The annual reports usually are released in mid-June, and they cover the previous calendar year. That means a report covering 2011 isn't filed until May 2012 and isn't publicly disclosed until a month later. A January 2011 transaction could be nearly a year and a half old before the public might learn of it.
Despite the added transparency, some members of Congress said they don't believe the frequent reporting is needed.
"I don't think it's necessary to impose that extra step," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said, while adding that he would comply.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a farm owner, chuckled that he has one asset that won't be traded. "When you buy a farm, you buy a farm forever. You don't sell it," he said.
Grassley's 2010 transactions were in mutual funds. While the House and Senate ethics committees would have to work out the precise transaction reporting rules, the legislation would only exempt publicly traded, widely diversified mutual funds in which the individual has no control over the assets. That would mean real estate deals would be reportable, and so would sector funds that are not widely diversified, such as those holding only high-tech stocks.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., joked that the requirement won't be a burden for him.
"Since I do none of my own trading and have some guy who does it, it's a burden on him," Berman said. He took the extra step, not required, of attaching his broker statements showing dozens of transactions to his 2010 disclosure form.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., one of the richest members of Congress, said he supports the legislation but urged his colleagues to think carefully about what they're doing.
"The last time an ethics bill was rushed through Congress, it erroneously banned members of Congress who had their pilot's licenses from flying their own private planes," he said. "Past history has shown that tough-sounding measures often don't address ineffective enforcement mechanisms or help sort out real abuses of the public trust from everyday mudslinging."
House Clerk's public disclosure page: http://clerk.house.gov/public_disc/index.aspx
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