Senate adopts amendment to require political intelligence operatives to register like lobbyists

The amendment put forth by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requires that individuals who engage in preparation and planning activities, research, and other background work intended for use in analyzing securities or commodities markets, or in informing investment decisions to register. The rule would apply to those working in both the legislative and executive branches.

In floor remarks prior to the vote, Grassley said individuals seeking to profit from inside information on the workings of Congress often harass him and his colleagues. The industry brings in $100 million annually, he said, and employs more than 2,000 individuals in Washington.

My amendment takes intelligence professionals and has them register just like every lobbyist … so that it is totally transparent, so that when these people come around to get information from us that they sell to hedge funds, you will know who they are, Grassley said.

Then, using a phrase borrowed from across the aisle, Grassley punctuated his remarks by exhorting his colleagues not to vote for Wall Street, vote for my amendment.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was managing the underlying STOCK Act for Democrats, opposed the bill, saying the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which he is chairman, is already investigating the issue but needs more time before recommending legislation.

There may be a problem here, but this amendment doesn’t fix it, Lieberman said in a spirited exchange with Grassley. We need a little more time to do it thoughtfully, because we are ultimately dealing with First Amendment rights here, and ought not to legislate until we are prepared to do so in a reasoned way.

The amendment cleared in a 60-39 vote, garnering precisely the minimum it needed to be attached to the STOCK Act.