President Barack Obama applauds after signing the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., standing directly behind Obama, was one of the key backers of the legislation.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz understandably couldn't contain his excitement as he watched President Obama sign into law landmark ethics reform for which the southern Minnesota congressman waged a long-shot crusade: the STOCK Act.
The legislation, mired in Congress for years until its passage this spring, bans insider trading by members of Congress and their staffs. And while the final version could have had more teeth, Walz is right that its passage is an important step toward restoring the public's faith in government.
That's why photos of the White House bill signing on April 4 show a grinning Walz peering over Obama's shoulder as the First Pen is put to paper. The former schoolteacher knew he was watching a civics lesson come gloriously to life.
"That was the stuff I taught about,'' Walz said. Then, he reverted to the effusive coach he'd been.
"I gave him a pat on the arm and said, 'Nice work, Mr. President. I wasn't sure I should do that, but it felt right.''
Though a starting step toward broader ethics reform, Walz said people recognize the STOCK Act's symbolic importance. Congress can still work together and when pressed will do the right thing.
Walz is concerned that skepticism about government has morphed into damaging cynicism. The STOCK Act, he hopes, will help nudge people back to a healthier level of skepticism.
"I guess that is progress,'' he said.
Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.
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