Matt Lewis

The case for a clean STOCK Act

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

While the notion that Members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to use “inside information” to buy and sell stock is perfectly rational, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley‘s amendment to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act raises new concerns.

Grassley’s amendment might attract support from those who worry that consultants like former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Democratic Leader Tom Daschle never registered as lobbyists. But it would also force information consultants and financial advisers to register — even if they merely gather and share information about potential legislation regarding finances or financial services — and never attempt to woo a single Congressman.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has raised sensible questions about the amendment — and there are many potential problems to consider. Obviously, there are First Amendment questions. And failing to register as a lobbyist could result in civil or criminal penalties for those who collect and disseminate information. Additionally, the process of registering additional lobbyists — and policing this activity — would unquestionably require more government bureaucrats. These are just a few of the concerns.

At the moment, the House has not taken a position on the Grassley amendment. But Republican Members likely won’t want to slow down the considerable momentum for a much-needed reform that stemmed from an explosive book authored by Peter Schweizer. The book was launched on a segment of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and featured a confrontation between “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Again, a clean STOCK Act makes perfect sense. But in the process of providing much-needed additional transparency, one hopes Congress doesn’t over-regulate the grassroots communication industry — and in the process — necessitate additional government bureaucracy to manage it.