Tuesday, November 22, 2011 : Bachus urged by Frank to do something about political profiteering on non-public information
The political repercussions of last weekend's "Sixty Minutes" program on political enrichment by using non-public information are rippling outwards, according to the latest media reports from the United States.
In the latest development, Rep. Barney Frank has written to Rep. Spencer Bachus, one of the politicians named in the Sixty Minutes expose and the current chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, urging him to support a measure to combat the so-called ‘soft corruption' of politicians using confidential information obtained in their duties to make shrewd and profitable share buys.
The television expose catapulted the STOCK Act, first introduced in 2006 but condemned to obscurity by a lack of interest from Congressional delegates, to prominence this week, and it has already attracted 46 co-sponsors.
The Washington DC publication Politico quotes from Frank's letter:
“I did not pay sufficient attention to this when it was first discussed with me, in part because I did not see this as a problem that was of any great substance,” Frank wrote, explaining why he had not taken the measure up whilst he was chair of the Financial Services Committee..
“I am still not sure that this is widespread, but given the attention that we have seen on this matter now, and given the importance of those whom we represent being fully assured that we are behaving appropriately, I think that we should now take up this legalization and, after suitable study, enact some version of it.”
Bachus has been quick to react to the Sixty Minutes program, denying any suggestions that he acted inappropriately, and agreeing to schedule a hearing on the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.
The politician, who is infamous among online gamblers for his opposition to the pastime, appeared midweek on the Kudlow Report, a news television program about business and politics hosted by Lawrence Kudlow, and airing on the CNBC network.
Bachus denied the allegations made against him in the book “Throw Them All Out” by Peter Schweizer, claiming that he had profited on stock deals because of his market knowledge and diligence in studying the movement of shares every day.
His denial was later refuted by Schweizer, who described Bachus's claim that the book and subsequent television coverage was a plot against him as "ridiculous", pointing out that the politician had made 40 options trades during the sub-prime financial crisis and profited therefrom whilst he was involved in Congressional discussions.
Bachus has also reportedly protested to the publisher of Schweizer's book claiming he had not been approached for comment, and that the publication contained serious untruths and errors of fact.
Schweizer has rejected these claims, saying that Bachus failed to respond to an invitation to comment, and that he had access to information that enabled him to make profits from non-public information.