- Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a new plan to crack down on corruption and corporate influence in the government.
- The plan includes proposed changes to lobbying rules, the ability of government officials to trade stock, corporate influence on regulations, and public information on 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 run in 2020.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday rolled out an ambitious plan to change rules around lobbying, government transparency, and corporate influence in government.
The bill, called the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, would make a series of changes to lobbying, financial interests of government officials, and corporations’ ability to influence policymaking. The changes would be substantial and affect every branch of government.
In a speech Tuesday, Warren argued that the restrictions are necessary to restore public trust in government and limit corporate influence over regulators and lawmakers.
“Our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: people don’t trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people,” Warren said.
The plan has a few major points. Among the key changes would be:
- Barring high-level government officials from trading stocks: This appears to come in reaction to a series of questionable investments from current and former Trump administration officials as well as members of Congress. Most notably, GOP Rep. Chris Collins was charged with insider trading in connection with his family’s investment in an Australian biotech company. The bill would also force the president and vice president to place their investments in a blind trust.
- Severely limiting lobbying for former government officials: The bill would prohibit presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet secretaries from lobbying after they left their posts. Other government employees would not be allowed to lobby their former employer for the rest of the current administration or two years – whichever is longer.
- Forcing presidential and vice presidential candidates to release eight years of tax returns: Members of Congress would also be required to release their tax returns every year.
- Barring American lobbyists from taking money from foreign groups: US-based lobbying groups would not be allowed to take cash from “foreign governments, foreign individuals, and foreign companies.”
- Increasing transparency around corporate influence on regulations and legislation: The bill would force authors of studies used in the rulemaking process to disclose funding sources. It would also attempt to limit the amount of time and access given to businesses in an industry to weigh in on regulations that impact their industry.
- Increase transparency regarding judges: It would bar single stock ownership by federal judges, require the disclosure of a judge’s financial records and public speeches, and require audio live streams of federal appellate courts.
Warren has long advocated for less corporate influence in politics and more transparency in the rulemaking process. In addition, the senator’s longstanding desire to stop or at least slow the revolving door between lobbying and lawmaking sits at the center of the bill.
“Washington corruption is not a small problem, and it will not be rooted out with small solutions,” Warren said in her speech. “In addition to the big changes I talked about today, my legislation contains dozens more ideas to promote clean government, from giant reforms to small tweaks and everything in between.”
The rules also appear to be taking aim at the Trump administration, with provisions such as the requirement that presidential candidates must release their tax returns.
Given the current composition of the Senate, with the GOP holding a small majority, it is unlikely the plan gets passed into law anytime soon. But it could serve to further Warren’s political aspirations as rumours swirl about a possible 2020 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
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