Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, announced Wednesday she is signing on as a co-sponsor of a bill to prevent insider trading by federal elected officials and staffers, following up on an effort that her predecessor pushed without success. The fact that she has an average net worth ranked 498th out of 530 members of congress might have had something to do with it.
According to the website Opensecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics, “These days, being a millionaire typically qualifies you as part of the one percent. But in Congress, it only makes you average.”
Not so for Herrera Beutler. An Open Secrets study based on 2010 financial data found she had an average net worth of just $8,000 in a field of elected officials boasting 249 millionaires and an average congressional member net worth of $2.38 million. Only 29 had a zero or negative net worth. None were from Washington state.
The “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge,” or STOCK Act, is similar to that championed by Herrera Beutler’s predecessor in Washington’s 3rd congressional district, Democrat Brian Baird. A bill similar to that, originally sponsored by Baird, was reintroduced by Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., earlier this year, and Herrera Beutler is now a co-sponsor. The bill would prohibit members and employees of Congress from profiting from nonpublic information they obtain through their positions where, Baird said during a CBS “60 Minutes” segment that aired over the weekend, “One line in a bill in Congress can be worth millions and millions of dollars,” to congressional members and staffers privy to nonpublic information presented to them during the course of their jobs in Congress.
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According to a press release by Herrera Beutler’s office, under the proposed STOCK Act, members of Congress, their staff and executive branch staff:
• Are prohibited from buying or selling securities, swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information they obtain through their jobs.
• Cannot share nonpublic information about legislative action for purposes of investing or profiting from investment.
• Are required to report investment transactions valuing in excess of $1,000 within 90 days (transactions involving blind trusts and mutual funds are excluded).
The bill also requires agencies specializing in political intelligence that get information directly from Congress to register with the House and Senate, similar to lobbying organizations.