Lawmakers join fight over conflict minerals regulation

A dozen current and former members of Congress are defending part of the Wall Street reform law that they say is helping to stop violence in central Africa.

The lawmakers are defending a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to write regulations making companies publish information about whether the minerals they use are funding violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This week, they filed a court brief defending the SEC from business complaints that the requirement is too complicated and violates the First Amendment by forcing them to post information online.   

“We understand that implementing these rules is difficult and involves a new way of doing business for big companies,” Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “But we felt and continue to feel that those challenges are worth it to protect the human and labor rights of very vulnerable individuals in remote areas of the world, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Purchase of so-called “conflict minerals” like gold, tin and tungsten, which appear in a variety of products, helps fund armed groups that control mines in central Africa.   

According to the Democratic lawmakers, Americans deserve to know whether the products they buy are supporting violence.

“Hopefully, it will also create transparency that consumers and investors deserve,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).

Democrats say that the provision has already yielded results in the central African nation, where thousands of tons of clean minerals are now being produced.

Republicans and opponents of the regulation disagree. They point to signs that the de facto embargo of Congolese minerals has hurt the country’s economy and only led to more violence.

In July, a federal judge rejected a challenge to the rule from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The case is now pending before the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Joining McDermott and Engel on the brief are Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Reps. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and former Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).