To hear Collins speak about it (press conference this evening) the man sounds like he walks on water – he said he is driven by his goal of relieving those suffering from MS (and HIV). Really? Driven by profit-taking is more like it while at the same time accomplishing a little insider trading.
Politico article more than a year ago – nothing has changed:
"… what many saw as a scandal, others saw as an opportunity. On the very day that Wyden was decrying Price’s bad judgment, Rep. Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, bought shares of the same tiny Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Within two days three more members also bought in — Republicans Billy Long of Missouri, Mike Conaway of Texas and John Culberson of Texas. Conaway added more shares the following week.
These brazen decisions to gobble up shares of a little-known firm at the very moment when such trading was being decried as an abuse of power reflects Congress’ anything-goes culture around stock investments. In the pursuit of wealth, even obvious conflicts of interest are routinely ignored by members who feast on daily trades. Long, for instance, serves on a committee overseeing Obamacare, and Conaway is a deputy House whip.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse the Rhode Island Democrat who sits on the Senate HELP Committee, which oversees health care, is a heavy investor in pharmaceutical stocks. Last November, as lawmakers closed in on a bipartisan deal over a significant medical research bill called the 21st Century Cures Act, Whitehouse bought shares in the pharmaceutical firms McKesson, Gilead, and Abbott Labs 10 days before the bill was made public. Whitehouse and his wife bought additional stock in Gilead and Amgen on Nov. 28, two days before the House voted on the bill. The day President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, Whitehouse started a series of three sales of shares in those companies.
In December, Congress approved the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill stocked with $6.3 billion in new funding for medical research and faster drug approval. In the months leading up to the vote, more than 1,000 lobbyists flocked to Capitol Hill to make their case for what should be included in the legislative package. It was a rare opportunity to dramatically increase the amount of federal money going into pharmaceuticals. It was also, as it turned out, a time when some of the members who contributed to the writing of the bill boosted their own portfolios of drug stocks, POLITICO found.
Whitehouse, Collins, Price and Fleischmann all invested in pharmaceutical companies over the months that the bill was being pulled together. Price traded and held multiple medical stocks, including McKesson, while contributing to the 21st Century Cures Act. Collins sat on the boards of multiple medical companies and bought and sold health care stocks while authoring parts of the bill.
Whitehouse, the veteran Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, began a series of purchases in health care stocks related to the bill in mid-November, through his own accounts and family accounts. At the time, negotiators were wrestling over the final version of 21st Century Cures and hoping to vote on it in a matter of weeks. Eager to battle prescription-drug addiction in his home state of Rhode Island, Whitehouse pushed leaders to include funding to fight opioid abuse, as well as health IT legislation. Both of Whitehouse’s measures were eventually included in 21st Century Cures.
… When former Washington state Democratic Rep. Brian Baird first proposed new restrictions on lawmakers’ stock trades in 2006, some members went so far as to object on the grounds of the Constitution’s speech and debate clause, which protects lawmakers from being sued over what they say or do in Congress, in order to protect members from being persecuted for unpopular beliefs. Others said it would be too burdensome to have to file all their trades with the ethics offices.
Baird saw another reason why lawmakers opposed the plan: “There’s a subset that believes themselves to be entitled. They think of themselves as ethical innately,” Baird, who left Congress in 2011, said recently. “If that were not the case, why was there so much resistance to the Stock Act?”
Baird wanted to make insider trading illegal for lawmakers, and make it easier for the press and others to find and spotlight members’ stock trading. He proposed requiring lawmakers to quickly disclose their stock trades, and mandating that political intelligence operatives — who specialize in relaying Capitol Hill information to Wall Street investors — register like lobbyists do.
The bill languished for more than five years after Baird first introduced it, but the Stock Act’s fortune started changing in late 2011 when a “60 Minutes” episode spotlighted dubious trades made by lawmakers. Its subjects included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had participated in a profitable IPO for Visa while Congress was considering legislation that would have hurt credit card companies.