Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) vowed Monday night to mount a battle to overturn Congress and President Barack Obama’s roundly criticized recent decision to gut the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.
In a joint appearance on CNBC’s Kudlow Report with Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer, Chaffetz said the controversial S.716 bill adds taxpayer expense while reducing transparency. S.716 struck down the STOCK Act’s requirement that federal officials’ financial disclosures be made available in an online format. Schweizer is the author of author of Throw Them All Out–which Slate calls “the book that started the STOCK Act stampede.”
“In today’s day and age it’s easier, cheaper, more effective, more efficient to put it online,” said Chaffetz. “To go out and print these things and then put them up on some shelf of some library is not doing the public any good.”
CNBC host Larry Kudlow asked Chaffetz why S.716 passed.
“I don’t know,” said Chaffetz. “This is news to me. It’s not right. We’ll certainly go back and pursue it. But it’s easier to do it online. In today’s day and age, that’s where it all should be.”
Chaffetz’s commitment to restore the STOCK Act’s key transparency provision comes on the heels of intense criticism by media and citizens across the political spectrum who condemned the bill’s gutting as a cynical power play by members of Washington’s Permanent Political Class.
Last week, progressive icon Jon Stewart of the Daily Show blasted Obama and Congress for gutting the bill. And last night, 60 Minutes ran an update informing viewers that the 2011 report they aired based on Schweizer’s investigative research had “shamed” Congress into passing the STOCK Act, only to then see it gutted last week.
Chaffetz’s call to restore the STOCK Act places some lawmakers and Obama in the uncomfortable political position of defending the decision to stop already publicly available documents from being made available in an online, user-friendly format.
The decision to gut the STOCK Act came after former senior federal officials drafted a dramatic letter that warned lawmakers that making records that are already public record accessible in a digitized, searchable format posed a danger to national security that could become a “jackpot” for “enemies of the United States intent on finding security vulnerabilities they can exploit.”
Government watchdog groups and cyber security experts have said such dire warnings are “bulls–t” and little more than hyperbolic scaremongering designed to make it harder on taxpayers and journalists to uncover instances of cronyism where bureaucrats may have granted lucrative contracts or perks to friends, family, or entities they themselves invest in.
“For transparency to work,” says Schweizer, information “has to be accessible. That’s the whole point.”