* Measure drops political intelligence registration
* Obama says will sign legislation
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, March 22 The U.S. Senate on Thursday
voted overwhelmingly to send President Barack Obama legislation
imposing new curbs on insider trading by members of Congress,
even though the measure was weaker than a version it passed in
"After I sign this bill into law, members of Congress will
not be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information they
gleaned on Capitol Hill," Obama said in a statement.
"It's a good first step. And in the months ahead, Congress
should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of
money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and
the American people," Obama added.
Senators voted 96-3 for a motion that allowed automatic
adoption of the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act, the
most extensive effort to clamp down on Congress' personal
dealings in years.
The approval margin was identical to a Feb. 9 vote on the
measure that included two key provisions that were dropped from
the final version: one creating new legal tools for prosecutors
to pursue public corruption cases and another that would require
so-called political intelligence operatives to register under
The legislation, once seen as a feel-good bill destined for
swift passage, ran into problems when the House of
Representatives passed a version of it without those provisions.
House Republican leaders argued that the political
intelligence provision, which targeted former Capitol Hill
insiders who use their contacts to gather information on pending
legislation and sell it to Wall Street investors, could tread on
First Amendment free speech rights. Business groups also
complained that it would create problems for company executives
who come to Washington for legislative conferences.
The final version orders a study of what to do about the
increasingly widespread practice.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to convene a
conference with House members to try to bring the final bill
closer to the Senate's first version, but gave up this week and
agreed to put the House bill to a vote.
The Senate bill's sponsors chose to focus on what they did
get in the final version - namely provisions to make it clear
that Securities and Exchange Commission prohibitions against
trading on insider information applies to lawmakers and their
"You can rarely get 100 percent of what you want, so you
have to settle for less," said Senator Joe Lieberman, an
Independent who shepherded the bill as the head of the Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Similar insider trading legislation had languished in
Congress for years, but got a massive boost last November from a
CBS "60 Minutes" expose of questionable stock transactions by
several members of Congress, including House Speaker John
Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
The show also highlighted trades by Spencer Bachus, chairman
of the House Financial Services Committee, whose dealings are
now the subject of an investigation by the Office of
With White House prodding, lawmakers seized upon the effort
amid public opinion polls during the past year that put
Congress' approval rating at a record low of about 9 percent.