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Montana lawmakers back stock disclosure act

Montana's federal lawmakers and President Barack Obama are in agreement on an issue working through Congress — members of Congress should play by the same rules in finances as everyone else.

The Senate, on a 93-2 vote, approved Monday moving a bill that would prohibit members of Congress and their families or staff members from using nonpublic information in financial dealings and to report transactions online within 30 days. All annual financial disclosures be available online.

"This is a wake-up call for all of Congress …, " Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Monday during a telephone press conference with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N. Y., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., before the vote.

The issue has been up in Congress for several years, with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N. Y., first proposing the bill in 2006. It slumbered in the halls of Congress — until a report on the CBS news program "60 Minutes" in November said prominent lawmakers could be benefiting in stock transactions because of nonpublic information.

Within two days of each other, Gillebrand and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., introduced Senate bills to prohibit lawmakers from benefiting from nonpublic knowledge. Tester and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, both are cosponsors of Gillibrand's bill.

The bill voted

on Monday is a version by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticutt that melds the two Senate bills together, and includes the amendment by Tester and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, requiring congressional annual financial disclosures be available online in a searchable database.

The House bill, sponsored last March by Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., now has 250 cosponsors, including Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who sponsored the bill Nov. 16.

"Elected officials and their staff should not be able to profit off of insider information, and that's why I sponsored the STOCK Act to put an end to it, " Rehberg said Monday. "And I have asked House leadership to act on it right away, because enough is enough.

"Public service should not be about personal enrichment, " Rehberg added. "In fact, I can't think of a more insulting violation of the public trust. We need to get this problem solved quickly, so we get back to empowering private job creation in Montana. "

Baucus said Monday he supports both the original bill sponsored by Gillibrand and Lieberman's version.

"This is a no-brainer, " Baucus said. "Everyone needs to follow the rules, especially members of Congress. "

Obama's press secretary Monday following the Senate vote that the president wants the bill passed quickly.

"Last week, the president called on Congress to pass a bill that makes clear that members of Congress may not engage in insider trading, " the release issued after the vote said. "No one should be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information gleaned on Capitol Hill. So we are pleased the Senate is one step closer to passing the STOCK Act. "

Gillibrand said the need for fast passage is crucial. She has no statistics on how many members of Congress benefit from their knowledge, she said, but the lack of confidence in the nation's lawmakers requires action.

All three senatorsin the phone conference said action should be taken quickly in the Senate and the House. Nothing should delay action.

"If people want to play games with it, then it's politics as usual putting partisanship ahead of citizenship, and folks will report likewise on that, " Tester said.


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