Senator Elizabeth Warren today spoke at the National Press Club to outline the features of her Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act bill. It’s fearless and it’s right. It’s about revamping how the entire system works so that we won’t need to drain the swamp because it won’t get a chance to get re-created. It will re-orient the balance of power so that corporations and their lobbyists won’t rule the roost. Here’s her speech:
What is genuinely compelling about this is that she correctly identifies the “crisis of faith” in how our government operates now, but makes sure that everyone complicit is included:
“Let’s face it: There’s no real question that the Trump era has given us the most nakedly corrupt leadership this nation has seen in our lifetimes. But they are not the cause of the rot — they’re just the biggest, stinkiest example of it. Corruption is a form of public cancer, and Washington’s got it bad.”
This is an ambitious program and one she clearly understands will be very difficult for both Democrats and Republicans in Washington to get behind. But there is a minor industry of Democratic candidates doing campaign finance reform on a DIY basis — pledging not to take corporate money. I can imagine Democrats and Republicans laughing at these efforts for people-focused campaigns — wait til they get here and see the REAL world — but Democrats should see this as an opportunity. We’re supposed to be the party who is committed to government working for the people. Here’s a pathway to get re-oriented to that AND to keep your Culture of Corruption message alive.
The Major highlights of Senator Warren’s bill:
- Creates a new independent US Office of Public Integrity. This office would be responsible for enforcing the government’s ethics laws, investigate violations and also work at making records more open to the public.
- Creates a lifetime ban on returning to lobby the government for presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet secretaries.
- Creates a lobbying ban regime (of varying years) for federal employees (includes Congressional staff and employees of federal agencies).
- Provides strict measures on lobbyists: Current corporate lobbyists or convicted CEOs are required to wait six years before taking ANY government job; requires that all meetings between lobbyists and lawmakers be disclosed; spending by companies on lobbying gets taxed above a set threshold; and; lobbyists can no longer contribute to federal campaigns.
- Changes the rulemaking process to restrict the influence of lobbyists
- Creates a requirement for the IRS to release eight years’ worth of tax returns for all presidential and vice presidential candidates. It would also require the IRS to release the returns of the sitting President and Vice President each year they are in office. Candidates for Congress would have two years of their tax returns released and their returns would be released each year they are in office.
- Members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, federal judges, White House staff, senior congressional staff, and other federal officials would be banned from owning individual stocks and expand the ban on gifts to these people while they hold office.
- Creates a requirement for think tanks and industry front groups focused on policymaking influence report their funding sources and their editorial standards. This would also create a criminal offense for publishing defective information.