Chris Miller nearly doubled his $3,500 stock
investment in a renewable-energy firm
in 2008. It was a perfectly legal bet'
but he's no ordinary investor.
At least 72 aides on both sides
of the aisle traded shares of
companies that their bosses help oversee
By Brody Mullins, Tom McGinty and Jason Zweig
The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—Chris Miller nearly doubled his $3,500 stock investment in a renewable-energy firm in 2008. It was a perfectly legal bet, but he's no ordinary investor.
Mr. Miller is the top energy-policy adviser to Nevada Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who helped pass legislation that wound up benefiting the firm.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid's office, initially defended Mr. Miller's purchase of shares in the company, Energy Conversion Devices Inc. He said the aide had no influence over tax incentives for renewable-energy firms, and that other factors boosted the stock.
But on Sunday, Mr. Manley added: "Mr. Miller showed poor judgment and Senator Reid has made it very clear to Chris and all his staff that their actions must not only follow the law, but must meet the higher standards the public has a right to expect from elected officials and their staffs."
Mr. Miller isn't the only Congressional staffer making such stock bets. , according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of more than 3,000 disclosure forms covering trading activity by Capitol Hill staffers for 2008 and 2009.
The Journal analysis showed that an aide to a Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee bought Bank of America Corp. stock before results of last year's government stress tests eased investor concerns about the health of the banking industry. A top aide to the House Speaker profited by trading shares of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in a brokerage account with her husband two days before the government authorized emergency funding for the companies. Another aide to Republican lawmakers interested in energy issues, among other things, profited by trading in several renewable-energy firms.
The aides identified by the Journal say they didn't profit by making trades based on any information gathered in the halls of Congress. Even if they had done so, it would be legal, because insider-trading laws don't apply to Congress.
A few lawmakers proposed a bill that would prevent members and employees of Congress from trading securities based on nonpublic information they obtain. The legislation has languished since 2006.
"Congressional staff are often privy to inside information, and an unscrupulous person could profit off that knowledge," says Vincent Morris, a spokesman for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.), a leading backer of the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act," or STOCK Act. "The public should be outraged there is no law specifically banning this."
When the bill was introduced nearly five years ago, just 14 other lawmakers endorsed it. The current version of the bill has fared worse: Only nine lawmakers support it. There is no companion legislation in the Senate.
Congressional aides have ringside seats on the making of laws that affect American business. Receiving salaries up to roughly $170,000 a year, they can glean information about policies and government action before the public. They have access to information about hearings or legislation that can move stocks and markets. Link to complete article