House backs another delay in online posting of financial disclosures

A requirement that the financial disclosure forms of some 28,000 federal employees be posted online would be delayed yet again, this time until April 15, 2013, under a bill the House took up on short notice and approved on a voice vote Wednesday.

The measure would order the third delay in a provision of the Stock Act ethics law enacted in April mandating that publicly available disclosure forms be posted on agency Web sites.

Currently, while those forms are public records, they generally must be requested individually from employing agencies. The posting requirement has raised concerns about potential identity theft and other crimes against employees, as well as security risks for the government.

The requirement originally was to be effective in September, but it was delayed until October, and was later was stalled again until Dec. 8. The second delay also ordered a study of the potential impact by the National Academy of Public Administration, a report that is not due until late March.

The newest delay bill gives “time to evaluate a broader fix. We have been working with the Senate on this and expect them to clear it,” Rory Cooper, a spokesman for its sponsor, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said in an e-mail.

The delay primarily affects career employees in senior levels who file the public disclosure forms. Disclosures filed by many other federal employees would remain confidential under the Stock Act requirement.

The public forms of many senior political appointees have been available since March at the Office of Government Ethics site, www.oge.gov. The forms of all members of Congress and congressional candidates were posted online in early October. Previously, disclosures of House members were online, but those of Senate members and candidates for either chamber were released only on-site on Capitol Hill.

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Steve Vogel · December 5, 2012