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Davis

Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Column: A sure thing

Here’s a fun prank idea. Watch an episode of “Jeopardy” on On Demand, paying careful attention to all the answers. Then a couple of minutes before your roommate gets home from class, replay the episode. See where this is going?

Your friend might not be too impressed when you declare Nerva as the first of the five great emperors (thank you, Professor Spyridakis), but be sure to take a picture of his/her reaction when you know that the answer to “In 1812 he became a disciple and friend to social philosopher William Godwin, later his father-in-law” is: “Who is Percey Shelley?” Just make sure you don’t put any money on it or someone might call a big party foul. For some reason, people get upset if you bet on something when you secretly already know the outcome.

Well, that’s exactly what Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) and Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) are trying to prevent with their new STOCK Bill (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge).

Let’s rewind for a moment. Most people have heard of trading on insider information and how it’s illegal. For those who haven’t, insider information is basically any information that isn’t public. Of course, in many cases it’s impossible to not have some insider information. The problem comes when people take advantage of that information to profit from it. For example, let’s say the company I work for is competing for a government contract and I learn that we got it before it’s publicly announced. If I then invest a lot of money in our stock, that is illegal — I have to wait until it’s publicly announced. Well, this makes sense and applies to everyone, right? Wrong.

Quick, think of the number-one reason you hate Congress. Now prepare yourself because I’m about to give you a better one. Take the exact same situation from before, but now instead of me, that guy is your congressman. If he learns that information through congressional activity, he isn’t required by law to not act on it. In fact, he has all sorts of fun options, including — but not limited to — investing a lot of money in that company’s stock or, if all his money is already tied up in other inside investing, arranging a little meeting with some VIPs over at Stanley Morgan and charging them upward of $10,000 for a little chit chat. Ever wonder why so many members of Congress are rich?

Mad yet? Here, I’ll do you one better. After the STOCK bill was introduced to make congressmen play by the same rules as everybody else, it passed in the Senate. The House, however, took out key provisions on the argument that it “was overly broad and could ensnare too many people.”

My personal favorite justification — which, after reading multiple times I’m still trying to understand — comes from Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring: “Worse, the unintended consequences on the provision could have affected the First Amendment rights of everyone participating in local rotaries to national media conglomerates. For example, members of the media who report on federal and congressional issues to a paid subscriber list might have to register as political intelligence consultants for their reporting under the provision.”

That would be a great point if the Senate bill didn’t specifically outline that members of the press were exempt.

The key provision taken out required those who collect financial information and sell it to Wall Street to register the same way lobbyists do. Think about that for a moment. It isn’t enough that Congress still gets to sell its secret information for thousands of dollars — it also wants the right to continue to do that all under the table. Heaven forbid Republicans get the reputation that they’re in bed with Wall Street.

Personally, I think the whole thing is simply Linsane.

If you’re interested in STOCK or Jeremy Lin puns, send your thoughts to DANNY BRAWER at dabrawer@ucdavis.edu.

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