On Sunday, a report by CBS’ 60 Minutes revealed that House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) received private briefings during the height of the economic crisis in 2008 (when he was that committee’s ranking member) and proceeded to make stock trades the next day betting that the markets would fall. In fact, Bachus made about 200 trades as the financial crisis peaked, netting about $28,000.
Bachus was able to get away with this behavior because, in large measure, Congress is believed to be immune to insider trading laws (though whether the law actually says that is the subject of some debate). During a campaign event today, 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich — who has climbed near the top of some recent polls — was asked whether insider trading laws should apply to Congress and said that they “absolutely” should:
I think the laws that have passed Congress should explicitly apply to Congress and in the Contract with America in 1994 we did that. And I think that things like insider trading should also apply to members of Congress. Absolutely.
Between this position and his newfound belief that deregulating Wall Street in the 1990s was “probably a mistake,” one could almost be fooled into believing that Gingrich has some interest in regulating financial markets.
But as it turns out, Gingrich may have his own insider trading problem. TPM2012′s Evan McMorris-Santoro highlighted a 1995 Mother Jones investigation finding that, “in January 1992, Gingrich bought between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of Boeing stock. Three weeks later, when the House introduced the NASA Authorization Act, Gingrich helped kill amendments to cut funding for the space station program. Later, Boeing became the prime contractor for the station.” A study released this year by Donna Nagley of Indiana University found that at least “72 [congressional] aides on both sides of the aisle traded shares of companies that their bosses help oversee.”