You Can Now Donate to the Defense Fund for the Poor Legislators and Staffers Accused of Insider Trading

A top committee aide to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has established a legal expense fund due to an insider-trading investigation by the SEC and the Justice Department. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)In 2012, much was made of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, or Stock Act, the ethics bill that banned insider trading by members of Congress. It seemed like a solid step in the right direction to force law makers to follow the same laws as every other citizen. According to the New York Times:

The bill prohibits members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers. It makes clear that the insider trading ban in federal law applies to members of Congress and their aides and to officials in the executive and judicial branches of the federal government.

Fast forward two years to the present day, when members of Congress are doing everything in their power to exploit the loopholes of that ethics bill. From a National Journal report earlier this week:

A top committee aide to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has established a special trust fund to solicit donations for his legal defense against an insider-trading investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

The creation of the legal-expense trust fund on behalf of Brian Sutter, staff director of the committee's Health subpanel, is the latest development in a matter that has for months left Congress itself fighting subpoenas from federal regulators and investigators.

A main argument of congressional lawyers in this standoff has been that the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution protects against such an outside inquiry into legislative business in most cases. But the fight also has become as much about the limits of a much-ballyhooed law passed in 2012 that was billed as clarifying that even members of Congress and their staff are subject to insider-trading prohibitions under securities laws.

The particular case of Brian Sutter revolves around a suspicious spike in trading for health care companies that surrounded the creation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Seeing as Sutter was the staff director of the committee's Health subpanel, he certainly was privy to valuable insider information.

Sutter's defense trust is subject to specific rules, namely that no donation from an individual or corporation can surpass $5000. The trust is also barred from accepting any money from registered lobbyists, but there tends to be loopholes surrounding all that too. If you feel so inclined to make a donation to Sutter's defense, take a gander at the highfalutin ideas that'll comprise much of the arguments:

[The] House general counsel's office has claimed that each of the subpoenas "is vague, confusing, overbroad, unduly burdensome, and unlikely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."

The same letter also states that the subpoenaing of Sutter "is improper because high-ranking government officials may not be compelled to testify absent extraordinary circumstances not present here." It also states the request is "repugnant to public policy."

Kerry Kircher, the House general counsel, also has issued a public statement, declaring, "The SEC subpoenas run seriously afoul of the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause, and we expect to respond in due course on that ground, among others."

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Brandon Perkins
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