Last week, the
Senate and House passed a secret, barely-debated bill
to limit the scope and effectiveness of the STOCK Act that was passed last year to limit corruption and promote transparency of public officials' financial activity. The purpose of the STOCK Act, which stands for STOP TRADING ON CONGRESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE, is described by the Center of Responsive Politics:
The STOCK Act, which was passed by Congress a year ago, requires online posting of the personal financial disclosure statements that lawmakers and congressional candidates, the president and vice president, members of the cabinet and high-ranking congressional and executive branch staff file each year. The data is supposed to be made available in machine readable format that is to be ready to download this October.
And at the time of its passage, Obama had this to say
"It's a good first step," he said after passage. "And in the months ahead, Congress should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people."
Watchdog groups had hailed the passage of the bill last year, as it had wide bi-partisan support and satisfied the public need for added transparency. However, just months after the 2012 election, Congress furtively stripped the bill of major powers
Both chambers of Congress quickly — and near silently — approved the repeal legislation at the end of last week by unanimous consent, just before heading home to their districts.
The Senate advanced the bill Thursday by unanimous consent, without debate or even briefly describing what it would do. The House signed off on the bill Friday using the same approach.
And, unfortunately, yesterday, President Obama completed this rope-a-dope deception by signing this new bill, which stripped key provisions from the STOCK Act and rolled back a lot of the progress that the original bill made in promoting transparency and open government. The bill was signed without any cameras or fanfare, which is in stark contrast to the very public signing of the actual STOCK Act.
It seems President Obama was glad to parade around the signing of the pro-transparency bill, but was not so open about his reversal of the most important parts of it a year later! Open Secrets describes the key provisions stripped out of the bill and labels this action "A reversal of the STOCK Act"
The elements of the STOCK Act that were removed include:
Creation of searchable, sortable disclosure of the information contained in reports even for Congress, the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet and congressional candidates.
Required electronic filing for Congress, the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet and congressional candidates, as well as high-level executive and congressional branch employees. Even images of the staffers' filings will not be available for viewing on the web.
The original bill was praised for providing transparency of records to be searchable online, applying to staffers, high-level employees. And this reversal signed yesterday by President Obama will make it even harder to hold public officials accountable and give them less requirements for disclosure.
So the very bill that Obama last year claimed was "a good first step" and suggested that "we should do even more in the months ahead", has now been totally revised and stripped of the most important aspects which promote transparency in the new bill that he has just signed yesterday. Instead of doing more to increase transparency, Congress and President Obama have rolled back the very provisions of the bill which helped promote an open government, in a decidedly non-transparent manner (unanimous voice consent, closed-signing by the president).
This is in a current federal governance environment where revolving door corruption is absolutely rampant, in both Congressional staffs and the executive branch organizations and the President's cabinet. President Obama has only used his veto power twice, the most sparse use of the power since President Garfield. It's a shame he decided to wait until after being re-elected to roll back these key anti-corruption, pro-transparency measures, rather than using his veto power to stand up for the principles that he was elected on by the people.
If you're too frustrated to read yet another story of Obama's outright hypocrisy and the continuing corruption of Congress by money interests, RT has produced a segment discussing the details of this latest shameful bill.
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