Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Members of Congress Declare "Immunity" from Insider Trading Probe

House panel refuses to submit to SEC subpeonas

- Nadia Prupis, staff writer
(Photo: Ron Cogswell/Flickr/Creative Commons)The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is refusing to cooperate with an insider trading investigation, saying its employees are “absolutely immune” from having to comply with subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe ordered the committee last week to explain why it hadn’t responded to the SEC’s year-long request for documents, phone records and the testimony of staff director Brian Sutter, as part of a probe into whether he or other House members leaked private information about health care policy to insurance companies.

Rather than turning over the information, top House lawyer Kerry W. Kircher answered the order by requesting that the case be dismissed.

Kircher claimed that the request for documents violates the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which protects members of Congress from outside inquiry into “legislative acts” during their time in office.

“What the SEC has done is embark on a remarkable fishing expedition for congressional records -- core legislative records,” Kircher said in a court filing.

William Pittard, House deputy general counsel, also sent the SEC a letter claiming that the subpoenas are “vague, confusing, overbroad, unduly burdensome, unlikely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and otherwise improper."

Pittard called the subpoenas “repugnant to public policy.”
However, history has shown both Kircher's and Pittard's claims to be questionable. The Supreme Court first found in 1966 that the Speech or Debate Clause can interfere with prosecutions of political corruption. A later case also ruled that while legislative acts are protected by the clause, political acts are still subject to investigation, which could include “errands” for constituents and assistance with government contracts.

REad more https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/07/07-4 

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