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Congress’ Squishy Financial Disclosure Deadline

McCaul, one of Congress' wealthiest members, has yet to file a 2014 disclosure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McCaul, one of Congress' wealthiest members, has yet to file a 2014 disclosure. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

But fear not, those who might be inclined to worry about the difficulties and demands of congressional life. According to financial disclosure rules — confirmed by a House Ethics Committee aide on Wednesday — members get an additional 30-day grace period before they are penalized. And even then, members are only looking at a $200 fine.  

As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, financial disclosures for these members were not available:

Rick W. Allen, R-Ga.

Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Alan Grayson, D-Fla.

Michael McCaul, R-Texas

Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas

Mark Walker, R-N.C.

Bill Huizenga, R-Mich.

Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich.

Chellie Pingree, D-Maine

When CQ Roll Call asked about those tardy disclosures, the deputy chief of the House Clerk’s Legislative Resource Center, Corliss Clemonts-James, said via email that “all successfully received and processed FD reports are posted to the Clerk’s website.”  

Clemonts-James directed inquiries about missed deadlines to the Ethics Committee — which, on the record, had nothing to say to CQ Roll Call.  

On background, however, an Ethics aide confirmed that, by statute, members get an additional 30 days before they are fined $200 for not turning in disclosures. (That’s laid out in the House Ethics manual.) The aide would not comment on what happens after those additional 30 days expire, or what would happen if a member simply decided to flout the rules and never file.  

According to the Ethics manual, the answer to that question may depend on how many times a member wants to be late on filing the disclosure.  

The House Ethics guide mandates the first missed deadline for a disclosure or an extension (30 days after the stated deadline) results in a $200 fine, “no matter how many missed transactions.” File your 2014 disclosure in January 2016, and it you’re still looking at a $200 fine.  

If a member files a financial disclosure late for a second time — or a third time, or a fourth time, for that matter — then the member is charged $200 for each month he or she filed a late transaction. “For example,” the House Ethics manual offers, “if the filer failed to file timely reports for transactions that were executed in January, April and July, but instead reported all such transaction on one [periodic transaction report] in October, then $600 in late fees is owed.” In that example, the member would have filed transactions late in three months, thus the $600 fine.  

By these rules, a member could miss the filing deadline for four years, and still be looking at a $200 fine. Or, by these same rules, a member could file for a 90-day extension by June 14 — 30 days after the May 15 deadline — then file their disclosure by Sept. 12 (30 days after the 90-day extension ran out) and still not face any penalties.  

Of course, if a member is more than 30 days tardy with a financial disclosure deadline five times and beyond, the hammer could really come down. Maybe. Sort of.  

A member filing a disclosure late for the fifth time is fined $200 per late transaction. Some members make hundreds of stock transactions in a year. In those cases, yes, if Rep. Michael McCaul didn’t file a disclosure on time for five years, he could be looking at forking over some real money. (He can probably afford it ; the second-wealthiest member of Congress, according to CQ Roll Call , he listed $117.5 million in assets in 2014.)  

But other members make only a few transactions a year — some don’t make any. The $200 fee per transaction may not be so bad for fellow Texas Republican Louie Gohmert. (Gohmert lists no assets to his name, and had no transactions in 2014.)  

Of course, the Ethics Committee maintains the authority to waive the $200 fee, “but only in extraordinary circumstances.”  

Clarification 3:05 p.m.  An earlier version of this post listed Rep. Dan Donovan as having missed the deadline. Because he was elected this year in a special election, Donovan does not need to submit a disclosure beyond what he submitted as a candidate.  

Jay Hunter contributed to this report.

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