While the U.S. Congress' approval rating is at an all-time low, a new 60 Minutes report that aired on Sunday night may manage to push that number even further toward zero.
The report, which expanded on a previous investigation by Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, connected multiple members of Congress with using non-public information to make profitable financial transactions around the same time legislation involving those investments were being considered by the U.S. Congress.
Lawmakers who have been connected with such instances of insider trading include Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Boehner reportedly made money trading health insurance stock during the 2009 healthcare reform debate, according to the report, all of which gained value after the public option portion of the bill was removed. Meanwhile, CBS reported that while he was still a ranking member on the House Committee on Financial Services in September 2008, Bachus met with several officials -- including then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -- about the imminent collapse of the global economy.
During this period, Bachus reportedly purchased options funds and bet against the market while receiving apocalyptic briefings on the state of the financial sector.
Did Pelosi Flip Visa Shares?
In what may be the most publicized part of the report, CBS reported that Pelosi and her husband participated in an initial public offering of Visa in 2008, at the same time Congress was considering legislation that credit card companies adamantly opposed. The couple initially bought 5,000 shares at $44 each, and then traded them two days later at $64 each.
When questioned by 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft, Pelosi denied the transaction was a conflict of interest, stating she never acted on the investment based on information she gained from her congressional duties.
I will hold my record in terms of fighting the credit card companies as speaker of the House or as a member of Congress up against anyone, Pelosi says in the report.
In a statement released after the program aired, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said it failed to address her support of legislation advocating the rights of credit card holders. In addition, Hammill criticized CBS for using Schweizer's -- a well-known conservative -- research as a source.
It is very troubling that '60 Minutes' would base their reporting off of an already-discredited conservative author who has made a career of out attacking Democrats, Hammill said.
In addition to his research at the Hoover Institution, Schweizer is an editor of Bigpeace.com, a national security Web site founded by the conservative activist Andrew Breitbart.
Former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, who represented Washington's 3rd congressional district for six terms, told Kroft that Congress has a personal culture that emphasizes enrichment over ethics. Baird said he could not even gather a dozen co-sponsors to back a bill known as the Stock Act that would have banned insider trading to lawmakers and other federal employees while he was still a member of the House.
One line in a bill in Congress can be worth millions and millions of dollars, Baird said. There was one night, we had a late, late night caucus and you could kind of tell how a vote was going to go the next day. I literally walked home and I thought, 'Man, if you, if you went online and made some significant trades, you could make a lot of money on this.'