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Obama signs law to halt online posting of executives’ financial forms

Apr. 15, 2013 - 03:20PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
President Obama leaves the Oval Office on April 8 in Washington, D.C. Obama signed legislation Monday that blocks the online posting of personal financial-disclosure statements of thousands of federal executives.
President Obama leaves the Oval Office on April 8 in Washington, D.C. Obama signed legislation Monday that blocks the online posting of personal financial-disclosure statements of thousands of federal executives. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

President Obama signed legislation Monday that blocks the online posting of personal financial-disclosure statements of thousands of federal executives.

The bill, which unanimously sailed through the Senate on Thursday with no opportunity for debate, won House approval Friday. Obama signed the measure the same day that the online posting requirement was to have taken effect.

Under a law passed last year to strengthen defenses against insider trading, Congress had required online posting of the annual disclosure statements filed by as many as 28,000 federal employees and senior military officers. But in a report released last month by the National Academy of Public Administration, an independent panel warned of possible national security and law enforcement repercussions. Among the panel’s fears: that employees assigned overseas or engaged in law enforcement work could be put at risk by making information on their assets and holdings so readily available. The statements, known as Office of Government Ethics Forms 278, are already public, but are typically available only in paper form in response to a written request. The online disclosure requirement now applies only to elected officials, congressional candidates and top political appointees.

In a blog post, the Center for Responsive Politics said the revision signed Monday renders last year’s law “toothless.”

Paper filing is “an unacceptably outdated practice that limits the public’s access,” the nonprofit watchdog organization said.

Among those opposing online disclosure is the Senior Executives Association, which represents career Senior Executive Service members and is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the requirement on Privacy Act grounds.

“In the interest of ensuring that government works effectively, which includes safeguarding employees’ sensitive information, this was the right decision,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro said in a news release after Friday’s House vote.

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