- Senator Elizabeth Warren presented a new plan to crack down on corruption and corporate influence in government.
- The plan includes proposed changes to lobbying rules, the ability of government officials to negotiate stocks, corporate influence over regulations, and public information about judges.
- While the current makeup of Congress will likely block the bill, the plan could bolster Warren’s populist image ahead of a possible presidential race in 2020.
Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday presented an ambitious plan to change the rules around lobbying, government transparency and business influence in government.
The bill, called the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, would make a series of changes to lobbying, the financial interests of government officials, and the ability of businesses to influence policy-making. The changes would be substantial and affect all branches of government.
In a speech on Tuesday, Warren argued that the restrictions are necessary to restore public confidence in government and limit corporate influence over regulators and lawmakers.
“Our national crisis of faith in government comes down to this simple fact: people don’t trust their government to do the right thing because they think government is working for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people, ”says Warren.
The plan has a few important points. Among the main changes there would be:
- Prohibit senior government officials from trading in stocks: This appears to come in reaction to a series of questionable investments by current and former Trump administration officials as well as members of Congress. Most notably, GOP representative Chris Collins has been charged with insider trading in connection with his family’s investment in an Australian biotech company. The bill would also require the president and vice president to place their investments in a blind trust.
- Severely limit lobbying for former government officials: The bill would prohibit presidents, vice-presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and cabinet secretaries from lobbying after leaving office. Other government employees would not be allowed to pressure their former employer for the remainder of the current administration or two years, whichever is longer.
- Require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to publish eight years of income tax returns: Members of Congress would also be required to publish their tax returns each year.
- Prohibit US lobbyists from taking money from foreign groups: US-based lobby groups would not be allowed to take money from “foreign governments, foreign individuals and foreign companies.”
- Increase transparency around the influence of companies on regulations and legislation: The bill would require authors of studies used in the rule-making process to disclose sources of funding. It would also attempt to limit the time and access given to companies in an industry to influence regulations that affect their industry.
- Increase transparency vis-à-vis judges: It would ban the holding of single shares by federal judges, require the disclosure of a judge’s financial records and public speeches, and require live audio streams from federal courts of appeal.
Warren has long advocated for less corporate influence in politics and more transparency in the rule-making process. In addition, the senator’s long-standing desire to stop or at least slow down the step forward between lobbying and law-making is central to the bill.
“Corruption in Washington is not a small problem, and it will not be eradicated with small solutions, “Warren said in his speech.” In addition to the big changes I spoke about today, my legislation contains dozens of other ideas to promote clean government, giant reforms with little tweaks and everything in between. “
The rules also appear to target the Trump administration, with provisions such as the requirement that presidential candidates must publish their tax returns.
Given the current composition of the Senate, with the GOP holding a slim majority, the plan is unlikely to be passed anytime soon. But it could serve to promote Warren’s political aspirations as rumors swirl about a possible Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.