Congress: Trading stock on inside information?

Steve Kroft reports that members of Congress can legally trade stock based on non-public information from Capitol Hill

Brian Baird is a former congressman from Washington state who served six terms in the house before retiring last year. He spent half of those 12 years trying to get his colleagues to prohibit insider trading in Congress and establish some rules governing conflicts of interest.

Baird: One line in a bill in Congress can be worth millions and millions of dollars. 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.' You-- you could just see it. You could see the potential here.

So in 2004, Baird and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter introduced the Stock Act which would make it illegal for members of Congress to trade stocks on non-public information and require them to report their stock trades every 90 days instead of once a year.

Kroft: How far did you get with this?

Baird: We didn't get anywhere. Just flat died. Went nowhere.

Kroft: How many cosponsors did you get?

Baird: I think we got six.

Kroft: Six doesn't sound like a very big amount.

Baird: It's not, Steve. You-- you could have-- 'National Cherry Pie Week' and get 100 cosponsors.

When Baird finally managed to get a congressional hearing on the Stock Act, almost no one showed up. It's reintroduced every session, but is buried so deep in the Capitol we had trouble finding congressmen who had even heard of it.

Kroft: Have you ever heard of the Stock Act?

Steve Palazzo: The what?

Kroft: The Stock Act. Do you know anything about it?

Congressman: No.

Kroft: Congressman. Congressman. Congressman.

Congressman Quayle: I haven't heard about that one yet.

Kroft: Have you ever heard of something called the Stock Act?

Congressman Watt: No.

Male voice: I've heard about, but not. I can't say it's an issue I've spent a lot of time on.

Male voice: I would have no problem with that.

Kroft: Okay.

Male voice: But then again I am a big fan of, you know, instant disclosure on almost everything.

Kroft: They're looking for co-sponsors.

Male voice: And yet, I've never heard of it.