Dear President Obama,
I watched your State of the Union address on Tuesday night and I want to welcome you aboard the reform train. You had some pointed things to say about congressional insider trading, which was a center point of my book "Throw Them All Out" which was published last November.
I laid out how former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was getting rich off of stock IPOs and how her predecessor Dennis Hastert had a sweetheart land deal that included earmarks to build a highway near some land he bought.
"60 Minutes" did a great story on the book in mid-November.
Hastert wouldn’t talk to them.
Pelosi probably wishes she hadn’t. She looked petrified as Steve Kroft was grilling her.
My advice to politicians in Washington is this: if "60 Minutes" shows up at one of your press conferences, it's probably not a good idea to let them ask you a question.
I described the flurry of stock trades that people on both sides of the aisle were making while they were crafting and debating your health care reform legislation (ObamaCare) in 2009.
And I disclosed how Congressman Spencer Bachus of Alabama actually bought stock options to short the market after he got a private briefing from the Fed Reserve chairman and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during the financial crisis.
From where you were standing, can you tell me if any of these people stood and applauded when you called for a ban on insider trading? I can’t tell from the video.
I imagine that you (or more accurately your staff) read at least some of the chapters. Your two proposed solutions to the problem came straight out of the last chapter in my book.
For example, you called for making congressional insider trading illegal (which I mention on page 174) as well as preventing members of congress from trading stock in companies that fall under the purview of their committees.
I also proposed that legislation on page 174. Glad to know you think these are good ideas.
I subscribe to Ronald Reagan’s philosophy, “It’s amazing what you can get accomplished so long as you don’t worry about who gets the credit.” So as long as real reforms get passed, I don’t care who gets the credit.
Although I must say that some analysts are now trying to co-opt this issue.
I did find it quite funny as I listened to MSNBC's Chris Matthews in his post-speech analysis say about this problem, “I have never heard any reference to it before in my life.”
Is he living in a bubble?
I guess he doesn’t watch "60 Minutes," Fox News, or even programming on his own network! All of these media outlets did extensive coverage on the book. Or maybe he didn't read Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. all of these publications wrote about it.
My hope, Mr. President is that congressional leaders of both parties will get these reforms done as quickly as possible so that we can prevent members of congress from enriching themselves in this way.
I must say, however, I was disappointed that you called for reforming Congress, but not your administration.
In my book I point out that crony capitalism is a problem in the executive branch, too. (Maybe you skimmed over this part of the book?) In the State of Union address you continued to push government programs for green energy.
But in Chapter 5 of "Throw Them All Out," I demonstrated in great detail how your Department of Energy sent most of this money to wealthy individuals who funded your campaign in 2008.
I found at least 10 members of your national finance committee and at least a dozen bundlers who got sweetheart deals. (You can find the names in my book on pages 88, 100-1. I’m sure these names will be familiar to you. They are the same people who are currently raising money for your reelection.)
Yes, it’s good that you took on congressional insider trading. Thank you for doing so. But why not also deal with crony capitalism in your administration? I hope you are not going to use this push for reform just to score political points.
Peter Schweizer is author of several books. His latest book is "Throw Them All Out" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011).
Peter Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and is the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, “Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets.”