There are many perks to being a prominent aide to a congressman or senator. You get to travel to interesting and exotic places around the world. Depending on how important you are, you might get a spot in the secret underground bunkers that will hold the remnants of the human race in the event of catastrophic nuclear war. And you have access to sensitive economic information that has yet to be released publicly. This last point helps explain some of the great stock trades that high-ranking congressional staffers are able to execute on a regular basis. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, “72 aides on both sides of the aisle traded shares of companies that their bosses help oversee” in 2008 and 2009. And their success playing the market should come as no surprise. Earlier studies have shown that senators have an uncanny record of “know[ing] exactly when to buy or sell their holdings.” Their portfolios regularly beat not only the market, but even the performance of corporate insiders. Of course, even after making huge gains, the aides contacted by the Journal deny that insider information had anything to do with their investment decisions. And even if it had, it doesn’t matter!
That doesn’t seem fair. Why should some people be allowed to insider trade when it’s illegal for everyone else? How is this a thing?
A few lawmakers proposed a bill that would prevent members and employees of Congress from trading securities based on nonpublic information they obtain. The legislation has languished since 2006 …