WASHINGTON D.C. - President Barack Obama signed the anti-insider trading STOCK Act into law Wednesday, bringing regulation of members of Congress and the executive branch in line with the average U.S. citizens.
First District Representative Democrat Tim Walz attended the signing, standing directly behind Obama.
Walz shepherded the bill through Congress. Support for the bill followed a "60 Minutes" expose. The bill passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate.
Tim Walz, 1st Congressional District representative from Mankato, looks over President Barack Obama's shoulder as the president signs the STOCK Act into law.
(Associated Press photo by /Carolyn Kaster)
"I'm really pleased we could get this bill all the way into law," said Walz, "[To be at the signing] was a great honor for me. It did feel a bit bizarre to be standing right there with president and the vice president next to me."
The STOCK Act makes it illegal for members of Congress, their staff, the executive branch and other federal employees to use non-public information they learn in their jobs to profit in the stock market. The bill also requires members of Congress, the president, vice president and senior congressional and executive branch employees to report any sale or exchange of stock, bonds and other commodities in excess of $1,000 within 30 to 45 days. The law also has language that prohibits bonuses for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"Hopefully this is one step closer to restoring the public's faith in Congress," said Walz.
One piece of unfinished business from the STOCK Act is how Congress will deal with political intelligence firms.
Political intelligence firms are organizations that communicate with lawmakers to learn information, sometimes non-public information, and sell what they learn to investment entities.
The original version of the STOCK Act attempted to regulate these entities. When concerns over the regulation's wording emerged, the provision on dealing with the firms was stripped out to guarantee the core bill's passage.
However, the removal of the regulation was only allowed after compromise agreement to require a congressional study of political intelligence firms.
With the STOCK Act now law, the study must be conducted within exactly one year. Depending on the study's findings, it could lead to legislation dealing specifically with the firms.
Walz said he is working on a bill to introduce alongside the study, so that hearings can simultaneously be held on the subject. He hopes that his bill or study will see movement before the November elections, but he acknowledged that goal might be difficult to achieve.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)