Feds gain time on financial disclosure requirements

Henny Ray Abrams/AP

Amid heavy backlash, Congress has pushed back by one month the deadline for federal executives to provide personal financial information for a public database, as required by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.

The extension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 30 came after the American Civil Liberties Union, in partnership with groups representing federal employees, filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt against the government on behalf of the 28,000 federal workers affected by the policy. The lawsuit claimed the requirement to post disclosures on the Internet is a breach of a constitutional right to privacy.

The Senior Executives Association, which has repeatedly voiced concern over the STOCK Act disclosure provisions and was one of the groups to join the ACLU’s lawsuit, said the delay is a step in the right direction.

“The Senior Executives Association applauds Congress for taking the first step in remedying a provision in the STOCK Act that requires public financial disclosures to be posted on the Internet,” the group said in a statement. “It is clear from this action that Congress has heard the strong concerns voiced by SEA and other federal employee associations.”

The American Foreign Service Association, the Assembly of Scientists and the National Association of Immigration Judges joined SEA and ACLU in the suit. The groups said the disclosure provisions are an invasion of privacy and create an unnecessary security risk for federal managers, especially those serving abroad.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told Government Executive the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman wants to address the issues the employee groups have raised when Congress comes back from recess.

“Sen. Lieberman would like to find a way to prevent online disclosure of personal financial information that would risk national security, or endanger safety of the filers and their families,” said Leslie Phillips, Lieberman’s spokeswoman.

Lieberman is not the only lawmaker who has noted the employee groups’ concerns. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., recently raised concerns about the controversial STOCK Act provision.

Pre-STOCK Act policies required high-ranking government personnel to file financial disclosure forms, but they were available to the public only upon written request.

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