Senior federal employees will not have to disclose their personal finances for an online public database under legislation Congress approved on Friday.
Both chambers agreed to end a requirement in the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act for senior career executives and congressional staff to disclose their finances for an online downloadable and searchable database. The financial disclosure requirement in the law still applies to the president, vice president, Cabinet officials and other senior administration officials requiring Senate confirmation, lawmakers and congressional candidates.
The House passed S. 716 by unanimous consent Friday, after the Senate approved the bill Thursday evening.
Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, praised lawmakers for making “the right decision” and said the group “is grateful to Congress for recognizing the harm that would have resulted from posting financial disclosure statements of senior level career employees on the Web.”
The STOCK Act is designed to combat insider trading in government and enhance transparency, but several groups opposed the creation of a public database containing the personal finances of federal employees and their spouses. Critics, including SEA, pointed to the unintended consequences that could result from posting the financial details of the senior civil service corps online, including identity theft, kidnapping and extortion, particularly for those employees and their families living overseas and intelligence personnel working undercover in foreign countries.
The nonprofit National Academy of Public Administration, which last month recommended a suspension of the online posting requirement for federal employees, argued that extensive information on the personal finances of those employees already is required by law, and that making it so readily available online, coupled with the already vast reach of the Internet, makes it too easy for individuals or organizations to exploit that information for criminal and other purposes. High-ranking government personnel currently file financial disclosure forms to the Office of Government Ethics; they are available to the public upon written request.
Congress had postponed the STOCK Act disclosure requirement for career employees and staffers until April 15 to review the issue. The latest legislative action essentially ends the requirement for those groups saying it “shall not be effective” for them.