The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 12, 2013

Congress changes Walz's STOCK Act

Core disclosure measures still intact, Walz says

The Free Press

Congress has passed legislation that changes Rep. Tim Walz's STOCK Act by removing a requirement for the online posting of federal officials' financial disclosures.

The legislation moved quickly through Congress, Bloomberg reported, to get ahead of an April 15 deadline for the reports to be posted online.

Walz released a statement Friday evening, saying in part that "Government reform is a journey, not a destination. The core components of the STOCK Act - ensuring elected officials play by the same rules as everyone else - remain intact."

A report was released on March 28 by the National Academy of Public Administration that said the financial disclosure requirements could endanger national security and the employees' safety, Roll Call reported.

The provision that was repealed Friday was not part of the Walz's original STOCK Act, and was added in the version that passed the Senate.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act is aimed at prohibiting members of Congress and federal employees from benefiting from non-public information. It was signed into law by the president in April of 2012.

The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency nonprofit, criticized the change as an effort at "security through obscurity" because paper copies of the financial disclosures will still be available but will be more difficult to dig up.

The group had instead advocated creating exceptions in the law for individuals in sensitive jobs.

The foundation also reported that the Senate bill also changes the disclosure requirements for those to whom the online disclosures would still apply, such as the president, members of Congress and congressional candidates. The bill would still require financial disclosures from those individuals, but removes the requirement that the online information be searcheable, sortable and downloadable. This would make those disclosures "tepid and relatively unusable," according to the foundation.

Walz introduced the STOCK Act in 2011 and garnered national attention after a "60 Minutes" program on the bill later that year.