Making Washington More Accountable
Transparency and accountability have been a hallmark for Senator Gillibrand, who became the very first member of Congress to post her official daily schedule, all earmark requests, and personal financial reports online. The New York Times called it “a quiet touch of revolution in Washington.”
Now Senator Gillibrand is taking the next steps to clean up Washington, by passing commonsense, bipartisan legislation to make insider trading in Congress clearly and expressly illegal, taking on special interest influence, and making more of our government open and available to middle class families.
Pass the Bipartisan STOCK Act to Ban Insider Trading in Congress
After a 60 Minutes investigation uncovered gaping loopholes that allow members of Congress to use insider information gained through their Congressional duties to gain personal profits, Senator Gillibrand introduced and fought hard to pass the STOCK Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Senate-passed legislation explicitly bars a member of Congress, their staff and all federal employees from engaging in insider trading or otherwise using nonpublic information gained through their work for their own personal benefit, and clarifies that this provision constitutes a sufficient basis for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate and prosecute members of Congress engaging in insider trading - including the “tipping” of non-public information. By incorporating feedback from witnesses at the December 1 committee hearing, the legislation directly corrects the ambiguity in existing laws to ensure that members of Congress, their families and their staffs are fully covered by insider trading laws. The legislation is carefully crafted to not alter existing insider trading law, but to simply ensure that members of Congress, their families, their staff and federal employees are fully covered by it.
The bill would establish for the first time a clear, fiduciary responsibility to the American people, removing any doubt to whether the SEC and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission are empowered to investigate and prosecute cases involving trading of securities. For additional teeth, the legislation also directs the Congressional Ethics Committees to write rules to enforce this provision. As a result, the legislation would empower the Ethics Committees, as well as the SEC, to enforce rules against insider trading by members of Congress and Congressional staff, but would not require the 67 vote threshold required to directly amend Senate rules in mid-session.
For added transparency, the legislation further enhances disclosure requirements by requiring that members of Congress report stock and other major financial transactions within 30 days. These reports and other financial disclosures must be posted online.
The STOCK Act is supported by at least seven government reform groups including: Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG. A Washington Post report hailed the STOCK Act as the “most substantial debate on congressional ethics in nearly five years.”
Reduce Special Interest Influence
In the age of Citizens United, corporations and special interests have all but drowned out the voices of the average citizen. Super PACs are free to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising to influence elections, and take advantage of disclosure loopholes so few can determine who’s paying for this influence or what their agenda is.
To make elections more fair and honest, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring legislation that would give Congress the authority to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal elections, including super PACs and independent expenditures, and give states the authority to regulate spending at their level.
Post Public Information Online
Too much of the information that guides legislation is inaccessible to the people it will affect the most. And when requested through the Freedom of Information Act, citizens too often to have to wait for prolonged periods of time to get the information they deserve access to, held up by needless bureaucracy.
To make government more accessible, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Public Online Information Act, legislation to make public records permanently available on the Internet at no taxpayer cost.
Under the bill, each federal agency must publish a comprehensive, searchable, machine-readable list of all records it makes publically available. The bill would also require a public catalog of all records released by the executive branch, and establish a Public Online Information Advisory Committee that would:
- Guide the government’s efforts to make information from all three branches available online; and
- Issue and update guidelines on how the government should make public information more available.
Broadcast U.S. Supreme Court Proceedings
Some of the most significant and far-reaching Supreme Court cases, such as Citizens United, Heller, Lawrence and Hamden, were all argued behind closed doors. Transcripts of arguments and audio recordings are posted online each week by the Supreme Court, giving Americans access to the justices’ rationale and questions for lawyers only in hindsight.
To make America’s highest court more transparent and accountable, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring legislation that would allow Supreme Court proceedings to be televised. The bill would require the Supreme Court to allow coverage of all open sessions, unless decided by majority vote that such coverage in a particular case would violate the due process of any party involved.