The “Easy to READ Act” Would Make It Easier for the Public to Search, Review, & Download the Disclosures of their Elected Officials
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD-AL) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would require Members of Congress to file their public financial disclosures electronically.
Currently, U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators have the option of completing their public financial disclosures — including annual required reporting and periodic transaction reports — either by hand or electronically. However, recent reporting has shed light on how the current disclosure system leads to nearly or completely illegible paperwork filing of Members of Congress’s financial disclosures.
The Spanberger-Johnson legislation — the Easy to Read Electronic and Accessible Disclosures (READ) Act — would modernize this system, increase transparency, and allow the American people to more easily hold their elected officials accountable. Specifically, this legislation would amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to require the electronic filing of all public financial disclosure forms.
“Poor penmanship shouldn’t be the enemy of transparency. As discussions about potential conflicts of interest in the halls of Congress continue, we need to take commonsense steps to make it easier for the general public to sort through the disclosures of their Representatives and Senators,” said Spanberger. “Our Easy to READ Act does just that: itwould allow the American people to search, sort, and download data for every Member of Congress — not just those who chose to use a computer to submit these documents. By making this change, we can increase transparency and help rebuild a degree of trust in our democracy. I want to thank my friend and colleague Congressman Johnson for his partnership on this important legislation.”
“This bill is commonsense,” said Johnson. “Requiring these disclosures to be made electronically will not only modernize Congress, but increase transparency and accountability of Members to the American people. Congress has a public trust problem, and we should do all we can to ensure our constituents have faith in their elected officials. I am glad to work with Congresswoman Spanberger on yet another effort to ensure Members are held to the highest ethical standard during their time in office.”
The Easy to READ Act would also require that the interface for this new system be fully compliant with the Rehabilitation Act and the most recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, so that disclosures are accessible for Americans with disabilities.
The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Taxpayers Protection Alliance, FreedomWorks, and National Taxpayers Union.
“Government is only as effective as it is open and accessible,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, Government Affairs Manager, Project On Government Oversight (POGO). “This means that government records, including financial disclosures filed by elected officials, must be easy to find and easy to understand. This is why Rep. Spanberger and Rep. Johnson should be applauded for introducing a bill that would require congressional financial disclosures to be filed in accordance with basic 21st Century digital and technological standards. These requirements will help bring critical transparency to the financial situation of members of Congress and more opportunity to spot potential conflicts of interest.”
“It may come as a surprise to most, but in this modern day of the internet, members of Congress are permitted to file their personal financial disclosure forms in paper format, which both slows the disclosure system and oftentimes obscures potential conflicts of interest behind sloppy handwriting. The Spanberger legislation would bring these financial disclosures into the modern era and require that members file electronically. Public Citizen heartily supports this transparency measure,” said Public Citizen.
“Positions of public power and public service require a degree of transparency from the people elected to hold those positions, and when the law demands transparency it should be an easily accessible and readable format for all taxpayers. NTU applauds Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Johnson for their new legislation, the Easy to READ Act, which would require Members of Congress to electronically file financial disclosures and would make those disclosures searchable and downloadable. This is a common-sense transparency measure,” said Andrew Lautz, Director of Federal Policy, National Taxpayers Union (NTU).
“For public financial disclosures to truly be accessible to the public, they need to be legible and searchable,” said Noah Bookbinder, President, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “For too long, illegible hand-written submissions that are not machine-readable have obscured the content of Congressional financial disclosures. Rep. Spanberger’s bill will close this loophole in the Ethics in Government Act by transitioning from outdated reporting methods toward a more modern, transparent process.”
Click here to read the full bill text.