Moran’s News Commentary: Problems With the STOCK Act

September 19, 2012 9:29 PM0 comments

 Earlier this week, I had the honor of attending the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal Presentation. The awards, referred to as the “Sammies,” recognize outstanding federal employees for their dedication, innovation, and contributions to our nation.

This year, three of the winners are from the 8th District. Susan Angell serves as the Executive Director of the Veterans Homeless Initiative for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Susan partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a program that successfully reduced veterans homelessness by 12 percent in one year.

Charles Scoville serves as the Chief of Amputee Patient Care Service at Walter Reed Medical Center. A former Army physical therapist, Charles used a new sports medicine approach to revolutionize amputee care, allowing more than 300 of the 1,450 injured servicemembers to return to duty. One has even climbed Mt. Everest!

Elliot Branch is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Procurement for the Navy. Elliot is responsible every year for $90 billion in equipment contracts for the Navy and Marine Corps. Elliot oversees every major acquisition, negotiates with the major defense contractors, and makes sure our sailors and marines are getting what they need, when they need it.

These impressive individuals, and the other Sammie recipients, represent the best our civil service has to offer. The event is a yearly reminder that the U.S. federal workforce is the greatest civil service in the world, providing critical support and services for all Americans.

Unfortunately, many of our top federal employees, including many of the Sammie award winners, are facing a new risk from the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, signed into law in April. The STOCK Act takes important steps to increase the financial transparency of Congress, requiring members of Congress to report certain transactions, limiting participation in Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and eliminating pensions for lawmakers who commit one of several crimes while in office. Though the STOCK Act includes valuable reforms, a provision quietly inserted into the bill’s final version will have unacceptable, unintended consequences for senior civil servants.

Section 11 of the STOCK Act requires agencies to establish a centralized, searchable, online database for the financial disclosure forms of more than 28,000 senior-level federal employees. This provision puts the privacy and security of our federal workers at risk, particularly those in national security positions overseas.

Section 11 provides more than enough information for companies or individuals looking to capitalize off of federal workers struggling financially, targeting them for high-interest loans or credit card solicitations. With a quick Internet search, this provision could provide foreign criminal elements information on the financial standing of members of our civilian workforce, potentially making them attractive targets for robbery, extortion, identity theft and kidnapping.

Senior civil servants already file annual financial disclosure forms, which are reviewed by agency ethics personnel and are available to the public upon request. However, the information is disclosed only to individuals who register and identify themselves, and the data is only available in small increments, in a deliberate process that allows for review. The risks for exploitation of the STOCK Act’s online disclosure requirements far outweigh the good intention of the provision, harming top federal workers the Government needs within the civil service.

I will continue working in Congress to repeal Section 11 of the STOCK Act. The legislation was intended to bring more transparency and accountability to elected members of Congress. It should stick to this goal and not unfairly punish our most senior civil servants.

 


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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