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This little gem snuck through Friday's news dump. Without consulting the public, the Senate unanimously voted to remove the main disclosure requirements from the STOCK (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act. Passed a year ago, the STOCK Act required lawmakers and their staff to make public certain financial disclosures, the same disclosures as the American public, in order to ensure government officials do not personally benefit financialy from insider knowledge. Open Secrets has the synopsis of the original bill:
Lawmakers and their staff as well as a large number of top-level executive branch employees are subject to new disclosure requirements and increased accessibility of their filings.
- Beginning in July, 2012, securities transactions previously reported once a year will now be reported after, at most, 45 days.
- With the annual filings in May, 2012, mortgages on lawmakers' personal residences, which were previously only disclosed if the house produced income, will now be reported in all cases.
- By September, 2012, reports will be made available on the web by the Senate, House, and Office of Government Ethics, including the new mortgage and transaction requirements.
- By September, 2013, the information contained in personal financial disclosures will be filed electronically and made available as a downloadable database.
The law also explicitly prohibits covered officials from using non-public information gained in the course of their official duties for personal profit and makes private IPOs off-limits for lawmakers. It also requires disclosure of employment negotiations to the ethics committee of the appropriate body (House or Senate).
According to Roll Call, "if passed by the House and signed by President Barack Obama, the measure would exclude legislative and executive staffers from having their financial disclosure forms posted on the Internet." The insider trading provision however, remains untouched.
The House quickly, and quietly passed the Senate provision Friday.
What's the excuse for rolling back what is arguably one of the only strides towards government transparency in years? National Security concerns. Yes, that's correct, somehow making public the financial information of top level Congressional and executive branch staffers is a national security concern.
This is yet another disapointing example of the current state of affairs. Our elected officials consistently vote to protect themselves from laws the American public would be prosecuted for violating. And the political establishment on both sides of the aisle continues to shield themselves from sunlight.