you watch Elizabeth Warren at her rallies, you don’t get the feeling she is
doing this for her own ego, for her own advantage. Her own situation is so far
passed the stress she had as a young person, when her father, a janitor, got
sick and her mother had to go out and support the family on a minimum wage job
at Sears, or when she attended the only community college she could afford, She’s
well passed being a special education public school teacher, and even the
prestigious job of a Harvard law professor and could easily sail through being
a US Senator without the superhuman tension of being the Leader of the Free
World. She would not personally benefit from any of the proposals she is
fighting for, except that they would make the country stronger, healthier,
happier, more prosperous, and restore its moral compass so badly misdirected by
a president who regards the Constitution as having as much force as a
suggestion, who separates families, puts children in cages, launches illegal
assassination, pardons war criminals, and advances economic policies that
exacerbate the inequality between rich and poor.
one young woman said walking into the Kings Theater in Brooklyn where Warren
was going to campaign with Julian Castro for the first time, “You feel hope.
You feel she is speaking to you.”
smarts come through, even as she makes jokes and makes fun of herself (“When
you have to number your husbands, not a good thing.” “Are you sensing a pattern
here?” she says as she relates how her quest to get a college education or hold
a job was interrupted by pregnancy and raising a baby. And you must hear her
story about the toaster to appreciate how she got the idea for the Consumer
Financial Protection Board, which boils down to the idea that government
regulation is needed to protect consumers and like with product safety,
financial security should also have consumer protection, and level the playing
field for enterprises that seek to implement socially responsible,
environmentally sustainable practices.)
Not surprisingly, among the reams of specific plans she has come out with, from universal health care to public education to environmental justice, to immigration reform, Warren, who notes that she spent 45 minutes as a lawyer after getting her degree, but as a Harvard law professor, taught everything to do with finance, has come out with specific plan to re-write the bankruptcy law.
At her rally at the grand historic Kings Theater in Brooklyn, in front of an audience of over 3,000 (another 1500 outside who couldn’t be admitted), Senator Warren went through her biography, her resume, and managed to digest down to three key points the sum-total of a bold progressive remaking of America – attack corruption; structural change in the economy; protect democracy – that comes down to “making government work for everyone,” and, as Julian Castro said, putting the American Dream back within reach of ordinary people.
Castro, the former HUD Secretary under Obama who had just abandoned his own
presidential bid and immediately endorsed Warren, made this plain, describing
her as someone who has overcome adversity, understands what ordinary people
need and more significantly, understands the structural forces that contribute
to inequality and the undoing of democracy:
a fighter because she has also struggled and lived that American dream.
Elizabeth Warren grew up the daughter of a janitor. She grew up to become a
public school teacher. And a law professor. And a United States Senator. And
a champion for consumers everywhere in this country.
knows what sacrifice is like after her father had a heart attack, her mom had
to take a minimum wage job at Sears to make ends meet. She understands because
she’s listened to people for many years, throughout this country. She’s heard
their calls for change. She’s heard about their dreams and their aspirations
for themselves and for their families and communities and for our country.
She’s a fighter because she knows that too often times today the deck is
stacked against people who just want a shot at reaching their dreams. She knows
that too often today in Washington, the power goes to special interests who can
afford big lobbyists and lawyers to write in special provisions and
legislation. She knows that we need to get big money out of politics.
“She knows that we need to give the people the powerful — the power and not the powerful the biggest voice. And let me tell you something, I don’t have to guess what kind of President she’s going to be, because I’ve seen firsthand what kind of the senator she is…
was there to know what we were gonna do to invest in communities that were
hurting. She is a fighter for people who need a voice.
“She’s a fighter for everyday Americans that simply want a shot. So I know that that’s the kind of president that she’s gonna be.”
In the video Castro made announcing his endorsement of Warren,
he said, In the video
announcing his endorsement, Secretary Castro said: “There’s one candidate I see
who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there
for everyone. Who will make sure that no matter where you live in America or
where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity too.
That’s why I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president.”
Warren came to the stage, embraced
Castro, and immediately opened with her concern about Trump orchestrating a war
in Iran, and reaching out to the “brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who need
help” after devastating series of earthquakes, and should get the federal help
the island was denied after Hurricane Maria.
She renewed her charge that
government works great for Big Pharma but not for people needing to fill
prescriptions; for giant oil companies, but not for the rest of us who realize
the existential risk that climate change poses. (Just this week, the Trump
Administration is seeking to eliminate environmental restrictions on building
pipelines or drilling).
“If there is a decision to be made,
it’s made by Big Money,” she declared. “The middle class is being hollowed out.”
“To fix this, we can’t just nibble
at the edges. We need big structural change. And I have a plan for that.”
Indeed, she has already released a
score of detailed plans, including how she would battle corruption in
government. “I have the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate; I will
end lobbying as we know it. Make the Supreme Court play by the basic rules of
ethics. Make everyone who runs for federal office put their tax returns on
line. Attack the corruption head on. Disrupt the inflow of money into politics.
It is time for a president to enforce the anti-trust laws.”
She also is advocating for “an
ultra-millionaire” wealth tax, prompting chants of “Two Cents. Two Cents” – the
amount of tax she would impose after the first $50 million of net worth (6% on
amounts over $1 billion) – that is the top one tenth of one percent of the
country who would fall into this category. That money, she insists, would pay
for scores of programs needed to restore equal opportunity, from universal
child care, to universal pre-K, to erasing student debt (big cheers).
So the first part of her vision is
to attack corruption that disrupts the stranglehold on government that money in
politics plays, so we can fight back against score of big issues that have
languished: climate change, gun safety
The second element is structural change in the economy – and on this, she has proposed a score of changes including tax reform, a living wage, changing the rules for mortgages and rentals and bankruptcy, investing in a Green New Deal and affordable housing.
The third element is protecting
“I will seek a Constitutional
amendment to protect the right to vote and to get every vote counted; a law
banning political gerrymandering (applause); to roll back every racist voter
suppression law (big cheers), to overturn Citizen United (cheers of “Warren,
And that’s what brought her to
“I think about toasters,” she turns
and with a sly smile, says, “You are surprised?”
“When I was a young mother,
toasters could burn down houses – they didn’t turn off. Ask me how I know,”
(she again has that sly smile). Then along comes the Consumer Product Safety
Board. Manufacturers were forced to put in safety switches.
“In the early 2000s, mortgages were so complex, dangerous that there was a one in five chance of a family losing their home through foreclosure. The federal government was not on the side of the people’s, but was deep in the pocket of banks, preying on the young, farmers, seniors, They crashed the economy.
“So I had the idea for an agency
like the toaster agency, so that you can’t cheat people.
“People said, ‘You can’t make a
difference. Don’t even try. You can’t get it done.
“Big structural change is hard, but
the right thing to do,” she said applying the lesson of having created the
Consumer Financial Protection Board (chants of “CFPB”, “CFPB”) to take on Wall
Street, which Obama signed into being in 2010. Since then, she said, more than
$12 billion in ill-gotten gains from financial companies has been returned to
“We can make government work for
people,” she said.
But, she said with an air of
warning to those who would back a moderate candidate believing a moderate would
have the best chance at defeating Trump in 2020, “We need big ideas to inspire
people, to vote, to bring their friends out to vote, to tell the world who and
what Democrats will fight for. To take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell
out of a job,” she declared, bringing the audience of 3000 to its feet with its
“We need big ideas and be willing
to fight. But if we give up big ideas, if we only offer business as usual,
Democrats will lose.
“I’m not running to appease big donors – I passed that stop sign a long time ago. This campaign is from the heart. 2020 is our moment. We will fight for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a 2 cent wealth tax.”
Before coming to Brooklyn, Warren had held 199 town halls across the country and traveled to 29 states and Puerto Rico. She had taken over 100,000 selfies since the beginning of the campaign (20,000 of them in Washington Square Park, posing until midnight). She took her 100,000th selfie in Manchester, Iowa the Saturday before coming to Brooklyn. She had visited the boroughs of New York City and Queens and now Brooklyn. By the end of the Brooklyn event, with enthusiastic supporters lined up throughout the Kings Theater and down the street, Warren would have added some 3,000 more selfies to her total.
Outside the theater, a score of volunteers on every street corner were collecting signatures to meet the required 40,000 by January 21 deadline to be on New York’s ballot. The New York primary is April 28.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In light of the threats to free and fair elections posed by Russian hacking, foreign interference, gerrymandering, Citizens United and voter suppression, and the impeachment proceedings unnerving public trust in government, Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:
Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to safeguard our elections, strengthen our democracy and restore trust in government.
Senator Klobuchar believes that everything we talk about getting done – from taking on climate change to gun safety to health care reform — will depend on one thing: a democracy that works for the people and making sure every vote counts.
Today insidious forces are working to suppress the vote and drown out people’s voices with dark money. And our intelligence agencies have confirmed time and time again that there have been foreign attacks on our elections, and that our elections remain a target. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen our election security while our country faces continued threats from foreign adversaries.
Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She has been a leader in the fight to protect our elections from foreign interference, including by securing $380 million in election security funds in 2018 so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their election systems from cyberattacks. She leads bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would protect our elections with paper ballots and post-election audits, as well as the bipartisan legislation that would promote accountability and transparency for political ads on the internet.
Senator Klobuchar is also leading the effort in Congress to automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18, and she has fought for the passage of legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act to take on discrimination at the polls. And she has worked to get dark money out of politics and restore trust in government dating back to her first month as a Senator, when she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.
As President, Senator Klobuchar will champion a major voting rights and democracy reform package and she has already pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that has thirteen of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President.
Strengthening Election Security and Regulating Online Political Ads
Promote accountability for political ads on the internet. Senator Klobuchar wrote and introduced the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would increase transparency and accountability for political ads on the internet by holding large online platforms to the same disclosure and disclaimer standards that apply to radio, broadcast, cable and satellite providers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to pass the Honest Ads Act, work to pass the PAID ADs Act — which she leads in the Senate — to make it illegal for foreign nationals to purchase election ads, and work to ban foreign nationals from involvement in decisions regarding political expenditures by corporations, PACs and Super PACs. She will work to prohibit online platforms from allowing political ads that discriminate against people and require online platforms to use human reviewers to approve political ads placed on their platforms. Today, there are no protections preventing misleading and outright false political ads online. That’s why Senator Klobuchar supports preventing social media companies from running political ads full of false claims and lies by holding them responsible.
Take on disinformation campaigns and foreign efforts to influence our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require political campaigns to report any attempt by a foreign entity to influence our elections to the Federal Election Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation. She will also prohibit U.S. political campaigns from offering non-public material to foreign entities. Senator Klobuchar will work to pass legislation based on the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act, which she leads with Senator Cardin, to make it illegal to knowingly deceive others about how to participate in a federal election and to direct the Attorney General to work with states to counter voter intimidation. She will invest in media literacy education to teach students how to identify misinformation online, based on her Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act. Finally, she will work to pass the Combatting Foreign Influence Act, which she leads in the Senate, to direct the Director of National Intelligence to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center to coordinate work across the intelligence community and law enforcement to assess foreign influence operations with a whole-of-government approach.
Build U.S. cyber expertise to defend our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make cybersecurity an immediate priority. She will issue an Executive Order launching government-wide cybersecurity initiatives, fast-tracking and streamlining procurement of modern information technology across agencies. She will launch a cabinet-level taskforce on election cybersecurity to coordinate across agencies, including the intelligence community, on how the federal government can work with state and local governments to address cyber threats to our democracy and infrastructure. She will also work to pass legislation based on the Invest in Our Democracy Act, bipartisan legislation she leads in the Senate, to provide grants to states for election officials to receive continuing education in cybersecurity and election administration.
Fortify state election infrastructure against cyberattacks. Senator Klobuchar leads the effort to require all jurisdictions to have paper ballots through her Election Security Act, but Senator McConnell and the White House have prevented the bill from coming to a vote. She also led the successful effort to secure $380 million for State Election Security Grants in 2018. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require states to use paper ballots, set strong cybersecurity standards for voting infrastructure, increase grants to states for upgrades to their voting infrastructure and promote the use of post-election risk-limiting audits. These proposals are based on Senator Klobuchar’s legislation, Senator Wyden’s Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019, which Senator Klobuchar co-sponsors in the Senate, and the SAFE Act, which passed the House in June 2019. She will also require the Director of National Intelligence to assess election threats and work with the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission to provide assistance to states to counter those threats.
Eliminating Obstacles to Voting and Making It Easier to Vote
Automatically register every American when they turn 18. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to reduce barriers to voting. In the Senate, she has championed the Register America to Vote Act to automatically register all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday and she will get it passed as President. Automatically registering voters in every state would result in 22 million newly registered voters in just the first year of implementation, according to the Center for American Progress. Senator Klobuchar will also launch a pilot program to provide resources for initiatives that provide 12th graders with voter registration information. This proposal is based on the Students VOTE Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate.
Restore the Voting Rights Act. Senator Klobuchar has long advocated for Congress to take action to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act. As President, she will restore protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination. Senator Klobuchar will also champion the Native American Voting Rights Act, legislation she helps lead in the Senate, to provide the necessary resources and oversight to ensure Native Americans have equal access to the ballot box and the electoral process.
Prohibit voter purges and remove exact-match requirements. Senator Klobuchar has pushed to protect the constitutional rights of Americans from voter purges, which disproportionately impact minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters. In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp purged over 1.4 million voters from the rolls and held up the voter registrations of 53,000 people because of things like a discrepancy over a hyphen in a last name. As President, Senator Klobuchar will pass her bill with Senator Brown, the SAVE Voters Act, to prohibit states from purging Americans from voter rolls for not voting in recent elections. The bill amends the National Voter Registration Act to prevent a state from using someone’s failure to vote or respond to a state notice as reason to target them for removal from voter rolls. Senator Klobuchar will also work with Congress to pass legislation requiring states to remove “exact-match” requirements and other unnecessary and discriminatory obstacles to registering to vote.
Break down institutional barriers to voting. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to make it easier for Americans to vote — not harder. As President, she will champion reforms to break down institutional barriers to voting, including:
Promote early voting and
no-excuse absentee voting. Nine states do not offer early
voting and in 19 states an excuse is required to vote absentee. Senator
Klobuchar will push to make voting more convenient and support voter
participation by working with states to establish early voting and no-excuse
absentee voting nationwide.
Establish minimum notification
requirements for voters affected by polling place changes. Senator Klobuchar will stand up to attempts to suppress voter
turnout by requiring states notify voters affected by polling place changes no
later than seven days before the date of the election or the first day of an
early voting period.
Designate election day as a
federal holiday. Senator Klobuchar will
designate election day as a federal holiday.
Establish Same Day Registration. In addition to championing her legislation to automatically register every American when they turn 18, Senator Klobuchar will also pass legislation she leads in the Senate, the Same Day Voter Registration Act, that requires states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election.
Increase accessibility in voting for people with disabilities. Senator Klobuchar believes we need to make it easier for the voices of people with disabilities to be heard on Election Day. As President, she will strengthen requirements for increased accessibility at polling places and expand resources by providing grants for states to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote.
Ensure ballots are counted from Americans living overseas and those serving in the military and their family members. Senator Klobuchar believes we should be doing everything we can to make voting easier for every American – including the 3 million Americans living overseas and more than 1.3 million active duty service members. Recently, she was successful in passing a provision in the Senate’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require Federal Voting Assistance Program to conduct a comprehensive study on how to scale a ballot tracking program for all military and overseas voters. As President, she will push to require states to ensure that all overseas voters receive their ballots at least 45 days before an election; improve the availability and transmission of absentee ballots abroad; and ensure that those ballots are counted by hand in any recount or audit. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will make sure that spouses of active duty service members do not have to change their legal residency each time they move for a military reassignment, a proposal that is based on the Support our Military Spouses Act, legislation she has championed in the Senate.
Ensure that those affected by natural disasters can still vote. As the effects of climate change become more disruptive, Senator Klobuchar believes that it is especially important to ensure that natural disasters do not prevent Americans from voting. As President, she will ensure that people living in areas where an emergency has been declared, those who have been displaced by a natural disaster, and professional or volunteer service emergency responders have access to an absentee ballot. In addition, anyone who expects to be hospitalized on Election Day or is not able to receive a requested absentee ballot from their state or jurisdiction would also be eligible to receive an emergency ballot. This proposal is based on the Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar has championed in the Senate.
Overhauling Our Campaign Finance System
Overturn Citizens United. Senator Klobuchar believes that the surge in special interest cash in political campaigns since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is undermining our elections and shaking the public’s trust in our elections. She will lead the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get the dark money out of politics.
Establish a public financing system and increase the power of small donors. Senator Klobuchar has long pushed for meaningful campaign finance reform to ensure the voices of average Americans are heard. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to establish a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors that matches 6-to-1 donations of $200 or less to eligible candidates.
Reform the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Senator Klobuchar believes that gridlock in the FEC — including the recent lack in quorum — has prevented the Commission from fully playing its role in administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. She has called on President Donald Trump to work with the Senate to help reestablish a quorum by nominating a commissioner to fill the vacant Democratic seat. And as President she will advance critical reforms to ensure a fully functioning FEC, including reducing the number of members from 6 to 5, ensuring the Commission has an accountable Chair with clear distribution of duties between the Chair and the FEC, and preventing commissioners from remaining in office indefinitely as holdovers. This proposal is based on the Campaign Finance Transparency Act, legislation she leads in the Senate.
Increase transparency in political spending. Senator Klobuchar believes that we must do more to shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. As President, she will champion the passage of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation she co-sponsors in the Senate, requiring corporations, super PACs and certain non-profits to promptly disclose election spending of $10,000 or more and list any donor who gives over $10,000 to the organization.
Ensuring Free and Fair Elections
End partisan gerrymandering. Senator Klobuchar believes that partisan gerrymandering undermines the principles of our democracy. She has signed the Fair Districts Pledge developed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to support fair redistricting that ends map manipulation and creates truly representative districts. Particularly in the wake of the 2019 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave the greenlight to politically manipulate congressional districts, Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish independent, bipartisan redistricting commissions that will develop fair statewide district maps following each decennial census. This proposal is based on the Redistricting Reform Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate.
Improve the treatment of provisional ballots. Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for issuing, handling, and counting provisional ballots including requiring provisional ballots from eligible voters who voted at the wrong voting place to be counted.
Restore Americans’ right to vote after being released from incarceration. Senator Klobuchar believes that Americans who have been released from incarceration should be able to exercise their right to vote. As President she will restore citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration.
Restoring Trust in Government
Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar believes we must take urgent action to reverse the harm President Trump has done to his office by openly flaunting the rule of law. She will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president. She will also make it clear that the President and Vice President have to follow conflict of interest laws and require the President and major candidates for President to make their tax returns publicly available.
Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar believes that accountability starts at the top, and that in addition to strengthening accountability for the President, we must have the highest ethical standards for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen investigations of foreign agents who lobby in the United States, give the Office of Government Ethics more enforcement power and provide additional protections for all Special Counsels. She will also publicly post executive branch ethics waivers and report senior officials’ conflicts of interest in rulemaking.
Strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Senator Klobuchar believes that the best way to encourage individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to come forward is to provide and enforce strong protections for whistleblowers. Within her first 100 days in office, Senator Klobuchar will issue guidance affirming that the Department of Justice cannot intervene in the transmission of a whistleblower complaint to Congress under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. She will also work with Congress to expand whistleblower protections, including for government contractors, and direct all federal agencies to fully implement whistleblower education and anti-retaliation plans.
Increase transparency and protect journalists. As the daughter of a newspaper man, Senator Klobuchar has always believed transparency and journalism are critical to our nation’s democracy. Within her first 100 days in office, she will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs. Senator Klobuchar will also direct the Office of Legal Counsel to make all of its opinions publicly available unless there is a compelling national security reason to prevent their release. She will fully fund Freedom of Information Act offices within executive agencies and direct them to post FOIA requests online.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential
nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator
Bernie Sanders, long a crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in
the political system, unveiled his “Money
Out of Politics” Plan. This is from the Sanders campaign:
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Money Out of Politics Plan, a comprehensive proposal to end all corporate influence and corruption in the political system.
“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders said. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money. Working people all over the country are responding to that message and demanding a political revolution through their small dollar donations. When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.”
Sanders’ plan will end the greed-fueled, corrupt corporate influence over elections, national party convention, and presidential inaugurations.
2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National
Convention funding, with large corporations like Comcast, Bank of America and
Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 Presidential inauguration, corporate
donors including, AT&T, Microsoft, and Chevron donated millions.
the Democratic nominee, Sanders would ban all corporate contributions to the
Democratic Party Convention and all related committees, and as President he
would be ban all corporate donations for inaugural events and cap individual
donations at $500.
Sanders’ plan would abolish the now-worthless FEC and replace it with the
Federal Election Administration, a true law enforcement agency originally
proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.
key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:
Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal
and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of
mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions.
a Constitutional Amendment that makes clear that money is not speech and
corporations are not people.
the influence of corporations at the DNC.
donations from federal lobbyists and corporations.
a lifetime lobbying ban for National Party Chairs and Co-Chairs
Chairs and Co-Chairs from working for entities with federal contract, that are
seeking government approval for projects or mergers, or can reasonably be
expected to have business before Congress in the future.
advertising during presidential primary debates.
a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.
This is from the Biden campaign:
“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”
Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain.
As president, Biden will:
Reduce the corrupting influence of money in
politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for
Return integrity to the U.S. Department of
Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;
Restore ethics in government;
Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts
of interest; and
Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a
higher standard of accountability.
Highlights from Biden’s plan include:
Biden will introduce a constitutional
amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will
return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek
to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful
change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide
public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a
public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.
Biden will block any future president or
anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or
what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive
Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration
may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific
DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to
terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving
the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper
partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG
to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is
Biden will establish the Commission on Federal
Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce
federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce
its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ,
as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to
proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing
loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let
lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be
tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance,
financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.
Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying
disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to
disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose
any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party.
Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity.
Biden will bar lobbying by foreign
governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must
verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.
Biden will enact legislation that requires all
candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.
FACT SHEET: THE BIDEN PLAN TO
GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE
REDUCE THE CORRUPTING
INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we
flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections.
Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not
prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds,
regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations
have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for
House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as
well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage
caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United.
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices
of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans.
Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of
equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all
government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:
constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal
elections. Biden believes it is long
past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As
president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require
candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public
dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people and away from
the corporate interests that seek to distort it.
Enact legislation to
provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small
dollar donations. While we work toward a
constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden
will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar
donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time
candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on
interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.
Keep foreign money out of
our elections. Biden will propose a law
to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence
federal, state, or local elections. He will direct a new independent
agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure
vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The
Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online
electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and
Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment
– but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will
work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of
campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and
Increase transparency of
election spending. Our campaign
finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era.
Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook
and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted
to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose
legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law:
any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its
ads or communications must disclose its contributors. No more hiding
behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online
ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to
a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can
target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political
End dark money
groups. Federal law recognizes
“social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to
advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly
been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on
federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact
legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that
applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the
Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that
spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission
on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors.
Require real time
disclosure. Today, voters have to
wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their
decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns
and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any
new contributions within 48 hours.
Ban corporate PAC
contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who
they lobby. Biden will ensure that
lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s
presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate
PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making
contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This
legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as
possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence
officeholders and other government officials. Any lobbyist contribution
must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event
must be disclosed before it occurs.
Reform funding for
national party conventions. Biden will propose
legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of
the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.
Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for
democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate
or monied interests.
Close the federal
contractor loophole. As president, Biden will
close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal
contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from
government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign
RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and
protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the
president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after
time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political
opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful
oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and
others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax
returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working
career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by
the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million
Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before. He has
similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch
agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and
Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and
asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to
ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law
requires. It’s wrong.
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system
and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:
Prevent the president or
White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and
prosecutions. Biden will work to
block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly
interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute.
Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from
political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement
priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or
companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will
issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of
his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly
influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he
will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact
legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any
allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and
prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time
such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to
strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of
an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how
to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone,
including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports
are transmitted directly to the Congress.
Increase transparency in
DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ
policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many
of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the
Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made
without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in
detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the
Empower agency watchdogs
to combat unethical behavior. Biden will
strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly
every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and
independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or
attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express
authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.
interference in agency matters. Biden will ensure
that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts
or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political
preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the
White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he
will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation,
individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help. This
information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal
Empower DOJ to enforce
the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the
resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump
Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that
protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the
environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy
and Natural Resources divisions to their missions.
RESTORE ETHICS IN
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of
scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever
adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made
on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama
and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and
existing law must be followed.
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting
foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business
overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts
with countless tax dollars.
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins
to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that
the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more
aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:
Establish the Commission
on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single
government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and
ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific
mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and
receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our
elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will
make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our
government easily accessible.
The office will have broad investigative and
civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the
Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own
subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have
the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an
obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that
referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let
public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak
influence campaigns in vague disclosures.
In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics
(CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop
destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and
appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that
service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying
information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information
will be more comprehensive than ever.
CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE
will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same
political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms
across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to
the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors,
judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public
corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for
To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure
that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the
Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of
bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board
will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen
ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to
consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed.
Require that all
candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level
positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a
person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for
office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of
elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have
been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden
will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office
disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their
candidacy for their first federal office.
Expand on and codify into
law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge. On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and
improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses
day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing
else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but
also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and
other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever
policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.
REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH
FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full
of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals.
Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone
in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their
financial holdings could influence decision-making.
As president, Biden will:
Prevent the president and
other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal
financial holdings. No member of the Biden
Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President,
just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds,
annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any
retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual
funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics
agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior
administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these
practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the
Extend this standard to
U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with
Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members.
Eliminate the trust
loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for
federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets.
It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to
identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But
candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by
family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the
trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior
officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant
financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and
will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a
beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.
HOLD THE LOBBIED AND
LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the
merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a
right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch
officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more,
lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to
be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist
regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate
interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time
that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by
making sure they meet these higher standards too.
As president, Biden will:
Hold elected officials
accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are
doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials
who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting
with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education
is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders,
you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the
obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the
lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected
officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist
or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific
bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or
developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be
required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any
lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and
senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any
access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will
make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes
that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.
Make lobbying disclosure
meaningful. Lobbying law should
effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government
decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are
riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever
disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references
to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only
general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to
shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those
seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to
include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing
or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in
detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials
they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are
proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.
governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a
foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive
Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to
share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it
should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will
bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign
business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially
owns or controls any part of it.
Ensure truly public
access. In Washington, the
ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a
form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior
Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the
public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or
prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden
Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential
nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues.
Senator Bernie Sanders has unveiled his plan to “end corporate corruption and
return our elections back to the working class of America.” This is from the
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Money Out of
Politics Plan, a comprehensive proposal to end all corporate influence and
corruption in the political system.
“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t
need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders
said. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors
than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the
basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money.
Working people all over the country are responding to that message and
demanding a political revolution through their small dollar donations. When we
win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political
system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.”
Sanders’ plan will end the greed-fueled, corrupt corporate influence over
elections, national party convention, and presidential inaugurations.
In 2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic
National Convention funding, with large corporations like Comcast, Bank of
America and Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 Presidential inauguration,
corporate donors including, AT&T, Microsoft, and Chevron donated millions.
As the Democratic nominee, Sanders would ban all corporate
contributions to the Democratic Party Convention and all related committees,
and as President he would be ban all corporate donations for inaugural events
and cap individual donations at $500.
Additionally, Sanders’ plan would abolish the now-worthless FEC
and replace it with the Federal Election Administration, a true law
enforcement agency originally proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ
Other key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:
Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal
Updating and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to
return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party
Passing a Constitutional Amendment that makes clear that money
is not speech and corporations are not people.
Ending the influence of corporations at the DNC.
Banning donations from federal lobbyists and corporations.
Institute a lifetime lobbying ban for National Party Chairs and
Banning Chairs and Co-Chairs from working for entities with
federal contract, that are seeking government approval for projects or mergers,
or can reasonably be expected to have business before Congress in the
Banning advertising during presidential primary debates.
Instituting a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of
Congress and senior staffers.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues.Ahead of her speech in Washington Square Park near the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in which she delineated how corruption in Washington has allowed the rich and powerful to tilt the rules and grow richer and more powerful, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to end Washington corruption.
Warren has already
advanced comprehensive anti-corruption legislation in Congress, but she is
going further with a set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals. “Her plan
will end lobbying as we know it, end self-dealing in the White House, end
corporate capture of the federal government’s rule-making process, hold our
federal judiciary and the Supreme Court to the highest ethical standards, and
Warren declared, “No
matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student
loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal
clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major
problems we face as a democracy.
“Reforming the money
game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our
campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional
amendment to overturn Citizens
United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret
spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy.
It’s why we need to break the grip that big donors have by creating a system of
exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign
finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington
itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the
well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.
“I believe that we can
root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural
changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it
can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
This is from the Elizabeth Warren campaign:
In 1958, the National Election Survey first asked Americans a simple question: Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? That year, 73% of Americans said yes.
2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust
their government to do the right thing.
have so many people lost faith in government?
true that right-wing politicians have spent a generation attacking the very
idea of government. But it’s also true that these days, our government doesn’t
work for most people. Sure, it works great for the wealthy and the
well-connected — but for everybody else, it doesn’t.
doesn’t work because big insurance companies and hospital conglomerates put
profits ahead of the health and well-being of the American people, and dump
piles of money into political campaigns and lobbying efforts to block any move
toward Medicare for All.
doesn’t work because big oil companies that have concealed climate studies —
and funded bought-and-paid-for climate denial research — bury regulators in an
avalanche of shady, bad-faith pseudoscience and then spend freely on influence
peddling in Congress to make sure nothing like a Green New Deal ever sees the
light of day.
doesn’t work because giant pharmaceutical companies want to squeeze every last
penny out of the people who depend on their prescriptions, while their army of
lobbyists suffocates reform any time there’s a discussion in Congress on drug
child care. Criminal justice reform. Affordable housing. Gun reform. Look
closely, and you’ll see — on issue after issue, widely popular policies are
stymied because giant corporations and billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes
or follow any rules use their money and influence to stand in the way of big,
We’ve got to call that out for what it is: corruption, plain and
no mistake about it: The Trump Administration is the most corrupt
administration of our lifetimes.
tax bill is a $1.5 trillion giveaway that primarily helps large corporations and wealthy
Americans. Half of the total registered lobbyists in Washington
worked on issues involving the word “tax” the year the bill was written —
that’s eleven lobbyists for every member of Congress. And when the members of
Congress who championed it lost their elections, they got juicy gigs in the lobbying industry themselves.
Supreme Court Justices were hand-picked by right-wing extremist groups that
spent millions on television ads — first to hold open a Supreme Court seat in
the Obama Administration, and then to pressure the Senate to rubber stamp their
candidates of choice, even when it meant ignoring serious sexual assault charges to ram through
these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him —
and solving them will require big, structural change to fundamentally transform
why I’ve released plans to fight Washington corruption. A plan to make sure
that no president is above the law. A plan to tackle defense contractor coziness at the Pentagon.
A plan to ban private prisons and expand oversight, transparency, and
enforcement for all contractors hired by the federal government. In Congress,
I’ve previously advanced wide-ranging anti-corruption legislation.
we must go further.
Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive set of far-reaching and
aggressive proposals to root out corruption in Washington. It’s the most
sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The goal of these
measures is straightforward: to take power away from the wealthy and the
well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of
plan lays out nearly a hundred ways that we can change our government to fix
this problem — from improving public integrity rules for federal officials in
every branch of government to ending lobbying as we know it, fixing the
criminal laws to hold corrupt politicians to account, and ensuring our federal
agencies and courts are free from corrupting influences.
I’m just getting started.
Restoring Public Integrity
you choose to be a public servant, you should serve the public — not your own
financial interests or the financial interests of the rich and powerful. But we
face a crisis of confidence in the ethics and public integrity of federal
officials in America. The revolving door in and out of the Trump Administration
is spinning out of control, and wave after wave of people in Trump’s orbit are
trying to profit personally from his presidency — including him.
even before Trump entered the White House, our nation’s public integrity rules
were far too lax. Too many public officials can easily leverage public service
for personal gain. And the ability to walk around government with obvious and
direct personal financial conflicts reduces public faith in honest officials.
To fix this, we need a total rewrite of our ethics laws.
We must begin by rooting out financial conflicts of interest in
Trump is a walking conflict of interest. Actually, more like 2,310 conflicts of interest — and counting.
His refusal to divest from his businesses has opened the door for giant
corporations, foreign lobbyists, and our own government officials to curry
favor with his administration and pad his own bottom line.
to a study by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington, Donald Trump has visited one of his own properties for nearly a
third of the total days that he has been president. Trump’s Washington hotel
even sent the federal government a bill for $200,000 because Secret Service agents
were forced to stay there as well.
countries have also taken the hint. Representatives from 65 foreign governments
have visited Trump properties since he took office, and embassies have begun
booking Trump’s hotels for their events. Trump has egged them on, shamelessly
floating another one of his properties as the venue for a future international summit.
corporations and billionaires have also tried to curry favor with Donald Trump
by patronizing his properties. T-Mobile sent its top executives to the Trump
Hotel in DC right after the company announced a merger requiring the Trump
administration’s approval. Payday lenders held their annual meetings at Trump’s golf club in Miami, while the
Trump administration has consistently gutted restrictions and regulations on
exploitative payday lenders. And several wealthy donors who pay the $200,000
Mar-a-Lago membership fee — which doubled when Trump became President — have
exerted “sweeping influence” at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Trump’s own appointees and political allies have tried to suck up to Trump by
exploiting his conflicts of interest. More than 100 Republican Members of Congress have become patrons of
Trump’s businesses since he became President. Most recently, Trump’s Attorney
General William Barr spent $30,000 at Trump’s Washington Hotel, implausibly
claiming that it was the only place he could find for his holiday party in
Washington — and on an official trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence
stayed at a Trump property reportedly at Trump’s instruction, even though it was three hours away from his
scheduled meetings in Dublin.
is by far the most egregious example — and we need new rules to hold leaders
accountable for this kind of conduct. But we cannot condemn this conduct
without also acknowledging that opportunities for the appearance of
self-dealing are far too easy across the federal government. Restoring public
confidence isn’t just about replacing Trump and his cronies. We need new bright
lines and clear rules to eliminate the possibility of public officials serving
where I would start:
End self-dealing in the White House by applying conflict of
interest laws to the President and Vice President. Under my plan,Presidents
and Vice Presidents would be required to place their businesses into a blind
trust to be sold off. No more payoffs. No more bribes from foreign governments.
No more self-dealing.
Disclose tax returns of federal candidates and officeholders to
the public automatically. Tax return disclosure for federally elected officials
shouldn’t be optional — it should be the law. And it shouldn’t just apply to Presidents
— it should apply to everyone running for or serving in federal elected office.
Presidential candidates, in particular, should follow the standard set by
Barack Obama for releasing at least eight years of returns. (I’ve released
eleven.) And the IRS should simply put out the required tax returns for
qualified candidates themselves — so nothing like Donald Trump’s refusal to
disclose his taxes can ever happen again.
Force senior government officials to divest from privately-owned
assets that could present conflicts of interest. White House
advisers like Jared Kushner have been allowed to use their
government positions to further enrich themselves and their families, while
Cabinet Officials like Betsy DeVos have hundreds of millions held in
privately-owned accounts that make it nearly impossible to determine who could
exercise influence over DeVos and her family. The fact that such conduct could
pass any kind of ethics screen makes it clear that we need new rules. My plan
puts an end to this practice by requiring senior officials, including those who
are unpaid like Kushner, to divest from their businesses and other conflicted
Completely ban the practice of government officials trading
individual stocks while in office. Under current law, members of Congress can
trade stocks and then use their powerful positions to increase the value of
those stocks and pad their own pockets. Tom Price, Trump’s former Secretary of
Health and Human Services, purchased pharmaceutical stocks while in the
House of Representatives — then fought hard to get a return on his investment
by pushing policies that would benefit giant pharmaceutical companies. And
another member of Congress, Chris Collins, was charged for trading the same stocks based on insider information. But
prosecutions like this are rare. And even where investments don’t influence
decisions, the existence of these direct conflicts undermine public confidence
solution is simple — ban members of Congress and senior government officials
from owning or trading individual stocks. Instead, they can invest in conflict-free
mutual funds or funds managed by the federal Thrift Savings Program. Law firms
follow these kinds of rules to prevent the appearance of financial conflicts
with the interests of their clients — there’s no reason important public
servants and elected officials shouldn’t, too.
Shut down a raft of additional shady practices that provide
opportunities for government officials to serve their own financial
interests. My plan bans members of Congress and senior congressional staff
from serving on corporate boards — whether or not they’re paid to do so. It
also strengthens ethics requirements for presidential transition teams to
ensure that those who are shaping our government disclose any conflicts of
interest and comply with the highest ethical standards. And to ensure that
there are no questions about whether members of Congress are acting based on
financial conflicts, like lobbyist-turned-Senator-turned-lobbyist Jon Kyl, my plan requires
every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial
conflicts before they take office.
Finally, we must immediately end the possibility of trading on
access to insider political information. Every year, hundreds of millions of
dollars flow into so-called “political intelligence” firms that hire operatives to prowl the
halls of Congress for insider information and sell that information to Wall Street traders trying to make a buck. My plan
combats this practice by implementing strict disclosure requirements and
regulations on so-called “political intelligence consulting,” including
criminal penalties for former public officials who use insider political
information to make investments or advise others who are doing so.
Next, it’s time to close and padlock the revolving door between
government and industry.
Trump has not just enriched himself and his advisers; he has turned his White
House into a case study in the dangers of the revolving door between industry
of these people was Gary Cohn, the former President of Goldman Sachs, who
became Trump’s top economic adviser. On his way out of Goldman, the firm gave
him a whopping $285 million — $123 million in the form of cash and
stocks that he could only collect if he left the firm to work in government.
call that a “pre-bribe.” And it paid off, too. While cashing that $285 million
check, Gary Cohn helped rewrite our nation’s tax laws, rammed the changes
through Congress, and gave Goldman Sachs their money back — and a few billion dollars in change.
are countless examples like this in the Trump Administration, but it’s a
widespread problem in official Washington — and it goes far beyond obvious and
egregious quid-pro-quo bribery. When someone serves in government with plans to
immediately turn around and work in the industry they’ve been overseeing, that
individual faces obvious incentives to advance the interests of their future
employer. And when someone moves immediately from a regulated company to a job
regulating that company, the public is right to worry about the risk that such
individuals will prioritize the interests of their old bosses.
must be able to benefit from tapping private sector expertise, and public
servants who leave government should be able to find post-government
employment. Similarly, volunteer and part-time government positions, which make
sense in certain situations, necessarily assume some level of outside work. But
there is a difference between expertise and graft.
isn’t simply a matter of replacing Trump with an honest President. We’ve seen
the issue of industry lobbyists and top execs spinning freely through the
revolving door to and from important government positions in both Democratic
and Republican administrations. Fixing the underlying problem requires us to
tighten up the rules to ensure that when government officials are making
decisions, they are considering only the public interest — and not their own
personal interests or the interests of their friends and future employers.
are some obvious steps to help address this problem:
Ban “golden parachutes” that provide corporate bonuses to
executives for serving in the federal government. We can’t let big
companies get away with installing their top executives in senior government
positions and paying them pre-bribes on their way out the door. Under my plan,
this would be illegal.
Restrict the ability of lobbyists to enter government
jobs. Under my proposal, current lobbyists won’t be able to take
government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when
the hiring is in the national interest. Corporate lobbyists will have to wait
at least 6 years — no exceptions, and no waivers. These extensive cooling off
periods will help ensure that if anyone with this background is hired into a
government role, they are being selected because of their expertise, and not
Make it illegal for elected officials and top government
appointees to become lobbyists — ever. My plan bans Presidents, Vice Presidents,
Members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet Secretaries from ever becoming
lobbyists — not for one or two years, but for life. All other federal employees
will also be barred from lobbying their former office, agency, or House of
Congress after they leave government service for at least 2 years — or 6 years
for corporate lobbyists.
Restrict the ability of companies to buy up former federal
officials to rig the game for themselves. Under my plan,
companies would be banned from immediately hiring former senior government
officials whose agency or office the company has lobbied in the past two years.
And because the biggest and most market-dominant corporations in America also
exercise outsized political power, my plan blocks them from using personnel
hires to rig the game by banning giant companies, banks, and monopolies from
hiring former senior government officials for at least four years.
Next, we’ll hold our federal judiciary to the highest ethical
corporations and powerful interests haven’t limited their influence-peddling to
Congress and the White House. They’ve also turned their attention to the
is “no formal mechanism for review of conflicts” for Supreme Court
justices. But covering your eyes doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. The
Federalist Society — an extremist, corporate-funded right-wing group that
hand-picked Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees — picked up Justice Clarence Thomas’s bills to attend a
fancy retreat hosted by the Koch brothers. And for years, Justice Thomas failed
to file public disclosures indicating that his wife worked as the White House
liaison for the Heritage Foundation, a group whose
co-founder personally began the conservative push to
overturn Roe v. Wade.
not just Supreme Court Justices, either. Federal judges can do just about
anything without disclosing it, and in the rare instance where their ethical
violations are discovered and they face investigation, they can escape further
scrutiny altogether by resigning without penalty.
federal court system only works if the American people have faith that it is
neutrally dispensing fair-minded justice without bias or personal interests
interfering in judicial decisions. If we want the American people to believe
this, we need some serious judicial ethics reforms.
where I’d start:
Ensure Supreme Court Justices are held to the same standard as
the rest of the federal judiciary. Today, every federal judge is bound by a Code
of Conduct — except Supreme Court justices. It’s a recipe for corruption. We
can fix it by applying the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme
Strengthen ethics requirements for federal judges. Corporations and
advocacy organizations routinely provide federal judges with all-expenses-paid
trips to extravagant seminars. My plan tightens existing rules that prohibit
judges from accepting gifts and establishes a new fund to cover reasonable
expenses for participating in judicial seminars. No more big speaking fees and
no more fancy trips to hunting lodges and golf courses. My plan also bans
federal judges from owning individual stocks.
Require judges to disclose key information so the American
people can verify that their conduct is above ethical reproach. My plan requires the
Judicial Conference of the United States — the institution in charge of
administering our federal courts — to publicly post judges’ financial reports,
recusal decisions, and speeches to bring these activities out of the shadows.
This will build public confidence that cases are being heard by fair and
Close the loophole that allows federal judges to escape
investigations for misconduct by stepping down from their post. When Ninth Circuit
Judge Alex Kozinski was confronted with a judicial ethics investigation for
sexual misconduct towards young female law clerks, he resigned — and the investigation immediately
ended. Similarly, sexual assault and perjury complaints against Brett Kavanaugh
were dismissed when he was confirmed to the Supreme
Court, and Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump-Barry resigned from the bench,
ending an investigation into the Trump family’s decades-long tax schemes, including potential fraud. Under my plan,
investigations will remain open until their findings are made public and any
penalties for misconduct are issued.
Ending Lobbying As We Know It
fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters. But when
lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise
is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it.
Constitution guarantees the American people the right to petition their
government with grievances. Lobbying isn’t new — it’s been around for
centuries. What’s new is the weaponization of lobbying to coerce our government
into doing whatever corporate interests want. While companies have an important
role to play in our democratic conversation, the voices of corporations and
powerful interests shouldn’t be the only voices in the room. But that’s exactly
to the 1970s, there was little corporate spending on lobbying. Last year,
over eleven thousand registered lobbyists roamed the halls of
government, mostly representing their powerful clients — to the tune of over $3
billion. It’s no wonder everyone else has such a hard time breaking through the
boom in the influence-peddling game has happened around the same time that
right-wing ideologues have slashed independent government resources and
in-house expertise, which are essential for officials to maintain their
independence from the “expertise” of self-interested corporate lobbyists.
Meanwhile, most corporate lobbying work remains hopelessly opaque — nominally
governed by a patchwork of weak definitions, few meaningful restrictions, and
inadequate reporting and disclosure requirements. And the free rein granted to
corporate lobbyists to also fundraise for political campaigns crosses the line
from influence peddling to legalized bribery.
can break the grip that lobbyists for giant corporations have on our
government. Together, we can end lobbying as we know it. Here’s where to start:
Expand the definition of lobbyists to include everyone who is
paid to influence lawmakers. Because of our weak laws, only individuals who meet directly
with politicians or spend more than 20% of their time lobbying are required to register as lobbyists. That means law
firms, consultancies, and even self-described lobbying firms that hire
individuals for the express purpose of influencing government may be able to
avoid these registration requirements — allowing powerful interests to
influence policy without any public accountability. This practice, endemic on
both sides of the aisle, must end.
plan brings this activity out of the shadows by strengthening the definition of
a lobbyist to include all individualspaid to influence government.
It also creates a new designation for corporate lobbyists to identify
individuals paid to influence government on behalf of for-profit entities and
their front-groups — and subjects these corporate hired guns to additional
Ban lobbying for foreign entities — period. President Trump’s
campaign chair currently sits in prison, convicted in part of
failing to properly register his shady foreign lobbying activity on behalf of
Ukraine. But what is the justification for allowing foreign governments to use
Americans as hired guns who sit in the shadows, quietly attempting to influence
our domestic political system? That’s not how diplomacy should work. Other
nations have ambassadors and diplomatic staff in the United States. If those
governments want to interact with our political process they can do so through
normal, above-board diplomatic channels. My plan categorically bans the
practice of private lobbying for foreign governments, foreign individuals, and
foreign companies. No more K Street influence-peddlers looking out for the
interests of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.
Impose strict rules on all lobbyists, including preventing them
from donating to or fundraising for political candidates. Paid lobbyists are
hired for one objective: to advance the interests of their clients. Allowing
individuals who are paid to influence government officials on policy to also
give gifts or funnel money to the political campaigns of those same officials
sounds like legalized bribery. My plan not only bans lobbyists from making
political contributions, it also bans them from bundling donations or hosting
fundraisers for political candidates. And it outlaws lobbying contingency fees,
where lobbyists are only paid if they successfully influence politicians to
achieve a policy outcome that serves their client’s narrow interests.
Dramatically expand the kinds of information lobbyists are
required to disclose. Our current laws require only minimal disclosure from
lobbyists of their activities. This prevents the American people from fully
understanding who is trying to influence government — and why. My plan requires
all lobbyists to report publicly all meetings with Congressional offices or
public officials, the documents they provide to those individuals, and all
government actions they attempt to influence. It also demands that all
charitable non-profit organizations, social welfare organizations, and trade
associations disclose any donors whose money was used to develop products to
influence Congressional testimony, agency rulemaking, or for lobbying purposes.
Impose a tax on excessive lobbying — and use this revenue to
give Congress and agencies the tools to fight back against the corporate
influence machine. In 2018, lobbyists spent a whopping $3.4 billion trying to influence public policy on
behalf of their clients, including $95 million from the pro-corporate Chamber of
Commerce, $73 million from the National Association of
Realtors, and $28 million from the Big Pharma lobbying group. The
right to petition our government does not allow industries to exercise
unlimited financial influence over policymakers. That’s why I will impose a tax
on any entity that spends over $500,000 per year on lobbying. The tax will
reduce the financial incentive for excessive lobbying, and its revenue will be
used to counter the effects of excessive lobbying by providing additional
financial resources for agencies to research and review regulatory actions that
are the targets of excessive lobbying activity, as well as additional funding
for the National Public Advocate, an office established to help the public
engage with the rulemaking process, and for Congressional support agencies.
Strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. Congressional offices
and agencies are severely underfunded, creating unnecessary pressure to rely on
lobbyists for expertise. My plan transitions Congressional staff to competitive
salaries and reinstates the nonpartisan Congressional Office of Technology
Assessment to help members of Congress understand new areas of science and
technology — because members of Congress should be able to access expertise and
information without being dependent on lobbyists.
End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies
federal agencies — agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy — were created by Congress to
enforce and implement laws that protect the broad interests of the public
against the unrestrained exercise of corporate power. But because of the
revolving door, the avalanche of lobbyists, and the weakness of our agency
tools to fight back, agencies often find their agendas hijacked by the very
industries they are supposed to regulate. We can and should make additional
changes to strengthen agencies’ independence and their ability to act
decisively in the public interest.
are some of the steps my plan takes to address this:
Stop powerful actors from peddling fake research — often funded
by undisclosed donors — and hold corporations accountable for lying to
regulators. I’ll crack down on corporations who manipulate agencies by
submitting sham research — like the climate denial studies bought and paid for by oil and gas magnates like the Koch
Brothers — by requiring individuals who submit a public comment on a proposed
rule to disclose editorial conflicts-of-interest related to any
non-peer-reviewed research they cite. Studies that are determined to have
conflicts of interest will be withheld from the rulemaking process unless the
individual offering that research certifies that they have undergone rigorous,
independent peer review. Otherwise, we’ll treat them like the bad faith junk
science that they are, excluding them from the rulemaking process and
preventing any court from considering them too. And if a company misleads an
agency with “analysis” it knows to be false, they’ll be prosecuted just like
anyone else who lies under oath to Congress or in a court of law.
End the practice of inviting corporate bigwigs to negotiate
rules their companies would have to follow and put a stop to the stall tactics
they use to kill public interest rules. My plan restricts the parties eligible to
participate in the negotiated rulemaking process so that industry no longer has
an open door to dominate the process. It also closes the loopholes that have
allowed industry and agencies to delay the implementation of rules it
disfavors, including by ending so-called informal review, reducing the review
period to 45 days, and clarifying that only Appeals Courts — not individual
Federal District judges — can temporarily block the implementation of rules.
And my plan requires agencies to publicly justify the withdrawal of any public
Give the public the tools to fight back against corporations who
seek to co-opt this process for their benefit. My plan establishes an
Office of the Public Advocate to help the public engage with important legal
changes made by federal agencies during the rulemaking process. I’ll also allow
private individuals to bring lawsuits against federal agencies for
unnecessarily delaying or failing to enforce agency rules — and against corporations
who have violated them.
Ensuring Access to Justice for All
justice is supposed to be the promise of the American legal system. But it’s
not delivering on that promise. Instead, we have one system for the wealthy and
the well-connected, and a different one for everyone else. It’s hard enough to
hold a powerful company accountable through our legal system, but recent developments in the law have made it even harder for
individuals to even bring those cases in the first place. We need to reform our
legal rules to make sure every person who has been harmed can have their day in
how I’ll start:
Ban forced arbitration clauses. Many companies force
their employees and consumers to sign “forced arbitration” clauses as part of
their contracts for employment or for services. These clauses mean that if
something goes wrong, individuals agree to never file a lawsuit in federal
court against the company — and instead are diverted into a private dispute
system. These provisions are often tucked in the fine print of contracts
that workers or consumers sign, and many people don’t even know that they have
signed one until they have been harmed and need our courts to help them get
justice. These provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but the conservative
majority in the Supreme Court decided that because there was no law explicitly
against them, they could be freely enforced. So let’s pass that law. My plan
categorically bans forced arbitration clauses from blocking lawsuits related to
employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights.
Ban mandatory class action waivers. When workers or consumers
are wronged by a company, they should be able to band together and seek
justice. Taking on a big corporation’s army of lawyers takes enormous sums of
money and legal expertise. But class action waivers tucked into consumer and
employment contracts prevent individuals from suing together.
That makes it virtually impossible to pursue a lawsuit, and gives companies unlimited
license to rip you off without any consequences. These anti-worker and
anti-consumer provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but because of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Gorsuch, they’re
alive and well. That’s why my plan would restore the fundamental right of
workers and consumers to join together when they are wronged by banning these
provisions in employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights
Restore fair pleading standards. When you file a
lawsuit, one of the first steps of the legal process is called “discovery.”
That’s when you’re supposed to ask questions and gather facts about your case,
but a pair of recent Supreme Court decisions upended decades of pleading standards, making it difficult
to file a case without already having many of these facts. These widely
criticized cases deprive plaintiffs of their day in court, and allow
powerful defendants to successfully dismiss cases before they even begin. My
plan would undo this damage by restoring fair pleading standards so that every
person who has been harmed gets their day in court.
Holding Bad Actors Accountable
reforms I’ve outlined will go a long way toward cleaning up Washington. But we
also need strong enforcement mechanisms and broad transparency requirements to
make sure we can hold bad actors accountable.
Let’s start with real penalties for violating the rules.
Washington, corrupt actors should face penalties when they break the law — not
return to business as usual.
how my plan would fix this:
Establish a new U.S. Office of Public Integrity and strengthen
ethics enforcement. The new office will investigate ethics complaints from the
public, impose civil and administrative penalties on violators, and refer
egregious violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
Expand and strengthen the independent Office of Congressional
plan ensures this office has the proper authorities and resources to conduct
investigations, refer civil and criminal violations to the appropriate
authorities, and recommend disciplinary action to the House and Senate Ethics
Expand the definition of “official act” in bribery statutes to
criminalize the sale of government access. When a politician
accepts gifts in exchange for government favors, that’s bribery — but thanks to
a wrong-headed Supreme Court decision in United States v. McDonnell,
our laws don’t fully recognize it. My plan plugs that tractor-sized loophole
and ensures that corrupt politicians who accept bribes can be prosecuted. It
also clarifies that a stream of benefits — rather than a single act — qualifies
as an unlawful benefit paid in exchange for a bribe.
Clarify the definition of “in-kind contributions” to ensure that
no future candidate can receive political assistance from foreign countries or
solicit large hush money payments without facing legal consequences. Politicians and
advisors like Donald Trump Jr. have reportedly tried to receive help from
foreign countries, even though it is illegal for foreign individuals to provide
in-kind contributions to campaigns. And Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to spend $130,000 to cover
up an affair so it would not come to light before the 2016 election, despite
laws preventing him from soliciting large in-kind contributions. Although a
federal judge accepted Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump’s lawyers and defenders continued to insist that what Cohen did — and what
Trump solicited — was not a crime. My plan settles this debate and clarifies
that the rules governing in-kind contributions also apply to intangible
benefits, such as dirt on political opponents, and in-kind financial contributions,
like the payment of hush money, when those contributions are made at least in
part — even if not exclusively — for campaign purposes.
Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency
government is supposed to work for the people, then the people should be given
enough information to judge how well their government is working for them. Too
many government records are kept behind lock and key, making it impossible for
the public to hold their government accountable. Significant legal actions that
have implications for public health and safety can be kept secret. And the
actions of federal contractors — the companies often tasked with the
implementation of government policies and programs, like Trump’s family
separation policy — are almost completely concealed from public view, thanks to
an assortment of exemptions and loopholes.
how my plan would shine a light on government activity:
Prohibit courts from sealing records involving major public
health and safety issues. When people were killed by ignition defects in
Chevrolet vehicles, General Motors settled the cases on the condition that all
documents related to the defects would be sealed from public view. It wasn’t an isolated
incident. Big corporations routinely use secret settlements to keep defective
products on the market so they can continue to rake in profits. That must stop.
My plan bans courts from sealing records in cases involving public health and
safety, with rare exceptions, so that corporations cannot conceal these
dangerous conditions from the American people.
Impose strict transparency standards for federal courts and
remove barriers to accessing electronic judicial records. My plan requires
federal appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings, share case assignment
data in bulk, and make all electronic case records — which currently must be
purchased from the government — more easily accessible and free of charge.
Strengthen federal open records laws to close loopholes and
exemptions that hide corporate influence, and increase transparency in
Congress, federal agencies, and nonprofits that aim to influence policy. The American people
have a right to know whether their elected leaders are acting in the public’s
best interest — and who is trying to influence them. Under my plan,
Congressional committees, government agencies, and federal contractors would be
required to publicly release key information so that the American people — and
the American press — can hold the federal government accountable.
Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US
Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and
convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:
Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United
States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting
like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000
election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched,
under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.
Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for
people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running
out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and
working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist
and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising
the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited
same-day registration, closed polling places
in communities of color, used
voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise
Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and
criminal penalties on efforts to
register new voters.
Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead,
they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local
officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to
secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend
against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian
government tried to infiltrate at
state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They
tried to spear-phish more
than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several
voter registration databases.
The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable
to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than
a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows
2000 and Windows XP. Twelve
states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to
verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits.
train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national
security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally
attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it.
We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to
vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting
now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections,
secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression.
Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times,
Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that
this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for
congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and
15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to
grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these
constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy.
Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the
greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time
to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to
address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression.
Here’s how my plan will work:
Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal
ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated
machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all
over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting
machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of
a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology
systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000
election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance,
and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure
everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration,
early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter
purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also
make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where
possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give
states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid
for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all
federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these
requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state
partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal
government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout
rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the
federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their
federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
Securing Our Elections
Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art
federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. The federal
government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked,
voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent
hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal
ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles.
The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible
ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to
improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with
disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language.
Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which
will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil
servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of
elections and develop additional security procedures for election
administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement
these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and
training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be
required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and
we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections
Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable
with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some
officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under
my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four
No more registration problems. My plan will mandate
automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections.
State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and
transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out,
if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day
registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off
No more voter purges. Under my plan,
states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the
voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a
legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of
eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their
time and left prison.
No more difficulties voting. We will make
Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum
of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn
statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and
voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the
Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering
No more gerrymandering.Under my plan,
states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw
federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should
compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the
will of the people.
Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives
where possible, and with federal authority where necessary
Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should
strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new
state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the
federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal
standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all
elections – federal, state, and local. I’m
proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong
financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as
well — and to maximize voter turnout.
Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the
entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets
federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting
more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how
they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of
polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state
implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols,
potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more
convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across
racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All
plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will
provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in
the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes
to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create
a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover
its election administration costs.
States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and
local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for
administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will
still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law –
including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact
under the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
If state or local election officials choose to ignore these
federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure
Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and
guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state
shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental
right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our
Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and
insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are
convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it.
Based on estimates of national
election administration expenses, recentstateefforts to upgrade their election systems, and
assessments of the costs of newmachines and audits, to cover these
costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes
around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for
election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated
from the Ultra-Millionaire
Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes
wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can
persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn
obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them.
That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration
of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.
Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic Senator from New York who is running for President in 2020, standing in front of the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West in New York City, drew a strong contrast between herself and those who would stand up for American values as “brave” while attacking Donald Trump as a coward and Washington in the pockets of special interests. Here are highlights from her speech –
Our president is a coward…
that’s not what we deserve. We deserve a president who is brave, who will walk
through fire to do what is right. We deserve a president who inspires us to
stand for something greater than ourselves.
Look up at that tower, a
shrine to greed, division and vanity. – now look around you, the greater
strength by far is ourselves. We are here to reject the politics of fear..
The ideals of this
country – opportunity, equality, justice – are worth fighting for. We are here
to embrace our shared humanity and rise above our differences. We don’t build
walls that are emblems of racism and fear. We build bridges, communities and
hope…our unity of purpose lifts us higher than any tower.
We are here today
because we know that when we join together and fight for our values, Brave wins.
.Americans prove this with their own bravery every single day…..
The people of this
country deserve a president worthy of your bravery- who not only sets an
example, but follows yours – your bravery inspires me every day, and that is
why I ‘m running for president of the United States….
I will go to toe to toe
with anyone to do the right thing – powerful institutions, the president, even
my own party. I’m not running for president because of who I am fighting
against, but who I’m fighting for.
I’m fighting for an
America where power truly belongs in the hands of the people, where our leaders
care about everyone in this country – and lead not from ego but strength of
character – where compassion and integrity define our government, not self-interest
and corruption – where we don’t just care about profits we make today but the
future we are leaving to our grandchildren – I know we can be that America –
but it means starting at the root of our problems – greed…
Right now, the special
interests are displacing the interests of the country …opioid manufacturers
get a pass rather than the indictments while neighbors are sold addictive drugs
on purpose, the NRA stops commonsense gun reform while stray bullets kill our
children; dark money is at the heart.. We need to crack open government, …
I will fight against the
dysfunction poisoning Washington. As your president, I will answer to you and
Our goals are ambitious,
but truth is not controversial – Americans across party lines support commonsense
ideas – make quality affordable health care a right not a privilege, must pass
Medicare for All, I have fought for this since my first house race in 2006 – we
have a plan to get from current system to single payer – and I know because I
helped write it – we will create competition, get costs down, eliminate the
On education: it is time
to guarantee universal pre-k, … provide high quality education for every kid in
America no matter what block they grow up on… We must make higher education
affordable, accessible for everyone, reduce the crush of student debt – the fed
government shouldn’t be making money off the back of our students,. In my
administration, we would refinance all student debt to lowest available rate.
Here’s a big idea: let’s
improve and expand the GI Bill to make college free for anyone who agrees to do
national public service – young people can pursue their dreams debt free while
To grow the middle
class, we need to start rewarding work again- make full employment a national
priority – invest in free job training through apprenticeship, free college at
state schools, training, skills, jobs in their community in the fields of their
interest. Workers rights are under attack more than ever, I would protect
collective bargaining by unions; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour
And transform the
infrastructure of work by finally making national paid leave a reality. It is outrageous
that we are the only industrialized country in the world without it – you should
never have to risk your job, your income to take care of new baby, sick family member
or your own medical needs. I refuse to accept the false choice between your
paycheck and your family.
I have led this fight in
congress since 2013, when not part of national conversation – hear me when I
say this, paid leave, equal pay and affordable day care are not just women’s
issues – these are economic issues, ones that will determine whether or not our
We need to dismantle
institutional racism that holds back millions of families – in health care,
education, criminal justice systems- in growing crisis of black women’s growing
maternal mortality, in criminal sentencing decisions, in the wealth gap between
communities of color and white that only widens generation to generation – these
challenges call for solutions both targeted and broad – like higher standards
for maternity care, a national commitment to full employment, postal banking,
ending cash bail, and legalizing marijuana.
We need to restore our
moral leadership in the world – we must secure our borders effectively and
fight terrorism relentlessly, but let’s be very clear – racism and fear is not
a national security strategy. Building a wall, ripping apart families, banning
Muslims and turning our backs on refugees and asylum seekers isn’t just wrong,
it makes us less safe. We need to repair our relationship with our allies and
stop fawning over our adversaries. We need to leverage our diplomatic tools ot
make Americans more prosperous and more secure, and always treat military force
as a last resort.
We must bring an end to
the endless wars – America’s commander in chief is not a dictator, and the
decision to deploy our troops can never be made lightly or unilaterally without
And we need to protect
the integrity of our elections, by holding accountable any threats to our
democracy from abroad or right here at home.
The stakes just got higher
on Friday – the Mueller Report must be made public. All of it. No one in this
country is above the law or immune from prosecution, not even the president. I
don’t often agree with Nixon, but he was right to say the American people have
a right to know whether their president is a crook.
Finally, we need to
treat global climate change like the existential threat that it is. We need to
pass the Green New Deal – let’s make this our generation’s moon shot –
addressing a global challenge of this urgency will take massive effort,
transformational vision, which is exactly why we should do it.
Let’s invest in our
crumbling infrastructure, create sustainable green jobs, protect clean air and
water as a universal human right. I would go further than others – I also put a
price on carbon to use market forces to steer companies away from fossil fuels
toward clean, renewable energy.
We can’t afford not to
do this. We don’t have time to waste – John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man
on moon in next 10 years, not because easy but hard. I believe we should look
at global climate change in the same way – look to zero carbon emissions
in next 10 years not because it’s easy but because it’s hard, a challenge we
are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one that we will
None of these big
fights, and equally big goals will be easy – nothing worth fighting for has
been – but I have never backed down from a fight, and I am not about to start
My faith tells me to
care for the least among us – to feed and clothe the poor, help the stranger,
the sick, incarcerated. I believe we are all called to be the light of the
world, to defeat the darkness and treat others the way we want to be treated.
I am running for
president to fix what has been broken, repair our moral fabric, … this fight is
so much bigger than any one election. It’s about making a choice and deciding
who we are, and who we are going to be. After all, America is and always will
be the home of the brave, no matter how difficult the course before us, no
matter how dark the hour, the lessons of our history is that justice, fairness
and truth are possible but only if we are willing to put everything we have on
the line to achieve it – so each one of us has a choice today – will we defend
this democracy, will we speak for what we believe in, will we reject the hate,
fear, greed and corruption, will we fight with every fiber of our being because
everything we care about is at stake.Will we be brave? You already answered
that question just by being here, if you are with me, ready to fight and take
on this fight with me, join my campaign, kirstengillibrand.com,
contribute to help power this movement forward.
I believe in my bones
that we can do this – years from now will look back at this moment in history
and be able to say we did something about it, we stood up, locked arms and
proved to America and the world that when people come together to drive out darkness,
hope rises, fear loses and brave wins.
The venue for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s rally was strategic for her message: a former warehouse with dank walls now used for an entertainment space in Long Island City, the neighborhood that booted Amazon, despite its promise to bring 25,000 jobs, in exchange for a $3 billion tax incentive.
The message the declared 2020 Democratic candidate for president brought to the 600 eager supporters was that it is time to break up the high-tech companies that have come to wield out-sized economic power more like government, dictating demands and reclaim government for the people.
“We have these giant corporations — do I have to tell
that to people in Long Island City? — that think they can roll over everyone,”
she said, comparing Amazon to “The Hunger Game.”
“Giant corporations shouldn’t be able to buy out
competition. Competition has to be able to thrive and grow.”
“Who does government work for? Just the richest people and
corporations? I want government that works for the people.”
“I spent whole life wondering what happening to middle
class, why so much rockier, steeper, and even rockier and steeper for people of
color – what has gone wrong in America.
“Our government works great for giant drug companies, not for people needing prescription drugs; for giant oil companies, not for people who see climate change bearing down; great for payday lenders, not for people of color and communities and poor people who are targeted, whose lives are turned upside down.
“It’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it
“Whichever issue brought you here – income gap, climate change, affordable child care, housing – whatever issue brought you here, I guarantee decisions made in Washington that directly touch – runs straight through corruption in Washington…. We need big structural change.”
Her prescription: change the
rules of government, of the economy, of politics:
Where to start? Change the rules
of government by taking corruption head on.
“I introduced the biggest anti-corruption bill since
Watergate; it’s big, long, complex, but here are a few pieces:
“End lobbying as we know it. Stop the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; make Supreme Court follow the basic rules of ethics. Anyone who wants to run for federal office, must release their taxes.
“We need workers to have more power, we need stronger
unions. Unions built American middle class and will rebuild the American middle
Warren is advocating an ultra millionaire’s tax: imposing 2%
tax for those with over $50 million in assets.
That means the top 0.1% -75,000 households. She estimates that would
generate $2.4 trillion.
In what sounds like an expansion of Obama’s
oft-taken-out-of-context line, “You didn’t build that,” Warren justifies the
wealth tax saying, “I’m tired of free loading billionaires. You built (or
inherited) your fortune, good for you, but you built it using workers we educated,
roads and bridges we paid to build, police – all helped. So yeah, you built a
great fortune, so give a little back to the American people (who enabled you).
It’s a property tax, she said, not unlike the property tax
that any homeowner, farmer, condo owner all pay, but includes the Picassos,
diamonds and yachts.
What would it do? It would fund universal child care, and
still have billions left over.
To change the rules of politics and protect our democracy, she said, “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and make sure every vote gets counted. Overturn Citizens United.” (adding that she isn’t taking any corporate PAC money, but is depending on grassroots donations, ElizabethWarren.com.)
“I don’t go to closed door meetings with millionaires. I’m
here with you.”
“My father was a janitor but his daughter got a chance to be
a teacher, a college professor, a Senator and a candidate for President of the United
States. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it. I want an American where
every child gets a chance to build a future.
“This is our moment. Dream big. Let’s win.”
She then took questions (the questioners were picked at
Asked her view of Governor Andrew Cuomo trying to woo Amazon back after local
progressives including State Senator Michael Gianaris, who introduced her at
the rally, she said, “This is like ‘Hunger Games’ – it is
not just the enormous economic power, but the political power they wield.
“A handful of companies spend $50 million lobbying
Washington – a great return on investment if they get to keep Washington from
enforcing regulations, antitrust laws, hold back oversight. That’s not how
America is supposed to work. Corporate power… and billionaire power, all
those who make their voices heard through money. They fund the think tanks that
come to, predetermined conclusions, the public relations firms, the soft ads on
TV, controlling government, they tilt the playing field over and over against
She reflected that she went to see Trump being sworn in, and
realized that with control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the
Republicans could have swept away health care and Medicare “by Tuesday.” “But
the next day, there was the biggest protest in the history of the world.”
“I want to rein in big tech. That won’t happen by talking
inside the Beltway, but in rooms like this.”
Asked whether her wealth
tax would cause billionaires like Trump to simply move outside the US, she
quipped, “That would be a bad thing?” but explained the 2% wealth tax would be
on all property where it is held, so a yacht in the Caribbean would be taxed. More tax treaties mean it can be tracked. The
IRS (now underfunded and understaffed) would step up enforcement. Even with a
15% cheat factor, you still get nearly $3 trillion in revenue. As for moving
and renouncing US citizenship to avoid the tax? There would be a 40% exit
“You built your fortune here, you owe something to the
Asked about addressing homelessness
and the lack of affordable housing, Warren said, “It’s a matter of values.
In the richest country in the history of the world, people shouldn’t be
sleeping in the street. I have a plan, a housing plan, but the first step is to
diagnose the problem: Why has the cost of housing gone up? Wages, adjusted for
inflation for four decades are flat, but housing costs have risen by
two-thirds. That puts a squeeze on families.”
She said that over the years, government has withdrawn investment in housing, while private developers have build the more profitable mcmansions and luxury high rises. “There’s been an increase in housing at the top but no increase for middle class and down. The federal government is not making investment in housing for poor, working poor and middle class. Meanwhile, across America, the housing stock has deteriorated, shrinking in size, but the population is expanding, so people are paying more and more for less and less.
“The answer: build more housing. I want to build 3.2 million
new housing units all across the country. That would decrease rents by 10%. I
want more housing for purchase, so families can build equity over time.
“Housing is how working families have built wealth
generation after generation – paying off the mortgage, and living on Social
Security, grandma can live with the family, the home passes on wealth to the
“It is no surprise that for decades, from the 1930s, federal
government invested in subsidized housing for white people, but discriminated
against blacks. Red lined areas where federal government would block mortgages,
so that generation after generation [was deprived of home ownership to build
wealth]. In 1960, housing discrimination was legal, while the federal
government subsidized whites and discriminated against black neighborhoods. Then,
the gap between white and black home ownership was 27 points.
“Then civil rights made housing, voting discrimination
illegal, and we see black middle class recover.
“But then the big banks came along – looked to black, brown
home owners’ equity. They targeted black and brown people for the nastiest
mortgages – Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Greed.
“Today, the gap between white and black home ownership is 30
points. Race matters in America.
“My housing bill has something we haven’t seen anywhere
else: in formerly red-lined areas, first time home buyers or those who lost
their homes during the housing crash, will get assistance to buy again.”
Asked whether she would support ending the filibuster which
the Republican minority used to block progressive legislation during the Obama
administration, to block his judicial appointments, even the Merrick Garland
Supreme Court nomination, she said (not too coyly): “It’s all on the table,
baby. I’m on record for filibuster reform. The Republicans used filibuster to
block judicial nominees, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection
Board, the National Labor Relations Board. “Republicans get to do what they
want when they’re in power, and when we are, we drink a lot of tea. It’s all on
“I get that things I’m asking for all are hard – attacking corruption,
changing the rules of the economy, democracy. I get that some people earn more
or less, but everyone should have an equal share of democracy.”
People, she said, saved the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which she created after the
2008 financial collapse. “The people saved it, and it’s already forced the
biggest banks to return $12 billion to the people they cheated.
“I’m calling for big structural change, but you don’t get
what you don’t fight for,” she said, citing the abolitionists, suffragettes,
union organizers, the foot soldiers of civil rights, gay rights activists. “They
were all told, ‘it’s too hard, give up now, and yet, every one of them stayed,
fought, organized, persisted [she said to big cheers], and changed. This is our
moment to change.
“Dream big, fight hard, and let’s win.”
In an already crowded field of candidates – even the
progressive faction – Warren is the only one who has clearly spelled out policy
proposals and the underlying rationale, the powerful statistics of growing
inequality, that she has studied and worked to change for years to level the
playing field, “make government work for you”: campaign finance reform and
government reform; housing; tax reform.
And in this venue, it
was fascinating to see how she could be so factual, so academic, but so
enthusiastic and personable, her
audience asked for more detail about how she would address the critical
shortfall in affordable housing, even
taking her by surprise.
The evening was organized a little like a townhall, with Warren moving freely about a stage in front of a giant American flag, taking questions, and then at the end, offering to stay as long as necessary so anyone who wanted to take a photo with her could get their chance.
Bernie Sanders held his first major rally of his 2020 campaign for president on the campus of Brooklyn College, just a few miles from where he grew up in a 3 ½-room rent-controlled apartment, and where he attended his first year of college. As many as 7,000 people crammed in to see him on Saturday, March 2 – like the 2016 campaign, mostly young people. Judging by the enthusiasm, The Burn is back.
While the agenda now has become pretty standard fare
for all the Democrats running for President – universal health care, lower drug
prices, gun safety, immigration reform, climate action – and while others have
emphasized the need to restore civility to political discourse (in contrast to
the crass vitriol that constantly spews from Trump), what was decidedly
different about Bernie is his willingness to name names, to take on the
corporatists and the billionaires: Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Netflix, Disney,
In some ways, Bernie, while taking credit for the
leftward shift of the Democrats’ platform, needs to stand out – and this is his
way. He also seems intent to correct any missteps from the 2016 campaign. This
time around he is emphasizing his humble origins whose father migrated from
Poland on his own at age 17 with “not 5 cents in his pocket, not speaking
English” to escape crushing poverty and anti-Semitism and make a better life.
He described a hard-scrabble life, appreciating full well the stress and
anxiety of 800,000 government workers furloughed by the record-long Trump shutdown,
who live paycheck to paycheck, at the mercy of employers.
The campaign emphasized his early years as an activist, protesting against housing discrimination and horrible public schools for Chicago’s black children – but he was too modest during the 2016 to focus much attention on his early activism on behalf of civil rights. This time around, Nina Turner, who heads Our Revolution, put Bernie on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King, Jr., and journalist/activist Shaun King connected him with Black Lives Matter.
This time, Sanders also made certain to include issues that concern women on a long “to do” list: child care and women’s reproductive rights.
Taking to the podium to introduce her husband, Jane
Sanders declared, “I’m honored to be his wife – that might not be politically
correct to say, but it’s one of my greatest honors of my life.”
She added, “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.”
But as Bernie is forced to differentiate himself
from the rest of the dozens of Democrats who are running, most of whom are
championing the same agenda, he has to go even further than he did, and that may
well turn off centrists, moderates and independents, and fall right into the
hands of Trump and his minions who are made to turn against the notion of
affordable, accessible health care and pharmaceuticals as some kind of Communist
takeover. Imagine, as Trump told CPAC, “taking away private insurance from 180
million people,” banning beef, airplanes, indeed, individual liberty.
And don’t Democrats want as their #1 priority to
have a candidate who can beat Trump? Which means not just the hard-left and
youth who still only vote at a dismal 39% rate and are easily made too peeved
to bother, but centrists, moderates, independents, who might be put off by
being branded a Socialist and not the European-style Democratic Socialist
(which have universal health care, parental leave, child care) but the
Venezuelan kind, especially with such radical talk of a federally guaranteed
job and a Green New Deal?
“Every card carrying American
who loves their Social Security, public schools, roads, police, and fire services
will love their Medicare for All. Labels don’t define us, we come together
around issues – Medicare for All; free college,” a campaign worker noted.
“Bernie believes another
world is possible, that in a modern developed world, people don’t die for lack
of access to medical care. The issues are not blue or red, they are human
In actuality, the
Republicans have portrayed every liberal as a Socialist with images of work
camps and everyone collecting the same wage – including Obama, Hillary Clinton,
Why choose Sanders? “He’s
been consistent for 30 years. He’s been there for 30 years and knows where the next
remark to a young fellow as we are crammed into a subway car after Bernie’s
rally at Brooklyn College, how it is that with 30 years in Congress, Sanders
has very little to show in the way of accomplishing the lofty goals he set out
in 2016 and again for his 2020 campaign, and question how he would he be more
successful as a president, given the obstructions Obama faced from a Republican
minority willing to use ruthless tactics. His reply? Sanders’ success has been
to inspire a revolution at the grassroots – look at what has happened in
localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all
champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental
justice, has inspired such local activism.
Here are highlights from Sanders’ speech:
“Thank you for being part of the revolution, part of
the campaign that will not just win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump,
the most dangerous president in modern American history, but with your help,
will transform the country and finally create an economy and a government which
works for all.
“The underlying principle of government will not be
greed, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, tax breaks for
billionaires and efforts to take millions off health care. This campaign will
end all that.
“The principles of our government are based on
justice: economic, social, racial, environmental justice. Tell the insurance companies we will have
Medicare for All, say to Pharmaceutical companies you will no longer charge the
highest prices in world for medicines people desperately need. Your greed will
“We will raise the minimum wage to at least $15,
rebuild infrastructure, and when we do, we will create up to 13 million decent
“We will have quality affordable child care…. we will
make public colleges and universities tuition free.
“We say to seniors, you can’t survive on $14,000 Social
Security; Republicans want to cut Social Security Benefits: we will raise it.
“We say to Trump and the fossil fuel industry:
climate change is not a hoax, but an existential threat to the entire planet.
We will transform away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy,
and when we do that, we will create millions of good paying jobs.
“All of us have moral responsibility to make sure
the planet we leave our kids, our grandkids, is healthy and habitable.
”We say to the prison-industrial complex (boo), we
are going to achieve real criminal justice reform. We will end the
international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other – take
the $80 billion a year and invest in jobs and education instead. No more
private prisons, no more profiteering form locking people up.
“No more war on drugs or keeping people in jail
because too poor to afford cash bail.
“We will have real criminal justice reform –people
have records for possessing marijuana
but not one Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying the economy in
2008. Instead, they got a $1 trillion bailout (boo).
“Instead of deporting undocumented immigrants, we
will pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship,
legal status for 1.8 million DACA-eligible recipients. We will develop a humane
border policy for those who seek asylum – no longer snatch babies from the arms
of their mothers.
“We say to the 1% and the large profitable corporations in America, under a Sanders Administration, you’re not getting more tax breaks (big cheers). We will end their tax breaks, loopholes, and they will start paying their fair share; we will end the loopholes where Amazon, Netflix, General Motors pay nothing in federal tax, where corporations and billionaires stash money in the Caymans and other tax havens.
“We will end the military industrial complex. We won’t spend $700 billion – more than the top 10 nations combined spend. Instead, we will invest in affordable housing, public education, invest in our crumbling infrastructure. No more major investment in never-ending wars.
“Trump wants to divide us by skin color, where we
were born, gender, religion, sexual orientation. What we are about is doing the
opposite: bring people together – black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men,
women, native, immigrant, we are together.
“As return to where I was born, as I launch my
campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from, the values I
developed… I grew up a few miles from here on Kings Highway, in a 3 ½ room
rent-controlled apartment. My father was a paint salesman who never made much
money; my mother raised the two of us. I learned about immigration from my
father who came from Poland at age 17 without 5 cents in his pocket and no
English, to escape crushing poverty and widespread anti-Semitism. His entire
family was wiped out by Hitler. Coming from a lower middle class family, I will
never forget how the lack of money always causes stress in family. My mother’s
dream was to move out of rent control apartment to a home of her own. She died
young and never saw that dream.
“I came from a family that struggled. That
influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget.
“Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000
employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a
family that lives paycheck to paycheck.
“I didn’t have a father who gave me a $200,000
allowance when I was three years old – my allowance was 25 cents a week. But I
had something more valuable – a role model of a father with courage to journey
across an ocean with no money, to start a better life.
“I didn’t come from a family of privilege, who
entertained people on TV by saying ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family which
understood the frightening power of employers. I didn’t attend an elite private
school, I was educated in public schoo0ls in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t build a corporate empire based on housing
discrimination. I protested against housing discrimination. One of my proudest moments
was joining the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.
“The last two years and before, you, I and millions,
fought for justice in every part of society. Had some success against billionaires
who attack unions, slash wages. We succeeded in raising wages to $15 across
country – forced Amazon, Disney to do the same.
“We stood with teachers across country who went out
on strike to fight for better schools.
“The forces of militarism kept us engaged in war. We
fought back and for first time in 45 years, used the War Powers Act to end the
Saudi-fueled war in Yemen.
“We fought to end the war on drugs, to get states to
decriminalize marijuana possession and we are beginning to see records being
“We won some victories but clearly have a long long
way to go.
“Because of the work done, we are on the brink of
not just winning election but transforming our country.
“When we are
in the White House, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee.
“We will attack the problem of urban gentrification
and build affordable housing this country desperately needs.
“We will end the decline of rural America – so young
people in rural America have decent jobs and can remain in their communities. We
will reopen rural hospitals.
“We will end the epidemic of gun violence, pass
commonsense gun safety legislation.
“We will address national, racial disparity of
wealth, root out institutional racism wherever it exists.
“We will end the cowardly outrage of voter
suppression, and make it easier to vote.
“We will protect a woman’s right to control her own
body – that is a woman’s right, not federal, state, local government.
“Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about
defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control
economy and political life of the nation: Wall Street, insurance companies,
drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex,
the fossil fuel industry and corrupt campaign finance system that enables billionaires
to buy elections.
“Brothers and sisters, we have enormous amount of
work ahead. The path forward is not easy.
“Wealthy and powerful elites will do all they can to
defend their financial interests, and have unlimited money. But we have the
“This is what I believe: if we don’t allow Trump to
divide us, if we stand together – not blue states, red – but as working people
believing in justice and human dignity, love and compassion, the future of this
country is extraordinary and nothing we will not be able to accomplish.”