While Congress is in the midst of a two-week recess, a rule that would require the financial records of certain federal employees to be freely available online has once again been put into question. The provision is part of the so-called Stock Act, a bill meant to prevent insider trading, that Congress first passed in April of last year. Concerns over privacy and security and an injunction from a federal judge have led Congress to delay the date that the online disclosure rule would go into effect three times. And, now, a congressionally mandated study has found that the requirement could put individual safety and national security at risk. David Hawkings, author of Hawkings Here for Roll Call, talks about the details.
On how the findings of a new report fit into the yearlong debate over the online disclosure rule: "It's going to make sure this debate lasts longer than a year. Stock Act, if you remember, was supposed to be Stock Trading on Congressional Act. It was written to cover Congress and their staff, and during the deliberations Sen. Grassley from Iowa and Sen. Shelby from Alabama, decided to add senior executive branch employees — anybody making more than $119,000 a year. This was sort of added on the fly, and soon after it was passed, the executive branch employees started objecting, saying this was a national security risk. And it's now been delayed three different times."
On how lawmakers will respond when they're back in session next week: "I think there will some effort to tinker. There will be some effort to reopen the law, and to maybe excise the one provision that seems to be causing trouble, which is not the level of income that requires disclosure, but the fact that it's all posted online. This is what seems to be getting people upset. But whenever you reopen a law that was passed with some controversy, everyone's going to want to glom on and try to rewrite it to their thinking."
On where the Stock Act stands if Congress knocks the rule out: "What's certain is that the congressional part of the Stock Act is going to remain. There is absolutely no political appetite for undoing this... to do with members of Congress and their staff. This was a self-regulatory measure, sort of a good government measure... there would be a political outcry if they got rid of the law altogether.
Listen to the full analysis here.