If you haven't watched 60 Minutes' big feature "Honest Graft" about insider trading among lawmakers, you should. If nothing else, it's worth hearing about former Washington state Congressman Brian Baird and his doomed piece of legislation that might have stopped all this nonsense.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, for example, bought a bunch of health-care-related stock during the health-care reform debate of 2009. And when the Boehner's efforts to kill the so called "public option" succeeded, those stocks skyrocketed.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has gotten in on at least eight different lucrative stock Initial Public Offerings. One of those involved an enormous number of Visa shares that Pelosi purchased while she was working on legislation that would have hurt credit card companies. Two days after purchasing the stock at $44 a share, and after the bill was put on long-term hold, Pelosi's stock shot up to $64 a share.
Reporter Steve Kroft catching Pelosi is a deer-in-the-headlights moment is worth quoting in full.
Kroft: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you why you and your husband back in March of 2008 accepted and participated in a very large IPO deal from Visa at a time there was major legislation affecting the credit card companies making its way through the-- through the House.
Nancy Pelosi: But--
Kroft: And did you consider that to be a conflict of interest?
Pelosi: The-- y-- I-- I don't know what your point is of your question. Is there some point that you want to make with that?
Kroft: Well, I-- I-- I guess what I'm asking is do you think it's all right for a speaker to accept a very preferential, favorable stock deal?
Pelosi: Well, we didn't.
Kroft: You participated in the IPO. And at the time you were speaker of the House. You don't think it was a conflict of interest or had the appearance--
Pelosi: No, it was not--
Kroft: --of a conflict of interest?
Pelosi: --it doesn't-- it only has appearance if you decide that you're going to have-- elaborate on a false premise. But it-- it-- it's not true and that's that.
Kroft: I don't understand what part's not true.
Pelosi: Yes sir. That-- that I would act upon an investment.
Baird comes in to all of this as something of a hero. It turns out that for six years the former 3rd District Rep tried to pass the Stock Act, which would have barred lawmakers from investing in the fields they regulate.
Baird's legislation, however, got a laughable amount of support and he quickly found that politicians seemed to have no interest in changing the rules to a game they were winning at.
The entire segment is as illuminating as it is infuriating. Lawmakers have long been accused of making decisions for the country based upon their own personal interests. This segment better puts those accusations into flesh.