In November of 2011, the TV show 60 Minutes did a big expose on insider trading within Congress. While everyone else is subject to basic insider trading rules, it turned out that members of Congress were exempt from the rules.
And, as you would imagine, many in Congress have access to market-moving, non-public information. And they made use of it. To make lots and lots of money. Of course, after that report came out and got lots of attention, Congress had to act, and within months they had passed the STOCK Act with overwhelming support in Congress to make insider trading laws that apply to everyone else finally apply to Congress and Congressional staffers as well. As that link notes:
The lopsided votes showed lawmakers desperate to regain public trust in an election year, when the public approval rating of Congress has sunk below 15 percent.
Of course, here we are in 2013 and, lo and behold, it is no longer an election year. And apparently some of the details of the ban on insider trading were beginning to chafe Congressional staffers, who found it hard to pad their income with some friendly trades on insider knowledge.
So... with very little fanfare, Congress quietly rolled back a big part of the law late last week. Specifically the part that required staffers to post disclosures about their financial transactions, so that the public could make sure there was no insider trading going on. Congress tried to cover up this fairly significant change because they, themselves, claimed that it would pose a "national risk" to have this information public. A national risk to their bank accounts.
It was such a national risk that Congress did the whole thing quietly, with no debate. The bill was introduced in the Senate on Thursday and quickly voted on late that night when no one was paying attention. Friday afternoon (the best time to sneak through news), the House picked it up by unanimous consent. The House ignored its own promise to give Congress three days to read a bill before holding a vote, because this kind of thing is too important to let anyone read the bill before Congress had to pass it.
And, of course, yesterday, President Obama signed it into law. Because the best way to rebuild trust in Congress, apparently, is to roll back the fact that people there need to obey the same laws as everyone else. That won't lead the public to think that Congress is corrupt. No, not at all.