A report by CBS’ “60 Minutes” is amplifying sensational charges that members of Congress are garnering private profits from their privileged access to information about legislation affection corporations and the economy.
The CBS report, based on a forthcoming book by Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer called Throw Them All Out, suggests that congressmen are making far more than the $174,000 a year salary they are paid to make the nation’s laws.
Among the most riveting claims that CBS aired Sunday night is the suggestion that former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband cashed in on a lucrative Visa (NYSE:V) IPO by ensuring the defeat of a bill regulating credit card interchange fees. The Pelosis’ investment–which ranged between $1 million and $4 million (congressional disclosure forms require only that a certain dollar range be checked off)–soared 203% during a period when stock market returns were down 15%. A credit card reform bill that eventually made its way out of Congress with Pelosi’s support did not address interchange fees included in previous versions of the bill.
Pelosi responded to the CBS report through a spokesman, who said “Congress has never done more for consumers nor has the Congress passed more critical reforms of the credit card industry than under the Speakership of Nancy Pelosi.” The spokesman added that the charges were based on a book by a politically conservative author “who has made a career of out attacking Democrats.”
But both the book and the CBS report take aim at members of both parties, including Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama. Bachus in 2008 was the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee when he attended a sensitive high-level briefing by then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on the economic crisis. The next day Bachus bought contract options on ProShares Ultra-Short QQQ (NYSE: QID), nearly doubling his $7,846 trade when he sold a few days later.