To understand how the law changed, I asked Holman to meet me in the basement of the Cannon House Office Building.
“This is where the public records are kept, for those who can handle traveling to Washington, D.C.,” Holman explained.
That’s right. If you want to look up the financial disclosure forms filed by high-level congressional staffers — say, to find out whether they’ve been using the privileges of their positions to make well-timed stock trades — you have to come to this office.
Holman showed me how it works. You have to enter your name and address into a computer, and then you can search. But you have to know the name of the person you are searching for. If he or she has filed a financial disclosure form, it will come up as a PDF, which you can print at a cost of 10 cents a page.
“The database itself is almost meaningless,” says Holman. He says the only option for those who want to get a comprehensive look at what some 2,900 staffers have filed is to review the cases one by one. “And that’s just too big a job for anybody to do.”
The STOCK Act was supposed to make this task significantly easier. Records for members of Congress, the executive branch and their staffs were supposed to be posted online in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.
If you wanted to see who traded health care stock just before a committee acted on a health care bill, it would be easy. No trips to the basement required.