Probably just another coincidence that some incident in Boston came up to take the media focus off this little law.
Congress Guts STOCK Act
By Dan Auble on April 12, 2013 4:31 PM
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computer_trash.jpgUpdate 4/12: The House passed the Senate’s bill today — a big step backward for transparency. Look for a follow-up story next week.
The Senate voted Thursday to kill broad disclosure of already public reports detailing the personal finances of public officials and employees.
The STOCK Act, which was passed by Congress a year ago, requires online posting of the personal financial disclosure statements that lawmakers and congressional candidates, the president and vice president, members of the cabinet and high-ranking congressional and executive branch staff file each year. The data is supposed to be made available in machine readable format that is to be ready to download this October.
The law’s provision barring insider trading by members of Congress was left intact.
With no hearings or notice to the public or to most members of the body, the Senate voted by unanimous consent to remove both the online disclosure requirement for staff members on the Hill and in executive branch agencies and the creation of a public database containing the information within the reports. Roll Call reports that 220;neither the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee nor its House counterpart seemed to have specifics on what was in the works.”
The changes were handled solely at the leadership level. In response to national security and personal safety concerns but seemingly ignoring transparency considerations, the Senate rolled back much of the progress made by the law’s passage.
Under the Senate’s new version, the reports of lawmakers, the president and vice president, and Senate-confirmed executive branch officials would still be posted online as they are now. But the information within the reports would continue to be locked up in files that are not easily analyzed.
Currently, reports are filed on paper and made available as pdf files. The STOCK Act required all filing to be electronic — no more faxed or mailed paper versions, no more scrawled handwriting to decipher. Under the Senate bill, electronic filing would be available but optional, and the system would be delayed until January 2014.
For seven years, the Center has undertaken the expensive and time-consuming task of keying these reports and making the data available to the public on the web, enabling a number of investigations of the potential conflicts of interest to be found in personal financial holdings.
It’s unclear what the House plans to do, but the deadline for posting senior employees’ reports — already postponed twice — is Monday, April 15. A lawsuit brought by a coalition of groups representing federal employees could also result in a delay even if the House does not act, and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics last week called for an indefinite delay.