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Congress approves bill requiring feds to post financial statements online

Mar. 22, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
(File photo / Agence France-Presse)

Congress on Thursday gave final approval to legislation requiring the financial disclosure reports of some 28,000 federal officials to be posted on the Internet by August.

The Senate voted 96-3 to send the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act to President Obama for his signature. The measure passed the House last month.

While the bill's main purpose is to ensure that lawmakers and their staffs don't use non-public insider knowledge when dealing in stocks and other investments, it also mandates posting the disclosure statements known as Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Form 278s on a public website. Some 28,000 filers, including presidential appointees, Senior Executive Service members, and general and flag officers, would fall under the law, according to a recent analysis by the ethics office. Although the annual statements are already public, they are typically available only in paper form in response to a request.

Once Obama signs the bill, agencies must put the disclosure statements online on their own sites, the analysis said. Eventually, the bill requires the ethics office to create a searchable database on its site.

The ethics office last week posted online the disclosure reports for some 900 presidential appointees and nominees requiring Senate confirmation, as well as presidential candidates. But the analysis says the cost of an electronic filing system to meet the bill's requirements would exceed the ethics office's entire annual budget of about $14 million.

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