Congress tries to police itself

By Larry Margasak

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 9:04 p.m. MST

WASHINGTON — Aware that most Americans would like to dump them all, members of Congress hope to regain some sense of trust by subjecting themselves to tougher penalties for insider trading and requiring they disclose stock transactions within 30 days.

A procedural vote Monday would allow the Senate later this week to pass a bill prohibiting members of Congress from using nonpublic information for their own personal benefit or "tipping" others to inside information that they could trade on.

Insider trading laws apply to all Americans, but CBS' "60 Minutes" in November said members of Congress get a pass, citing investment transactions by party leaders and a committee chairman in businesses about to be affected by pending legislation.

The broadcast report raised questions about trades of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; the husband of Democratic leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California; and Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

All three denied using any insider information to make stock trades, but the broadcast set off a flurry of efforts in Washington to deal with the public perception.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of registered voters found 56 percent of them favor replacing the entire 535-member Congress. Other polls this year have given Congress an approval rating between 11 percent and 13 percent, while disapproval percentages have ranged from 79 percent to 86 percent.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he's working on an expanded bill that would go beyond stock transactions and ban lawmakers from making land deals and other investments based on what they learned as members of Congress.

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