Heads Up, Congress: Following the Money Just Got a Little Easier

By: William Patrick FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: July 28, 2014 3:55 AM


Political Money

Following the money in politics just got a little easier.

A new government transparency tool, launched last week by OpenSecrets.org, provides some of the most up-to-date financial information available with respect to members of Congress.

Thanks to a provision in the Stock Act of 2012, members are now required to disclose whether they bought, sold or exchanged any stocks, securities or bonds within 30-45 days of the transaction date.

“It’s a major change from the previous disclosure regime,” Sarah Bryner, research director for the nonpartisan website, told Watchdog.org.

According to Bryner, the data has only recently been made available. Researchers have compiled transactions worth over $1,000 dating back two years for U.S. House members and will add Senate data by year-end.

It’s important because it allows citizens to keep a closer eye on conflicts of interests, she said.

At the very least, inquiring minds can see if an elected official’s rhetoric lines up with his or her wallet.

A quick search, for example, shows U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., purchased $250,000 to $500,000 in stock in a Chinese state-owned telecommunications company in March. The progressive Democrat also made significant trades in large foreign oil and mining companies this year.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., a conservative businessman, invested up to $100,000 in Chicago-area school bonds in June. His previous two transactions involved government housing and education bonds.

While it’s perfectly legal for members of Congress to invest in financial markets, one concern is that investments could be made with nonpublic information arising out of the lawmaking process -- tantamount, in some ways, to Wall Street insider trading.

Peter Schweizer, a Tallahassee-based investigative journalist, exposed the bipartisan practice that eventually led to the Stock Act. His book, “Throw Them All Out,” documents numerous examples, including profitable deals involving former House speakers Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert.

The user-friendly database is helpful for anyone who might want to look at an initial public offering and see if a member bought stock around the launch date and then see if they sat on a committee that could have affected the stock, Bryner said.

“In the past we would only know about transactions a year after they happened. This way the public is able to know much more quickly if a member of Congress is buying or selling stock or shifting around their money,” she said.

OpenSecrets.org is an award-winning website created by the Center for Responsive Politics.

William Patrick covers government waste, fraud and abuse for Watchdog.org's Florida bureau. wpatrick@watchdog.org 

Comments (2)

1:28PM JUL 28TH 2014
Gee . . . . maybe the Florida Legislature in the state with the Sunshine Law could take a clue and figure out a way to track and report on the activities of senior leaders traveling to secret private Texas locations to all gather together and hang out and talk about who knows what, subsidized at least partly by major special interests with frequent legislation appearing before the Legislature . . . . . . talk about your ethics (and hiding special interest money) . . . . . . too obscure for SSN readers . . . . go google "King Ranch" and "Big Sugar" . . . .

Florida GOP ethical, government-in-the-sunshine politicians . . . . . lost in the obscuring, hunting haze of southern Texas . . . . .

Pathetic . . . . .
Duane Overholt
7:27AM JUL 28TH 2014
Vern Buchanan invests in his old state, where he lived prior to moving to Florida. The state where he buried his old business partner's in the printing business.

Yet: lately he has been claiming support for the Florida Citrus business. Why no financial support and investment for it. Because he invests in land to build on. Much of it homes build on old citrus land.

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