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Grassley, Others Rip House STOCK Act

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is ripping the House version of a major reform bill released late Tuesday, calling it “astonishing” that House GOP leaders would drop a provision requiring “political intelligence” consultants to register as lobbyists.

“It’s astonishing and extremely disappointing that the House would fulfill Wall Street’s wishes by killing this provision,” Grassley said in a statement.

The House version of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act eliminates the registration provision and requires a study of the political intelligence industry, which provides Wall Street stock traders information on political news that could move markets.

The STOCK Act codifies a ban on insider trading by Members of Congress. The Senate passed the bill last week.

Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said the provision was removed because it was overly broad and may have had unintended consequences.

“This provision was extremely broad and its impact would have raised more questions than it answered. Worse, the unintended consequences on the provision could have affected the First Amendment rights of everyone participating in local rotaries to national media conglomerates. For example, members of the media who report on federal and Congressional issues to a paid subscriber list might have to register as a political intelligence consultants for their reporting under the provision,” Dayspring said.

That reasoning wasn’t good enough for Grassley.

“The Senate clearly voted to try to shed light on an industry that’s behind the scenes. If the Senate language is too broad, as opponents say, why not propose a solution instead of scrapping the provision altogether? I hope to see a vehicle for meaningful transparency through a House-Senate conference or other means. If Congress delays action, the political intelligence industry will stay in the shadows, just the way Wall Street likes it,” Grassley said.

He joined a chorus of watchdog groups and Democrats criticizing the House version of the bill.

Melanie Sloan, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said, “the Cantor provision is a sham and aimed at tricking Americans into thinking he’s dealing with this issue.”

However, CREW is urging Members to vote for the bill because “this is this bill’s only chance,” Sloan said.

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer pointed to another provision missing from the House bill that would have restored portions of criminal law covering public corruption that have been undermined by recent court cases.

The provision, added to the Senate bill by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), is “extremely important and needed to deal with huge loopholes in anti-corruption laws,” Wertheimer said.

Critics of the provision say the Leahy-Cornyn amendment was also overly broad. Wertheimer noted that Cornyn, “a conservative Senator and former [state] attorney general,” backed the bill.

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