President Barack Obama called on Wednesday for stricter controls on lawmakers to confront the corrosive influence of money in Washington as he signed into law an insider trading ban he said was needed to help restore trust in the U.S. government.
The Democrat, who is running for re-election in November, said the STOCK Act he signed at the White House made plain that members of Congress using non-public information to improve their personal investment portfolios were breaking the law.
Enforcement of the core stock trading disclosure provisions will begin in July.
He also called for more restrictions, saying lawmakers should not be allowed to own stocks in industries they have the power to affect and that people who bundle campaign funds for Congress should not be able to lobby elected representatives.
The powerful shouldn't get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else, Obama said, linking the insider trading legislation to one of his key campaign themes: economic fairness.
If we expect that to apply to our biggest corporations and to our most successful citizens, it certainly should apply to our elected officials, especially at a time when there is a deficit of trust between this city and the rest of the country, he said.
Obama has been seeking to distance himself from an unpopular and fractious Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives and his fellow Democrats have a majority in the Senate. He had called for a tightening of insider trading rules in his State of the Union address in January.
The STOCK Act, which passed the House in February and the Senate in March, specifies that Securities and Exchange Commission prohibitions against trading on non-public information applies to lawmakers and their staff members.
In November, a CBS 60 Minutes show exposed questionable stock transactions by several members of Congress, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, said the bipartisan support of the insider trading legislation shows that we can come together and deliver results for the American people.
(Reporting By Laura MacInnis; Editing by Vicki Allen)