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Weekly Column

January 30, 2012

STOCK Act Sets the Right Standard

Members of Congress are sent to Washington with the trust of those who elected them. Not only are we responsible for making laws, but also for abiding by them and holding ourselves, at a minimum, to standards which are commonplace in Nebraska: discipline, honesty, integrity. That's why I support a bill that would make it explicitly illegal for members of Congress and the executive branch to engage in insider trading. The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act sets the right standard for Congress and reflects the trust placed in us by those we represent.

In order for members of Congress to legislate effectively, we sometimes are made aware of information not publically available. This is especially true in the case of the Senate Intelligence Committee (on which I do not serve), which handles critical issues of national security. Other times, a public official might have a good understanding of what the impact --positive or negative -- of a certain action will be, and as such could make an educated guess as to its impact on the markets and stock prices. The STOCK Act is based on the premise that public representatives shouldn't be able to profit financially from information other Americans don't have. And I agree.

The STOCK Act, currently being considered by the Senate, was introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut. It explicitly states that members of Congress as well as the executive branch cannot buy or sell stocks, bonds or commodities futures based on non-public information. It additionally requires Congressional decision-makers to more frequently report the purchase or sale of any stock or commodity over $1000.

Lastly, it directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on the role of Washington firms which do business in this area -- known as "political intelligence firms." These firms acquire and organize information from Capitol Hill and in turn sell it to interested parties; the GAO report will illuminate whether something further should be done to monitor or restrain these firms.

I could not be more supportive of this bill, and I'm now a cosponsor of the STOCK Act. I look forward to passing it through the Senate and working to get it to the President's desk. It should enjoy swift approval and hopefully will soon be the law of the land.

You sent me and others to Washington to craft good laws to make our country better. In doing so, you deserve a very high standard from your public officials. I embrace that standard, and it should be made crystal clear to all Americans that all members of Congress are acting in good faith. The Nebraska standard of honesty and integrity should be upheld by all public servants.

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