Since the STOCK Act is presumably going to see House floor consideration this week, we’re continuing to follow the bill very closely.
We’ve got two main criticisms of the Senate-passed version of the STOCK Act, in addition to the Senate’s failure to pass an e-filing requirement.
First, the Senate version requires anyone downloading the data behind the new reporting to create a login. We can’t see any legitimate reason to require a login for downloading data. As we’ve noted before, Data.gov permits access to bulk downloads without a login, and such a requirement adds nothing of value. At its worst, it intimidates reuse and adds cost and a burden for public oversight. At its best, requiring a login for bulk downloads… Well, I can’t think of anything good to say about it. (See the bottom of page 13 of the pdf.)
Second, the bill mandates that records be destroyed after 6 years. This is such a bizarre requirement that I think it’s partially the result of a drafting error. Financial disclosures, whether they’re the yearly declarations, or the new financial transaction disclosures, are valuable historical documents. They should continue to be available online for decades after they’re filed, and at an absolute minimum, the House should remove the requirement that they be destroyed after 6 years, and instead require that NARA get copies of all the filings for safekeeping.
Finally, we’ve got a new suggestion for improving the disclosure requirements. The new financial transaction reporting requirements apply primarily to stock trades. But if 15K in stocks presents enough of a potential conflict of interest to require reporting, shouldn’t real estate purchases and sales be disclosed in real-time as well? Congress has had one scandal after another about real estate (think of Hastert or Dodd), and the Boxer amendment about mortgage terms passed in the Senate. Members buying or selling real estate should be required to disclose the transaction as it occurs.