House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) faced criticism on Wednesday for introducing a version of the STOCK Act which many said had severely weakened the legislation.
“Rep. Cantor has opposed the STOCK Act from the start and his bill reflects that,” said Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “The majority leader is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He is trying to take credit for finally responding to an issue that has outraged Americans, while behind closed doors he has taken the side of Wall Street and neutered the tough Senate bill.”
In a rare showing of bipartisanship, the Senate voted 93 to 3 last week to approve the STOCK Act.
The bill prohibits lawmakers and their staff from trading stocks based on information they learn during congressional briefings and related work, among others things. It corrects the ambiguity in existing laws by empowering the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to ensure that members of Congress and their staff can be held accountable for illegally trading on non-public information.
Cantor's version of the legislation, however, did not include provisions that require registration by political intelligence consultants, strip pension benefits from corrupt members of Congress and close loopholes in the nation’s anti-corruption laws.
"I am deeply disappointed that House leadership has chosen to remove the anti-corruption amendment Senator Cornyn and I offered to the STOCK Act," Leahy said. "The amendment was adopted with overwhelming support in the Senate. These provisions are the culmination of years of work on these issues by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House, and would strengthen and clarify key aspects of Federal criminal law to help investigators and prosecutors attack public corruption nationwide."
Cantor's version of the STOCK Act also omits a provision that would require political-intelligence practitioners to adhere to the same registration requirements of lobbyists.
“It’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who proposed the amendment, said. "The Senate clearly voted to try to shed light on an industry that’s behind the scenes. If the Senate language is too broad, as opponents say, why not propose a solution instead of scrapping the provision altogether?"
The bill is set for a House vote Thursday.