U.S. Senate: CLC Urges Senate to Pass Anti-Corruption Amendment to STOCK Act
Today, the Campaign Legal Center, urged Senators to support passage of a public corruption amendment to the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act” (STOCK Act) which prohibits congressional insider trading. The bipartisan amendment (1483) has bicameral support and contains the key provisions of the “Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act,” sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). These provisions to update the illegal gratuities and honest services statutes have already passed out of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees and have bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives. The letter sent to every Senator also urges them to oppose any amendments to weaken the legislation.
The full text of the letter to Senators follows below.
January 31, 2012
The Campaign Legal Center—a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works in the areas of campaign finance and elections, political communication, and government ethics—strongly urges you to support passage of Amendment 1483 to S.2038, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. This bipartisan amendment with bicameral support contains the key provisions in the “Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act,” sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX). These provisions to update the illegal gratuities and honest services statutes have been passed out of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, and also have bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.
We also urge you to oppose any effort to strip the provisions for electronic filing of Senate campaign reports, a long-overdue move that seeks to bring the Senate filing practices in line with other federal candidates, and to pass the STOCK Act without any changes that weaken the legislation.
The Leahy-Cornyn amendment would restore important tools for federal prosecutors to fight public corruption that have gradually been pared away by adverse court decisions. These provisions are vitally important if prosecutors are to stand any chance of holding public officials accountable for most public corruption. Most public officials are not foolish enough to jot down a price list for earmarks on a cocktail napkin like former Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham (R-CA), but a series of court rulings have stripped prosecutors of important anti-corruption tools other than the bribery statute, which requires a quid pro quo.
The Leahy-Cornyn amendment responds to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Skilling v. United States, which eliminated an entire category of deceptive, fraudulent, and corrupt conduct from the Honest Services fraud statute. It would restore that statute in line with Court's direction for more clarity. In addition, the bill would restore the illegal gratuities statute so that public officials may not accept gifts given because of their governmental position and makes clear that public officials who accept private compensation for using the powers their jobs afford them may now be subject to prosecution. With this statute significantly compromised by the Court, prosecutors have had their hand weakened and have had to turn to other statutes not as well-suited to prosecute public corruption.
Opposition to these much-needed changes is sometimes cloaked in the guise of concerns about over-criminalizing politics. This red herring argument does not merit support and should be dismissed. This legislation is too important to fall victim to Congress’ reticence to pass carefully considered measures to hold Members accountable for behavior that is corrupt and undermines public confidence in government. With record low approval ratings, it is vital for Congress to show its willingness to get serious about combating public corruption.
The Campaign Legal Center urges you to support the Leahy-Cornyn amendment, to support electronic filing for Senate candidates and to pass the STOCK Act without changes that weaken the legislation.
Meredith McGehee Policy Director