Must-Do: A STOCK Act Can-Kick

Posted April 3, 2013 at 4:51pm

When lawmakers come back from spring recess, there’s really only one item on their “must finish” agenda for the first week: legislation that would buy more time for Congress to figure out how to untangle some of the problems they created for the federal bureaucracy when they enacted the STOCK Act a year ago.

The acronym stands for “stop trading on congressional knowledge,” and the original purpose of the measure was to do no more than put an election-year exclamation point on rules against insider trading by senators, House members and their aides. But along the way, the bill was dramatically expanded to require thousands of executive branch officials to post online the details of their financial and investment lives. The current start date is April 15.

And last week an independent study commissioned by Congress concluded that these officials, especially people working abroad, were right in complaining that so much disclosure could expose them to blackmail and that Congress should reopen the law to tamp down on the sunlight. The rewriting won’t happen in the few days before the deadline, so, instead, look for blink-and-you’ll-miss-them voice votes in the House and Senate to delay the effective date into the summer.

You can listen or read here about some reasons for this latest example of congressional can-kicking, which I offered during my most recent appearance on WAMU, the NPR affiliate in D.C. (They invite me on Monday and Friday mornings to talk about things happening in official Washington that have a special impact on people in local Washington.)