We missed this on Friday, but it shouldn’t go unremarked. More than a year ago, embarrassed by allegations that members of the House and Senate traded on inside information, Congress passed the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which required (among other mandates) transparent reporting on financial transactions. That supposedly would keep politicians honest, forcing them to refrain from enriching themselves based on privileged information.
Until now, that is:
With little fanfare, the House quickly voted Friday to repeal a financial transparency requirement for senior government officials, which was part of a much-heralded government transparency bill last year.
Members passed S. 716 by unanimous consent, with no debate and no description on the floor about what the bill would do. The Senate passed it in the same fashion on Thursday. …
Among other things, the STOCK Act required roughly 28,000 senior officials to post their financial details online. But that requirement was immediately criticized by these officials, some of whom said it could pose a national security risk.
Congress twice delayed the reporting requirement, and the last delay was due to expire on Monday, April 15. That delay called for a study of the issue by the National Academy of Public Administration to study the requirement further.
On April 1, that group recommended ending the requirement for senior officials.
How did the debate go in both chambers — you know, the debate that politicians insist is needed for regulating the rest of us? If you blinked, you missed it:
The measure was aimed at amending the STOCK ACT, and neither chamber debated it, according to Yahoo. The law was meant to prevent officials such as lawmakers and their staff from being able to profit from stock trades, using their insider knowledge. If the law was not repealed, than the disclosures were going to start on Monday.
According to NPR, The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for a more open government, said that Congress failed and that they act broadly. The organization noted that the president and the vice president, as well as members of Congress still have to make their financial closures public. However, they will not have to release such disclosures on the Internet.
So … the IRS can read our e-mails without a warrant, but putting financial disclosures of politicians on Capitol Hill is a national security risk?
Barack Obama has to decide whether to sign the bill, but Congress obviously could still override a veto. That makes the decision relatively risk-free for the most transparent administration evahTM, but not entirely so. A veto might raise the profile of this bill high enough to embarrass Congress into ditching it and sticking to the disclosures they so ostentatiously passed a year ago.
Update: Obama signed the bill into law earlier today. Thanks to Dustin Siggins for the hat-tip.