Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Senators Request Data from Securities Industry on Political Intelligence as Sen. Grassley Vows to Seek another Legislative Vehicle

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo) sought information from the financial services industry to attempt to understand the industry’s contention that the registration and disclosure requirement for political intelligence agents that Senator Grassley advanced earlier this year in the STOCK Act was overly broad. In a letter to SIFMA, the Senators noted that, because political intelligence activities are not disclosed, there is little information available on the scope of political intelligence and how it is actively prepared, marketed and sold to Wall Street.

The Senators asked SIFMA to respond by July 25, 2012 to a series of questions designed to give Congress information about the unique public policy implications of the growing political intelligence industry. They ask if SIFMA supports some kind of registration requirement for political intelligence agents and, if so, how should it be structured and, if not, why not. They asked for a list of all SIFMA members who have retained political intelligence firms from 2007 to the present, along with the names of the firms, and the amount of money spent on contracts with the firms.

Congress is inviting the financial services industry to explain its position on registration, Sen. Grassley said, and trying to understand the size and scope of political intelligence gathering.  If the previous disclosure provision was too broad, he indicated, the industry is welcome to propose a solution that would accomplish the same goals of transparency and accountability.

It is essential to increase disclosure and transparency requirements for political intelligence’ activities, Sen. Udall said, adding that political intelligence firms use information normal taxpayers and investors do not have to benefit their clients on Wall Street. When it comes to betting on government policy, Wall Street should not be able to secretly buy insider information.

In February, the Senate gave 60 votes to a Grassley Amendment to the Stock Act requiring the registration and disclosure of political intelligence agents.  The Amendment would have imposed the same registration requirements on political intelligence agents that have applied to lobbyists for decades.  However, the Grassley Amendment was dropped from the final legislation. Senator Grassley plans to revisit the provision in future legislative vehicles.