Obama Signs Bill to Gut Congressional Insider Trading Law

In his 2012 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama urged members of Congress to pass the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, a bill to ban insider trading for members of Congress and their staffs and to increase transparency by putting the financial disclosures of federal workers online.

But on Monday, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 716, a bill that bans financial disclosures of federal executive and legislative workers—which are already publicly available in document form—from being posted online.

Federal workers complained that giving citizens online access to already public information would be a “jackpot” for “enemies of the United States intent on finding security vulnerabilities they can exploit.” 

Government watchdog groups and others say such dire warnings are little more than hyperbolic scaremongering. The Sunlight Foundation called the bill an “epic failure.” The Center for Responsive Politics says S. 716 increases opacity in government in ways that are “unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Indeed, Obama’s decision to sign the bill banning online access to financial disclosures stands in direct contrast to his stated position of increasing transparency in government. The White House website touts the president’s commitment to using technology to give citizens more information and access to their government:

Government is more accountable when it is transparent. That’s why President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first full day in office, ushering in a new era of open and accountable government to bridge the gap between the American people and their government. The Administration has taken unprecedented steps to make government more efficient and effective.

Still, members of Congress passed and Obama signed S. 716.

“Are we going to return to the days when public can use the internet to research everything except what their government is doing?” asked Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation. “Will Congress, in its twisted wisdom, decide that information is public if journalists, academics, advocates and citizens are forced to dig through file cabinets in basements in Washington to find it?”

Still, Obama claims his is "the most transparent Administration in history."


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