Congress is moving quickly to repeal a requirement imposed last year, but never put into effect, that financial disclosure forms filed by many senior career federal employees be posted online.
The Senate passed the repeal bill Thursday with no debate, and the House could take up the measure Friday under a similar short-cut procedure, sources say.
The vote comes as a deadline approaches on a provision of the Stock (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) Act. That law mainly addressed conflict-of-interest policies for members of Congress and their staffs, but it also included a requirement that the financial disclosure forms filed by some 28,000 high-ranking federal employees be posted online.
While those forms are public records, they must be requested individually from employing agencies. The Stock Act envisions online posting first on agency sites and later in a central, searchable database.
The posting requirement was delayed three times out of concerns about the potential for identity theft and other crimes against career employees, as well as security risks to the government. The latest delay expires Monday.
The bill before Congress says the posting requirement “shall not be effective” for persons other than top political Executive Branch officials, members of Congress and congressional candidates — whose disclosure forms already are available online.
“It doesn’t use the word repeal, but in our eyes it’s basically the same thing,” said Jenny Mattingley, director of government affairs for the Senior Executives Association. “It’s not going into effect. For us, it’s encouraging.”
SEA is a sponsor of a pending lawsuit against the requirement and has asked the judge in that case to issue a temporary injunction if Congress does not act before the deadline.
The Senate passed the repeal action in its first week in session since the late-March release of a report by the National Academy of Public Administration on the issue. In its report, commissioned by one of the delay laws, NAPA recommended an indefinite suspension of the Stock Act’s online disclosure requirement, saying the heightened risk to employees and the government would outweigh the public benefit of online posting.
The Office of Government Ethics has endorsed that recommendation, noting that under current policy the reports are publicly available and saying that they are examined closely by agencies’ ethics officials for potential conflicts of interest or other ethical violations.