* Top House Democrat says Republican leader weakened bill
* House Republicans drop "political intelligence" provision
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 U.S. House of
Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged fellow
Democrats on Wednesday to support a ban on insider trading by
lawmakers but accused Republicans of weakening the bill by
deleting some provisions passed by the Senate last week.
Pelosi said she supported the House version of the Stop
Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK Act, including a
clause inserted by Republicans that calls attention to a
controversial purchase of Visa Inc shares by her husband
-- known as the "Pelosi provision."
In a slightly tongue-in-cheek tweet, Pelosi said she
supported the provision and thanked Republican House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor "for giving me an amendment."
The Pelosi provision expressly bans lawmakers and other
government officials from receiving special access to initial
public stock offerings. A probe by CBS' "60 minutes" show into
stock trading by lawmakers highlighted her husband's
participation in the Visa IPO in 2008 at a time when Congress
was considering stiffer credit-card regulations.
Pelosi has denied her husband received special access to the
IPO or any conflicts of interest.
The clean-government bill, which had been a rare model of
cooperation, winning Senate approval by a vote of 96-3, sparked
more partisan -- and bipartisan -- bickering on Wednesday.
The measure, which requires lawmakers and thousands of other
government officials to disclose stock trades within 30 days, is
scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Thursday.
'POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE' PROVISION DROPPED
Democrats and some Republicans criticized Cantor for
deleting Senate amendments to the STOCK Act that would require
the registration of gatherers of "political intelligence" under
lobbying laws and give more powers to prosecutors to pursue
public corruption and ban all gifts to public officials valued
Republican Senator Charles Grassley had proposed the
provision to illuminate the secretive practices of such
Washington insiders, who glean information about pending
legislation from lawmakers and their staffs and sell it to hedge
funds and other Wall Street investors who trade and profit on
"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 Senate clearly voted to try
to shed light on an industry that's behind the scenes."
Instead, Cantor's House version of the bill directs the
Congressional Research Service to study the political
intelligence sector and its effect on financial markets and
provide a report within one year of enactment.
A spokeswoman for Cantor, Laena Fallon, said more study was
needed because the political intelligence provision had caused
many concerns about First Amendment free speech and civil
liberties issues from lawmakers, media and community groups. A
key issue is how such professionals are defined.
"This provision was extremely broad and its impact would
have raised more questions than it answered," Fallon said.
The changes also drew a rebuke from White House Press
Secretary Jay Carney, who said the Senate bill was a product of
"It would be a shame if House Republicans, led by the
majority leader, at the urging of Wall Street interests and
other inside-the-beltway forces, watered down the tough, but
commonsense measures supported by Republicans and Democrats
alike," Carney told his daily press briefing.
A spokesman for Pelosi said she hoped some of the changes
could be reversed after passage when the House and Senate seek
to reconcile differences between their versions before sending
the legislation to President Barack Obama, who has promised a
Republican Senator John Thune, who voted to include the
political intelligence provision, agreed with that approach.
"My guess is the House is going to do this their way and
we'll end up in some conference committee and we'll probably
work out the differences between the two and the Grassley
amendment may be back in there," he told Reuters.