A political reform group is calling attention to what it says is a problem with so-called insider trading in Congress.
A new campaign, launched recently on the reform-minded website represent.us, alleges House General Counsel Kerry W. Kircher is “actively stonewalling” a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into a former congressional staffer.
The investigation centers on allegations that Brian Sutter, once a staffer for the House Ways and Means Committee, passed along information about an upcoming Medicare vote to a lobbyist. The information allegedly made it to hedge funds who used the tip to trade on health insurance stocks expected to be affected by the upcoming decision.
The investigation is the first major investigation, undertaken by the SEC, into alleged political insider trading, according to a May article from The Intercept.
At its heart, according to represent.us, is the 2012 STOCK Act, passed by Congress in the wake of a 2011 story on CBS’s “60 Minutes” about allegations of insider trading in Congress.
Congress lauded the bill as a step forward in transparency.
“We all know that Washington is broken and today members of both parties took a big step forward to fix it,” Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio said at the time, according to The Intercept.
But Congress gutted a key provision of the law in 2013, according to represent.us.
And, represent.us reports, Kirchner, who was appointed by House Speaker John Boehner in 2011, has now refused to hand over documents and comply with subpoenas linked to the SEC investigation, claiming that members of Congress are “immune” because of the nature of their jobs.
In a 2014 brief, Kircher wrote that the SEC investigation was a “remarkable fishing expedition for congressional records,” The Intercept reported.
“Communications with lobbyists, of course, are a normal and routine part of Committee information-gathering,” the brief read. Kircher added that there “is no room for the SEC to inquire into the Committee’s or Mr. Sutter’s purpose or motives.”