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The SEC porn story: A song we've heard before

The latest details on the inspector general's probe of on-hours porn-watching inside the SEC are certainly not old news -- they come, as my colleague Ed O'Keefe reports, after a request for a summary from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission staffers used government computers to access and download explicit images and many of the incidents have occurred since the global financial meltdown began, according to a new watchdog investigation.

But Marian Wang points out that we've known about this for some time.

We pointed out the porn problem in a semiannual report from April 1, 2008, through Sept. 30, 2008 (PDF). ABC News pointed out similar findings in a report from Oct. 1, 2008, through March 31, 2009 (PDF). Similar reports on porn surfing within the SEC were reported in February, first by The Washington Times then blogged by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News and The Huffington Post, and later picked up by Gawker.

The difference now, as Wang points out, is that Republicans -- Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) -- are pouncing on the story to make an argument against financial reform legislation. This strikes me as politically wise and logically garbled -- the SEC, in the period covered by this investigation, was a mess at many other levels (go read Andrew Ross Sorkin on then-Chairman Chris Cox's fumbles during the 2008 meltdown), so why attack its old behavior instead of reforming it?

Worth reading for background: Zachary Roth's nicely reported rant about Issa's ability to grab headlines for announcing official inquiries into scandals that don't live up to their headlines.

By David Weigel  |  April 23, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Financial reform  
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