Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi got caught in an awkward exchange Sunday on 60 Minutes over questions about stock trades she’s made as a member of Congress. Current speaker John Boehner got hit with the same thing.
Turns out freshly-minted Republican presidential frontrunner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich could face the same kind of awkward questions about the timing of stock trades he made and legislation he was part of.
That’s the focus of the 60 Minutes piece: the rules that allow members of Congress to use nonpublic information to make stock trades, and the chances those rules may be corrupting members into casting their votes in ways that could be personally lucrative. CBS isn’t the first to look into this, as one past story about Gingrich illustrates.
From a 1995 Mother Jones investigation titled “Taking Stock in Congress”:
In January 1992, Gingrich bought between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of Boeing stock. Three weeks later, when the House introduced the NASA Authorization Act, Gingrich helped kill amendments to cut funding for the space station program. Later, Boeing became the prime contractor for the station.
As Ryan Grimm noted Monday the much-hyped 60 Minutes story may not have been as blockbuster as advertised. Grimm writes that the piece’s “knock on Pelosi (D-Calif.) leaves out critical details” and “there’s no reason to think that Boehner had any better insight into what was happening within the House Democratic caucus than anybody else reading news reports at the time” of the trade he was criticized for by CBS. That could well be true in this Mother Jones instance as well.
Nevertheless, the story has awakened concerns about the way Congressional insiders operate on both the right and left — and anyone running in the GOP presidential primary would probably want to steer well clear. Gingrich’s long history in politics means he’s extra-exposed to stuff like this; so it would seem that had 60 Minutes done its story on graft in the mid-’90s, Gingrich could have been tarred with the same brush as Pelosi and Boehner.