NAPA also raised the possibility that disclosure of personal financial records could endanger intelligence service employees, but then recognized that such transparency is already in place in paper format and concluded that it “was unable to find any evidence” of such risk. Instead of proposing a narrow remedy to exempt intelligence service employees, NAPA recommended, and Congress obliged, deleting huge swaths of government officials from online disclosure and crippling the utility of the online database by making it just a bunch of PDF snapshots of the filings — a transparency system antiquated by design.
Make no mistake: The STOCK Act is still in effect and congressional insider trading still is banned. But it has now become extraordinarily difficult to ensure compliance with the law.
There is another chance to put teeth back into the law: mandate disclosure of the political intelligence industry. Some 2,000 lobbyists and Wall Street operatives roam the halls of Congress for stock trading information valued at more than $100 million annually. Congressional staffers are a primary source of information for these political-intel consultants.
If stock trading of congressional and executive branch staff remains largely below the public’s radar, at least we can mandate such transparency for the cottage industry that taps into government-insider information. In the wake of Congress’ repeal of the disclosure enforcement mechanism of the STOCK Act, it is more important than ever to open the books on the political intelligence industry and disclose online their sources of information, activities and clients in a searchable, sortable and downloadable database.
Craig Holman is a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.