Remember that Congressional insider trading scandal? The one where Congress members were caught trading stocks and bonds on insider information, an apparent crime for everyone else but Congress? Well, after a lot of public posturing leading to the passage of a reform law (with resulting positive press coverage) – Congress is back to their old tricks.
Congress approved a bill Friday to eliminate expanded financial-disclosure reporting requirements for Senior Executive Service members, just days before the new requirements were to go into effect.
The bill indefinitely suspends the filing requirements for 28,000 Executive Branch employees, including SES members. The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent Thursday evening. The House followed suit Friday.
So much for reform.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which Congress passed last spring, was designed to deter insider trading by members of Congress and some 28,000 senior federal employees. Under the bill, these feds were be required to file reports of new transactions in stocks, bonds, commodities or other securities that exceed $1,000 to the Office of Government Ethics — information that would eventually wind up on a publicly searchable database .
Along with SES members, the new measure also exempts congressional staff.
Why should future lobbyists have to disclose their financial statements? How can they double deal and sell the public out if they have to tell everyone about it? See, the original bill was not pragmatic enough.
These exemptions undermine the entire point of the bill. The STOCK act was, not surprisingly, opposed by the Senior Executives Association who did not want SES members to face public scrutiny. This concern was properly overruled during the bill’s passage due to the recognition that the public interest in knowing whether or not SES members were insider trading is more important than the fear of facing inspection. Not to mention, if you want to work for the government you should be expected to conform to these standards and embrace transparency. It is called the public sector for a reason, these are employees’ financial and not health records. It is more than reasonable for the public to know if there are any conflicts of interests among the people they are paying to serve them.
Even more indefensible is the exemption for congressional staffers. This is precisely who requires oversight. These are exactly the people who often engage in the most inappropriate conduct regarding, shall we say, extracurricular compensation. The staffers and the industry lobbyists are the real gears that drive the machine in Washington. Letting congressional staffers escape transparency negates the entire purpose of the law.
Instead of of embracing the proverb of sunshine is the best disinfectant, Congress is trying to treat the public like mushrooms – feed them crap and keep in the dark. If President Obama is serious about changing Washington, he must veto this attempt at gutting the STOCK Act.