I'm so very shocked. Aren't you? To think that our Congress members would personally benefit from their positions is just unthinkable -- if you're a moron. Nah, the real shocker is that it's perfectly permissible under Congressional "ethics" rules.
I learned this the hard way during my reporter days. Crazy Curt Weldon (PA-7) was trying to pass a piece of legislation that would have the feds pick up the bulk of the cost of major earthquake damage. At the time, he was on leave from CIGNA -- which, quite coincidentally, was the only company writing earthquake coverage in California at that time. I had a chat with a staffer on the House Ethics Committee and was surprised to learn this wasn't enough of a quid pro quo for them to care. Apparently you have to catch a member taking an envelope of cash before the ethics committee will even bother:
One-hundred-thirty members of Congress or their families have traded stocks collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars in companies lobbying on bills that came before their committees, a practice that is permitted under current ethics rules, a Washington Post analysis has found.
The lawmakers bought and sold a total of between $85 million and $218 million in 323 companies registered to lobby on legislation that appeared before them, according to an examination of all 45,000 individual congressional stock transactions contained in computerized financial disclosure data from 2007 to 2010.
Almost one in every eight trades — 5,531 — intersected with legislation. The 130 lawmakers traded stocks or bonds in companies as bills passed through their committees or while Congress was still considering the legislation. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, 68 to 62.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) reported buying $25,000 in bonds in a genetic-technology company around the time that he released a hold on legislation the firm supported. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) sold between $50,000 and $100,000 in General Electric stock shortly before a Republican filibuster killed legislation sought by the company. The family of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) bought between $286,000 and $690,000 in a high-tech company interested in a bill under his committee’s jurisdiction.
The trades were uncovered as part of an ongoing examination by The Post of the intersection between the personal finances of lawmakers and their professional duties. Earlier this year, Congress responded to criticism of potential conflicts of interest by passing the Stock Act, which bars lawmakers, their staffs and top executive branch officials from trading on inside information acquired on Capitol Hill.