Congress passes bill to temporarily amend the STOCK Act

Under the STOCK Act, government workers, including lawmakers and executive officials, would have to disclose financial information and any oral or written communications they have while working on issues that might affect their financial investments, such as securities and commodities futures transactions. Such information would then be compiled and made public on government agencies’ websites. The goal being to make sure government employees aren’t financially benefiting from non-public information they receive because of their positions in government.

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Lawmakers and executive officials expressed concern that requiring online posting of financial data would potentially impact national security and the personal safety of national security and law enforcement professionals and their families.

The change passed Thursday, S. 3510, delays the effective date from Aug. 31 to Sept. 30, so that lawmakers have time to address the concern, as they will be gone for August recess.

“These are very serious concerns they have raised, and given that we are on the eve of the August district work period, we do not have time to adequately address those concerns,” McConnell said Thursday. “Thus, this very short bill adopts [national security leaders’] joint recommendation to delay implementation until the national security and personal safety implications can be fully evaluated.”

In a letter sent on July 19 to congressional leadership in both Chambers, 14 people in the national security field, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, recommended that the bill exempt executive branch officials from publicly disclosing their financial information.

“Posting this detailed financial information on the Internet will jeopardize the safety of executive branch officials — including military, diplomatic, law enforcement and potentially intelligence officials — and their families who are posted or travel in dangerous areas, especially in certain countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America,” the letter stated. “Embassy and military security officers already advise these officials to post no personal identifying information on the Internet. Publishing the financial assets of these officials will allow foreign governments, and terrorist or criminal groups to specifically target these officials or their families for kidnapping, harassment, manipulation of financial assets and other abuse.”

The House passed the bill by voice vote and the Senate passed it by unanimous consent Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and McConnell introduced the bipartisan bill in the Senate. It now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.