- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2013

Brushing aside the objections of transparency advocates, President Obama on Monday signed a law that scales back some of the financial disclosure requirements in the Stock Act, which was intended to prevent lawmakers from benefiting from insider trading.

Mr. Obama signed the legislation without fanfare after the Senate and House rushed through the bill late last week with little public notice.

White House press secretary Jay Carney defended Mr. Obama’s action by saying that “both houses of Congress passed this bill unanimously.”

Mr. Carney also cited security concerns about posting online the financial information of some federal employees.

Before it was amended, the law would have required about 28,000 senior government officials to post their financial information online.

The measure exempts congressional aides and executive branch staffers from doing so. The president, vice president and lawmakers are still required to have their data posted.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, introduced the bill Thursday and had the chamber vote on it late that evening. The House took the bill up Friday afternoon and passed it by unanimous consent.

House Republican leaders did not give lawmakers the traditional three days to read the bill before holding a vote, apparently because of a Monday deadline for the new disclosure mandates to take effect.

The National Academy of Public Administration said that posting the financial information online for tens of thousands of federal employees posed a national security risk. But the Sunlight Foundation, an open government group, said exempting staffers from online disclosure watered down the Stock Act, designed to stop insider trading by federal officials.

Last year, after CBS’ “60 Minutes” did a report suggesting that some government officials were financially benefiting from insider knowledge of federal actions, Congress quickly passed the Stock Act.

Part of the law required that senior government officials’ financial disclosure reports — which they are already required to submit in paper — be made available online in a searchable, sortable format. The intent was to increase transparency and make it easier for the public to ferret out illegalities.

The online disclosure provisions had not yet taken effect, and Congress asked the National Academy of Public Administration to review the law.

The group issued a report saying online posting would mean more sensitive information about high-level government employees would be easily available, which would make identify theft easier.

The Government Accountability Office said last week it was impossible to quantify how much political intelligence was being used in financial dealings.