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SPJ: Gutting Disclosure Provisions for Top U.S. Officials is Bad Idea


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11/19/2004


CONTACT: Joel Campbell, Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chair, 801-362-4298 or joelcampbell@byu.edu

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists urges members of Congress to reconsider provisions in the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act” that would repeal financial reporting requirements for senior government officials.

The Society, the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, warns that gutting current reporting provisions will rob citizens of information that could unmask conflicts of interests in government contracting and “insider” stock trading.

The provisions have been included in H.R. 10, the House bill responding to the 9/11 Commission findings. House and Senate conferees are considering that bill along with its Senate companion, S. 2845.

David Carlson, the Society’s President-elect and a professor at the University of Florida, said, “While the 9/11 Commission recommended a series of reforms to improve operations of the intelligence community, there was no recommendation for Congress to eliminate these disclosure provisions. These provisions have nothing to do with national security.”

Conferees are considering language that would drop reporting of assets of more than $2.5 million. Currently, senior-level government officials must report personal assets in categories between “none or less than $1,000” to $50 million. H.R. 10 would also drop requirements that officials report dates of major stock transactions.

“Losing these provisions means that the public may not know about the vested interests of officials in companies that could receive a large homeland security contract, for example, or ‘insider’ trading where officials could trade stocks and benefit before a deal becomes public,” said Joel Campbell, Freedom of Information Co-Chair and journalism professor at Brigham Young University.

Previous use of this information shows its value. In 2002, journalists at the Center for Public Integrity found that 22 of the top 100 Bush administration officials had “significant” holdings in companies that had lobbied their departments, agencies or offices.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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