By Alexander Bolton - 03/20/12 08:30 PM EDT
The Senate will adopt a House-passed bill to bar lawmakers from trading stocks based on insider information that does not include controversial restrictions on political intelligence-gathering.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday moved to adopt the House legislation, known as the STOCK Act, and skip a bicameral conference to negotiate differences between the two chambers.
Gathering political intelligence has become an increasingly lucrative subspecialty of Washington’s lobbying shops. Hedge funds and other money managers employ former aides and reporters to glean closely held information about Congress’s policy plans, which can later form the basis of profitable trades and investments.
House Republican leaders yanked the restrictions on political intelligence in the legislation it passed last month.
Reid said he is moving for the Senate to adopt the House bill unchanged because it would consume too much time to appoint conferees to bicameral negotiations.
The Senate version of the STOCK Act would have placed stricter reporting requirements on political intelligence consultants than is required of lobbyists under current law, according to Caplin & Drysdale, a tax and legal-services firm that analyzed the bill.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires lobbyists to disclose their activity only if they make two or more lobbying contacts and spend 20 percent of their time in a three-month span on lobbying activity.
The Senate’s bill would deem an individual a political intelligence consultant after making a single contact to gather information, according to the Caplin & Drysdale analysis. It would require political intelligence consultants to file quarterly activity reports and semi-annual contribution reports.
“It certainly would have been my preference to work out these differences between the two houses through a conference committee,” said Reid.
“We’ve been advised that there would be an objection to going to conference by consent. We tried it and tried it — we can’t break through that,” he said to explain his decision to adopt the House bill.