Ever since Governor Palin’s September speech in Indianola on crony capitalism, politicians from both sides of the aisle have been falling all over themselves to jump on the bandwagon. In reality of course, most of their new-found zeal is more a show for public consumption rather than an actual desire to clean up the cesspool that has made most of them rich. What incentive do they really have to stop using their positions of power to feather their own nests?
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed one week ago, Governor Palin detailed some of the astonishing, yet technically legal, corruption that our vaunted members of Congress engage in on a daily basis. This followed an appearance on 60 Minutes by Governor Palin’s adviser Peter Schweizer, who has a new book on this topic, “Throw them All Out”, which is doing quite well in terms of sales. Governor Palin’s efforts may be paying off, at least to some extent, as it now appears some in the Washington Establishment are getting the message, or at least pretending to. Via Peter Sullivan at The Hill:
Politically vulnerable lawmakers are lining up as co-sponsors of legislation that would ban congressional insider trading.
A “60 minutes” report earlier this month indicated that members of Congress have been trading stocks based on knowledge gained from their positions, a practice that does not violate the law.
Before the report, a House bill that would outlaw the practice only had nine co-sponsors. In the week following the “60 Minutes” segment, that number jumped to 92. Of the 83 additions, 19 are facing competitive reelection races as defined by the Cook Political Report.
Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who is seeking reelection in blue Massachusetts and will likely face Elizabeth Warren, a champion of Wall Street reform, introduced a version in the upper chamber two days after the report aired. Two of the four co-sponsors, Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), are facing challenging reelection battles in 2012.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a third version three days later. She and four of the seven co-sponsors are up for reelection in 2012. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who both face races rated as toss-ups, are among those that have signed on.
The House bill, titled the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, was first introduced in 2006 by then-Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). The measure was reintroduced it in each Congress since then, but the bill never got out of committee and never received more than 14 co-sponsors until the “60 minutes” piece aired.
Now, both the House Financial Services and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees have scheduled hearings on the legislation next week.
Wow. That’s quite a burst of legislative exertion for these folks, and all because of the actions over the last couple of months of a supposedly irrelevant former Governor of Alaska. Even the White House hasn’t demonstrated this much influence in Congress, and the Senate is controlled by Obama’s own party. To be sure, the fact that many of these lawmakers are in tight electoral races may cause a cynic (like me) to question their motives. Are they really sudden converts to the good-government cause, or are they more interested in keeping their jobs? I suspect the latter.
Does it really matter, though? For my money results are more important than motive, and if Governor Palin’s exposure of this pervasive institutional corruption has resulted in at least some effort by our political class to reduce it, we’re moving in the right direction, even if we still have a long way to go. This is more vindication of Governor Palin’s belief that one doesn’t necessarily need a title to effect positive change. Of course we all have to stay focused on this, as many of these politicians exhibiting a sense of moral efficacy today may lose interest after the next election.