to pass legislation, weakened from original proposals, to outlaw its members' doing what was already illegal for the rest of us. Amazingly, it passed by 417 to 2. How could voters possibly feel anything other than a sense of betrayal?

The question voters should ask members of the House, and Senate, which has not yet voted, is not whether they were part of the 400-plus. None are likely to be openly in favor of allowing elected officials to cheat. Voters need to ask whether their representative profited from insider knowledge and whether they are willing to answer without equivocation.

Those who have may not be prosecuted for such double-dealing, but come November, they may need to start looking for another job.

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