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Jon Stewart Eviscerates Congress and President Obama for Gutting STOCK Act

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All hail Jon Stewart and those clever Daily Show writers for very adeptly (and hilariously -- though not in a very safe for work way) reporting last night how quickly and quietly Congress and President Obama combined forces to gut major transparency provisions of the STOCK Act passed last year. In an election year, they rushed to pass this reform legislation (and garner public kudos for doing so), but now with less of a spotlight on their actions, they rushed to undo the bill. Readers of our blog know that Sunlight's lobbyist, Lisa Rosenberg, has taken the charge to inform you about this as it happened nearly two weeks ago. As she put it, the Senate's action to approve the removal of STOCK Act transparency provisions was an epic failure on Thursday, May 11, especially since they did so invoking unanimous consent. Then the House followed suit and rushed the vote in mere seconds the next day, as most House members had already left Washington for recess. The House also completely lapsed on fulfilling their "read the bill" rule to wait three calendar days to deliberate on the legislation -- to, you know, actually give citizens time to know what their elected officials were voting on before it was a done deal. (This would have also given the press more time to inform Americans of these shenanigans.)

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The STOCK Act and Security through Obscurity

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Congress has been delaying implementation of the STOCK Act, largely out of fear over what could happen if disclosures go online. A new report from the National Academy of Public Administration says those fears are well-founded. But its reasoning is flawed, and its recommendations -- which amount to security through obscurity -- are badly wrong-headed. If there are problems with the disclosures mandated by STOCK, let's fix them. Ignoring them and hoping that obscurity will prevent bad things from happening is not only short-sighted, it's dangerous.

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STOCK Act Sausage Making

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If ever there were an example of knee-jerk legislating, the STOCK Act may be it. A thoughtful and comprehensive bill, introduced by Rep. Slaughter, languished for years until some bad publicity made Members of Congress decide to “take action.” But in their haste to demonstrate they were responsive to the public’s outcry over allegations of congressional insider trading, Congress passed a watered down version of the bill. Furthermore, since passing the STOCK Act, Congress has twice acted to delay implementation of the bill, citing the risk of unintended consequences of the transparency measures they enacted. The hurry up and wait method of legislating leaves one to wonder what will be disclosed when the sausage making is complete.

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