Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Lawmakers or Lawbreakers?
Lawmakers or Lawbreakers?
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 16, 2011
Remember those Hebrew National commercials where the voice-over says “we answer to a higher authority?” To whom does Congress answer? Who is their higher authority?
The answer is twofold – they answer to the laws which they are entrusted to create as well as we the people who have the power to fire or rehire them every other year. Problem is the members of Congress take both for granted.
The latest kerfuffle in the House of Representatives is regarding the issue of insider trading. Insider trading is taking privileged information and using it for financial gain while others do not have equal access – akin to the charges that are levied upon stockbrokers and the like when dealing with a so-called “hot tip;” a tip either Wall Street folks or members of Congress have exclusivity over the general public.
Insider trading is illegal – has been since 1934. So how do members of Congress earning $174,000 per annum in 2011 manage to leave the House and Senate worth millions? And that salary is for the everyday, run of the mill member of the Congress. Majority and minority leaders in both houses earn $193,400 while the Speaker of the House brings home $223,500.
The answer to the aforementioned question will leave you apoplectic. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 – passed by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt does not apply to Congress. OK, take a moment, go back and read that again. Congress passed a law that applies to the rest of the country, except themselves, allowing them to gain unprecedented wealth in a less than kosher manner – inside information – again, information to which the rest of the folks are not privy.
If this action is not illegal, why, with the release of two new books castigating this broken system and those who have benefited from it, are myriad members of Congress denying they ever made financial gains through this manner? And while this epidemic is a contagion on both sides of the aisle, it is nothing new.
Former lobbyist and restaurateur Jack Abramoff who spent three and a half years in prison for influence peddling, wrote Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist. Hoover Institute fellow Peter Schweizer penned Throw Them All Out. Both books expose the world of insider trading in Congress.
This behavior is simply licentious. Congress’s very own built in sweetheart deal – exempting themselves from the very law they created and passed to keep the public form corrupt practices. Where is the leading by example?
Now, a mere 77 years later, Congress is attempting to right the wrong left to them by the ghost of Congress past. The burning question is whether or not Congress should be held to the same laws as the rest of the American people. This is an institution with an approval rating so low it needs to look up to see hell – nine to 13 percent depending upon the poll.
Since 2006 myriad attempts have been made to pass legislation no longer exempting members of Congress from insider trading laws. Finally, there is a bill that is gaining some traction. As of Wednesday, November 16, there are 43 sponsors of the legislation, when just two days prior there were only nine.
Members of Congress are answerable to the laws they create and pass as well as the rank and file who send them to Washington. We have the vital responsibility to hold them accountable and pay attention to their behavior and votes. Any member of Congress voting against such legislation should be fired in the 2012 election – regardless of party affiliation. Remember, they work for us, not the other way around.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.