Advertising

Go to the politics section for more local and national politics coverage.

Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

November 14, 2011 at 8:16 AM

Brian Baird talks congressional ethics on 60 Minutes

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- After years of fruitless attempts to make it illegal for members of Congress to profit from priviledged information, former Rep. Brian Baird appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday to denounce Washington's culture of personal enrichment over ethics.

Baird, a Vancouver Democrat who retired last year after six terms, told CBS news correspondent Steve Kroft he couldn't get even a dozen co-sponsors to back a bill that would have applied the ban on insider trading to lawmakers and other federal employees. Baird said lawmakers or their aides could easily make lucrative stock trades based on nonpublic information before a vote or while a legislation is being crafted.

"One line in a bill in Congress can be worth millions and millions of dollars," said Baird, who now lives in Edmonds. "There was one night, we had a late, late night caucus and you could kind of tell how a vote was going to go the next day. I literally walked home and I thought, 'Man, if you,if you went online and made some significant trades, you could make a lot of money on this.' "

According to Kroft's report, members of Congress can get away with financial transactions that would be considered criminal for almost anyone else. For instance, lawmakers can buy or sell stocks in insurers, banks or defense contractors even while working on legislation that would have material impact on those industries.

Kroft said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made money trading health-care stock during the 2009 health-reform debate. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, profitably bet that the stock market would drop after attending a private briefing in September 2008 by then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about the impending financial meltdown.

Bachus and Boehner both denied they acted on non-public information.

Members get other financial perks, too. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband have bought stock in eight companies that went public. One of them was the credit-card giant Visa. Pelosi purchased 5,000 shares at the initial public offering price of $44 a share, which two days later climbed to $64 a share. Pelosi's stock buy was perfectly legal.

While in Congress, Baird repeatedly tried and failed to get his "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act" passed. In March, Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., took over as the main sponsor. The bill bounced around half dozen House committees before stalling.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Here was the most insulting revelation in the 60 minutes story In 2008, Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, then the ranking Republican...  Posted on November 14, 2011 at 10:52 AM by Naksuthin. Jump to comment
Pelosi should be the poster girl for Government corruption because she is the one who said, "drain the swamp" of unethical behavior. She...  Posted on November 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM by justamaz. Jump to comment
Sadly, the only way any of our Senators and Representatives' behavior will change is if we vote them out of office.  Posted on November 14, 2011 at 8:56 AM by theunderlord. Jump to comment

Recent entries

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Browse the archives

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

Contributors

Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.