As Congress prepares to put the finishing touches on the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, some confusion in the legislative language is being highlighted by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.
“The House version nearly mirrors the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 in listing the categories of senior executive branch officials and employees who are required to disclose any sale or exchange of $1,000 or more in stocks, bonds, commodities futures, and other forms of securities,” write Suzanne Dershowitz and Angela Canterbury in the watchdog group’s blog.
But the Senate version “refers vaguely to ‘noncareer appointee[s] in the Senior Executive Service…or a similar personnel system for senior employees in the executive branch.’ It is unclear whether a ‘similar personnel system’ would include, for instance, the special pay system at regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Government Accountability Office and others. We can’t see any reason why senior officials at financial regulatory agencies should be exempted from the disclosure requirements.”
POGO also criticizes the Senate version for failing to cover Special Government Employees, who are important because many SGEs serve on federal government advisory committees. The nonprofit watchdog group favors the House approach of allowing the director of the Office of Government Ethics to include any additional officers in the executive branch not expressly mentioned in the act.