Monday, April 22, 2013

Taking STOCK of some changes

In case you were unaware, there was a big outcry of protest when part of the STOCK Act was changed/repealed.  The law that's being changed required federal officials to fill out financial disclosure forms online.  The president, vice president, members of Congress, Cabinet officers, other officials appointed by the President and candidates for president and Congress.   Who is even affected by this?

Well, by and large those people are going to be staffers for Congress.  The public records for congressional staffers is located in Washington, D.C., National Public Radio reports. You can search the database after typing in your name and address; you can search only by the name of the staffer.  If he or she has filed out a financial disclosure form, it will appear as a PDF which you can print for 10 cents a page.  The original STOCK Act was hoping to make it easier to search the database, basically.  By requiring the forms to be put online, people could search for everything online and it would make for a more transparent government.

The White House and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are actually in somewhat agreement of this issue.  This should strike you as odd.  Press Secretary for the White House Jay Carney mentioned that they were following the advice of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and the Office of Government Ethics.  NAPA warned that there might be breaches of security, national and international, as well as personal security.  There were concerns about law enforcement issues, too. 

The STOCK Act when it was originally signed into law had a lot of fanfare and showed up in the media quite often.  60 Minutes did a special on it, as did the Daily Show.  But when part of it was repealed, it was quickly and quietly handled.  But the larger parts of the bill remain in place, insider trading is still illegal for members of Congress and executive branch members.  The new version definitely hurts chances of a more transparent government.

This is still a problem.  Like most things in politics, if you already have a certain worldview, the repeal or change of the law is going to reinforce your initial worldview.  If you believe that government is corrupt, then this law is just more proof of such an idea.  If you believed that the government and government officials are, essentially, people prone to mistakes and lapses of judgment among other things, this proves it. 

The most amazing part of this is how quickly both sides of the aisle embraced a study.  Obviously, Congress can get stuff done when they want to.  Let's make them focus on real issues that affect all of us instead of the ones that only affect government workers.

Note: The STOCK Act was not perfect and probably has not resulted in the curbing of insider trading.  There are enough loopholes to make yourself dizzy.  For instance, members of Congress are prohibited from using information related to pending legislation to influence their stock trades.  Inside information gleaned from a regulatory hearing, for instance, would not be covered in the law.

No comments:

Post a Comment