About 40 cars participated in a “Drive Out Santos” caravan event on Saturday, February 25, organized by Courage for America, Concerned Citizens of NY 03, and Moveon.org. The event was aimed at “driving” home and keeping top-of-mind the many lies, frauds, and failures of George Santos, who remains in Congress months after his frauds came to light, despite investigations by federal, state, local, and even international (Brazil) authorities.
The caravan route was a veritable tour through the labyrinth of Santos’ lies, passing key landmarks that represent the main categories: an animal hospital, exemplifying the bogus charities he set up to bilk people out of money; Citibank, emblematic of his fabricated resume; Lake Success Jewish Center, a reminder of the pain he caused by claiming a Jewish heritage and grandparents who escaped the Holocaust, then saying he didn’t mean he was “Jewish,” but rather he was “Jew-ish:; Il Bacco, where he spent $26,000, encapsulating the campaign finance violations and financial dealings, which are actual crimes, now being investigated by federal, state and local authorities; ending at Santos office (still with former Congressman Tom Suozzi’s name) at 242-09 Northern Blvd, Queens, where he ghosts his own constituents.
(To be refreshed about the dozens and dozens of Santos’ lies, text Santos to 50409 and you can see one by one 40 to 50 of Santos lies, and generate a letter to your Congressmember to vote to expel Santos, a campaign set up by Concerned Citizens of NY 03.)
The route, and the website are aimed at highlighting Santos’ lies and frauds “he wants us to forget” but which have strong emotional impact on the constituents he defrauded, said Casey Sabella. “He lied his way to Congress. And while he is a lackluster legislature [not able to serve on committees] he is pushing legislation that doesn’t comport with the needs, wants and values of NY-03.”
For example, Santos is co-sponsoring legislation to make the AR-15 the “national gun,” – which should also be a reminder that he lied about having four employees massacred at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida. But, it must be said, brings him closer under the protection of the most radical extremists, the Sedition Caucus.
“That encourages violence and makes it harder for teachers and people in public service to do their jobs,” Sabella said, who must be fearful about the next mass shooting, which now happen with more frequency than the days of the month,
Governor Kathy Hochul reacted to Santos co-sponsoring the bill, stating, “It’s outrageous and appalling that New York Congressman Santos would attach his name to legislation that would designate the AR-15 as the ‘national gun of the United States.’ This weapon of war has been used in mass shootings across the United States – from my hometown of Buffalo, where the shooter used a modified AR-15 to murder ten people in a despicable act of white supremacist terrorism, to Parkland, Florida, where the shooter killed seventeen innocent people with an AR-15-style weapon. The families and friends of those killed in Parkland have become heroic advocates for gun safety – including the Beigel-Schulman family of Dix Hills, who fight for change in memory of their son, Scott. This bill, which attempts to glorify the weapons that have been part of such horrific tragedies, adds unforgivable insult to injury for those families. It should never become law, and Congressman Santos should immediately remove his name from it, if he has any respect for New Yorkers.”
The route went past Lake Success Jewish Center, to highlight Santos’ lies about having Jewish heritage, which really rankled Charlie Robbins, a Moveon volunteer and NY03 constituent with his children and grandchildren. “At a time when antisemitism is growing, somebody lying about being Jewish, about being a descendant of Holocaust survivors, is offensive, disqualifying. A man of his character shouldn’t be in Congress. Expel him.” Instead, Santos (who boasted about being at the January 6 rally and contributing money to bail out Capitol rioters) has allied himself with the White Christo Fascists in Congress – including Marjorie Taylor Greene,.
(Indeed, while these constituents were rallying, White Christo Fascists have become so emboldened by Trumpism, as to declare February 25 “National Hate Day,” prompting Governor Hochul, at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah’s Shabbat of PeacN not Hate, to state, “There are 20 million New Yorkers who are with you today and every day as we stand up and call out antisemitism and racism and homophobia and all the other isms, because there’s still far more of us than there are of them, and I want them to know that. There is strength in numbers, but there’s also strength and a legacy of courage of standing up to evil. In the last century, what we saw, the lessons, what happened with the Holocaust.”)
“There is no question in my mind that Mr. Santos is not fit to represent the people of Congressional District 3. We have no idea what he stands for except himself and his power and greed,” Robbins said.
Marie Marsina, who lives within walking distance of two of the sites along the caravan route, Il Bacco restaurant in Little Neck, and Santos’ district office in Douglaston, said, “Santos may think he got away with lying about campaign finance, funding, spending, but these are serious violations of federal law. They are illegal.” Santos patronized Il Bacco frequently – listing expenses of $199.99, exactly one cent short of the $200 threshold for requiring documentation, seven times; he listed items at $199.99 at least 37 times, totaling $7000, on everything from airlines, to purchases at BJ’s to Target. “Where did the money really go?”
“In TV interviews, Santos can play the victim and normalize candidate fraud, he can blame his treasurer [Nancy Marks, who has since resigned] or errors, but he is a grafter under investigation by federal, state, local authorities. Where did the money really go?” she declared. “NY03 deserves a representative, not a fraud. We are being held hostage by Santos, while he is earning $174,000 salary. We are not going away. New York Republican representatives need to step up and call on Congress to vote to expel Santos now.”
“George Santos is a career grifter who seeks out people’s vulnerabilities, including repeatedly preying on their good qualities of compassion and love for vulnerable animals. These actions, among so many other things he has done, make him manifestly unqualified to serve in Congress,”said Emily Raphael from Plainview, a member of the Steering Committee of Concerned Citizens of NY-03.
The route also highlighted Santos’ animal charity fraud, and is even accused of stealing money intended to save the life of a veteran’s dog (many participating in the caravan brought their dogs), prompting a cheer that is unlikely to ever have been used in any rally, “Woof woof. Bow wow. We want Santos gone now.”
The drive passed Citibank in New Hyde Park, represented how Santos fabricated his entire work history, including having worked for Citibank. “If anyone lied about those things, they would be fired. But Santos is still in power,” Sabella said. “And that makes it harder to do our jobs.”
The caravan ended in front of Santos’ office – still with Tom Suozzi’s name on the window and awning – to highlight the fact that though Santos has been back in the district during the Congressional recess, intended for Congressmembers to meet with constituents, he has had no town halls and no engagement.
“He can’t serve as our representative. Every day Congress fails to do something, is an insult to the community,” Sabella said. Santos, she said, betrays the district’s “wants, needs and values.”
“George Santos told real and significant lies that impacted all of us. It’s unacceptable that he is still in Congress actively legislating against us, and he needs to be expelled,” Sabella said.
Follow on social media: @Courage4America, @MoveOn, @CCNY03
Against a drip, drip, drip of new sensational scandals involving George Santos, and the continuing campaign to pressure on George Santos to resign or Speaker Kevin McCarthy to hold a vote to expel, Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15) joined Concerned Citizens of NY-03 in Great Neck to demand the Federal Election Commission launch an investigation into potential illegal activity and irregularities surrounding his campaign finances.
Torres, the Bronx Democrat who introduced the SANTOS Act which would punish candidates who knowingly lie to voters about their background, outlined a web of incestuous relationships between Santos’ campaign, the Devolder Organization, Redstone Strategies and NY Rising.
“Given what we know through public reporting, it is outrageous to me that Mr. Santos was even allowed to be sworn in officially as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Rep. Torres. “But now, there are serious questions that need to be answered surrounding the way in which he supposedly financed his illegitimate campaign for elected office that was built on a web of deception encompassing nearly every facet of his professional and personal life. The American people – and the people of New York’s third congressional district – deserve to be represented by someone who will serve them with honesty, transparency, and integrity. Rep. Santos has proven himself to be not only a habitual liar who’s supremely unqualified to be serving in Congress, but someone who desperately needs to be held accountable for breaking the public’s trust and potentially breaking the law.”
In a letter sent to the chair of the FEC, Rep. Torres requests an investigation into the questionable relationship between Rep. Santos’s campaign and RedStone Strategies, an unregistered fundraising entity whose apparent practices on behalf of the Santos campaign might have contributed to multiple violations of the Federal Election Campaigns Act (FECA) as reported recently by the New York Times.
Rep. Torres was joined in his calls for an FEC investigation by members of Concerned Citizens of NY-03, a new nonpartisan group of residents organized around the sole mission of upholding congressional integrity and having Rep. Santos removed from office.
“We are delighted that Rep. Ritchie Torres accepted our invitation to visit NY-03 so we can thank him for his leadership and encourage the FEC to take action to hold Rep. Santos accountable,” said Jody Kass Finkel, founder of Concerned Citizens of NY-03.
“It’s a shame that Speaker Kevin McCarthy thinks it is okay for the more than 700,000 people who live in this district to have no legitimate representation. Rep. Torres understands how insulting it is for us to be told to ‘Live with it. Get over it. Your voice does not matter.’ We will not be silent and deserve to have a representative who tells us the truth. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration with Rep. Torres to deliver accountability for the people of this district and to finally get Santos the squatter evicted from office once and for all.”
The call for an FEC investigation is just the latest action Rep. Torres has taken to hold Rep. Santos accountable for his growing web of deception that is currently the subject of multiple law enforcement investigations. He previously filed an official complaint against him with the House Ethics Committee and is continuing to demand that Republican House leadership publicly explain what they knew and when about Santos’s seemingly never-ending trail of lies.
Rep. Torres is also sponsoring new legislation that would punish candidates for federal office who knowingly lie to voters about their background.
Meanwhile, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who was one of the first to demand the U.S. Attorney investigate Santos’ fraudulent campaign finances and disclosures, is now calling for the Department of Homeland Security to revoke Santos’ passport, deeming Santos a high-profile “flight risk”.
“While local, state, and federal prosecutors approach potential indictments against George Santos, international authorities in Brazil have also reopened his criminal case. Given Mr. Santos potentially faces years in prison, there is significant concern that he may eventually seek safe harbor within a country lacking an extradition treaty with the U.S.,” Lazafan stated.
Kevin McCarthy who needed Santos’ vote to fulfill his dream of becoming Speaker and is too fearful to see his margin be whittled down to four, said it would be up to NY3rd constituents to remove Santos (that is, in 2024), while 3rd District constituents continue to rally, protest, petition, calling for Congress to expel Santos.
McCarthy made clear that he values politics and power, not ethics or care to serve the interests of the people, as his Golden Rule. It is almost as if McCarthy has nothing but disdain for actual representation. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, in this case, the Republican caucus, and the ends justify the means. Which makes his Republican caucus’ obsession with investigating Hunter Biden, everything Biden, the January 6 investigators, the FBI all the more shameless and hypocritical.
McCarthy has been careful to bolster Santos, especially because Santos provided the key vote to fulfill his ambition to become Speaker, and has dismissed every allegation, even that a Santos fundraiser impersonated McCarthy’s own aide to stir up donations, with the claim that the investigations have to play out, that everyone deserves due process – expecting the process to last through a two-year Congressional term (just look at the January 6 prosecutions).
And in a big middle finger to the district, the nation, and the institution, McCarthy decided to appoint Santos to two committees: the Small Business committee (because he’s such a genius at “investing in himself” to go from $55,000 to millions of dollars overnight) and the Committee on Space, Science and Technology (where he can do Trump’s bidding and stick it to social media giants, vote to rescind funding for research and development, for renewable energy).
That prompted some to suggest another path for removing Santos: Get every chamber of commerce to start letter writing campaign to have him removed. He can’t represent their interest because of his deceit in everything including his own business.
McCarthy chose to give Santos two important committee assignments despite the precedent of a member under a cloud of investigation being removed from a committee while it plays out, and despite the level of intensity against Santos, who has been referred to the house Ethics committee and the outside, independent committee on Ethics, even as he is under investigation by the U.S. Attorney, New York Attorney General, Nassau County and Queens County district attorneys and the Federal Election Commission.
“This is an extraordinary vote of confidence by McCarthy in Santos,” noted NBC’s senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake.
Think about it: this fraudster whose real resume includes working for a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $17 million, is in a position to affect small business funding (think PPP). And as a member of the Space, Science & Technology committee, he is in a position to extort “campaign” funding from Big Tech in exchange for favorable or unfavorable policies on the social media giants, Elon Musk’s Tesla and Space X, and every institution wanting to get funding for research and development.
Meanwhile, local Republicans have tried to insulate themselves from Santos’ stain on their election prospects by calling for him to resign (knowing that won’t happen), and saying they will refuse to work with him, which will cost the district millions of dollars in federal aid that an effective Congressmember with integrity can bring home.
Besides the $174,000 salary plus per diems for being a Congressman – the most this deadbeat has ever seen – campaign donations present an irresistible bottomless piggybank. He is a vulnerable target for bribery, blackmail and extortion, and a national security risk.
“This country never had imposter seated in Congress before, and with ties to Russian oligarch and questionable finances,” Jody Kass Finkel said at the press conference with Torres. “Santos deceived voters. A liar, cheater, probably criminal. We deserve real representative, not a charlatan. McCarthy insults the 700,000 district residents by [ignoring Santos scandal], instead, says, “Live with it, get over it.
“Well, we aren’t… We understand McCarthy has a narrow majority, but the Speaker does damage to our representative form of government, to our democracy. He says he cares about voter fraud. How about the fraud perpetrated on 700,000 people of district.”
What is McCarthy afraid of, she wondered. “Recent elections show NY3 is competitive, if a free and fair election. But if Santos doesn’t pull out, we lose. How hard will it be for Republican to win a seat after two years of drip, drip revelations, or any Republican for any seat?”
“There are 535 in Congress. Of the 535, no one poses greater threat to integrity of Congress as institution than Santos,” Torres declared.
“My message to Santos: this will not end well for you. Resign to end this nightmare for the nation and the 3rd district, denied representation they deserve.”
Santos, he said, either resigns under the weight of scrutiny or a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney. “He knows he is facing local, state, federal and international investigations. The one that will be the quickest is the US Attorney.
“Stop perpetuating suffering and humiliation of constituents. Allow someone capable of serving in government to step in.”
Asked if he feels cheated out of being elected to US Congress, the Democrat Robert Zimmerman who was defeated by Republican George Santos now being exposed as a fraudster who falsified his career and finances, was emphatic that it was the constituents, the political process and democracy itself Santos cheated.
“It’s not about me,” Zimmerman declared. “It’s about restoring integrity to our political process. The fact Santos thought he could get away with it – this is the antidote. The fact we’re here.”
And they came out in sizable numbers for a press conference at rally in front of the Nassau County Courthouse, calling for Santos to resign and for the Republican leadership to refuse to seat him, and carrying signs including “Make lying wrong again,” “Santos lies. Democracy dies.” “Follow the money.”
Prosecutors at the federal, state and local level have already announced investigations into how Santos, who only two years ago reported earning $55,000 a year, managed to loan his campaign $700,000 and declare income and assets in the multi-millions of dollars.
State Assemblyman Charles Lavine reflected that everyone gathered has the same trauma as any victim of a crime, a fraud, a Ponzi scheme. “the difference is the first few get some of their money back, but we, the citizens of the 3rd District are left holding the bag, the laughingstock of the United States and international community.”
Greg Leung, a youth activist from Great Neck and freshman at Boston University where he is studying political science and is thinking about entering government or politics, reflected the feelings of many young people, new voters, who have a right to be disillusioned, jaded, cynical about the political process.
“As a first generation American, in the extraordinary position of a Congressman elect, you are living the American Dream, a set of ideals that those who came before fought so vehemently to defend. The American Dream is an ideal nurtured over centuries – Government for, by the people with integrity. Lately, people like you resorted to deception to take power, eroding the American Dream you vowed to defend in the campaign. You lied for your own gain. Most vile, you lied about the Holocaust and mass shooting…. What do you say to those around here who depend on government to protect their version of the American Dream? Resigning is the way to preserve the American Dream,” Leung said.
Linda Beigel Schulman, who is a daughter of an actual Holocaust survivor as well as the victim of her son’s murder by the Parkland shooter, “1800 days ago,” spoke of the pain and trauma of being re-victimized by Santos’ false claims of his grandparents having fled the Holocaust and having had four employees killed in the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
My father lived in Ukraine, in Kiev. He slept in the forest, in bomb craters evading Nazis for years. He went to Canada and then the US. Others in his family were not so lucky. He would not speak of it, except in an interview by Spielberg’s organization.
“It is insulting and demeaning to every child of a Holocaust survivor. “How dare you lie about being a child of Holocaust survivors, or being Jew-ish? You lied about having four employees at Pulse. How dare he try to gain sympathy. I know all too well the sense of loss, the grief from gun violence.
“Lying has become commonplace and worse, accepted. Outright lying shouldn’t be accepted by anyone. Integrity matters,” she declared. “Lies are analogous to a virus, afflicting pain, fever, sometimes killing the host. We the people have become an infected host. If we accept lying from political leaders, it will surely destroy our fiber. The antidote is we the people, here today. We are the antidote. This country was founded on We the people, not lies.’
Schulman thanked Republicans Nassau County Executive Blakeman, DA Donnelly, incoming Congressmen Anthony D’Esposito and Nick Lalota for speaking out, calling for a full investigation.
“This is not a matter of politics or party. It is about right versus wrong, lying versus trust, deception versus honesty. NY 3rd needs a Congressman who is honest, who we can trust.”
Rabbi Deborah Bravo of the MakomNY Worship Center in Bethpage, said Santos’ lies about his Jewish ancestry were particularly offensive. “To lie about being descendants of Holocaust survivors for the purpose of political gain is beyond unacceptable..No one has the right to presume this ancestry for the purpose of political gain and empathy from constituents.”
State Senator Anna Kaplan cast blame on the Republicans at the local and federal level who propped Santos up and who are complicit in Santos’ fraud.
“George Santos has perpetrated a complete and total fraud on our community, but we cannot forget that for the last three years, he was enabled and supported by the entire Nassau County Republican machine and his Republican running mates, many of whom sit in elected office today and others who will soon take office. The questions about exactly who George Santos are not new, but they were brushed aside and minimized by local Republicans desperate to flip this congressional seat at any cost.
“Our entire community has been victimized, and we demand accountability. George Santos must be investigated by all appropriate authorities, particularly surrounding his shady business dealings and mystery millions that seem to have appeared overnight despite having no legitimate career to speak of. The outstanding criminal charges against George Santos in Brazil must be answered for. And we all deserve an apology for his reprehensible lies about his nonexistent Jewish faith and his completely fake connection to the Holocaust.
“To allow George Santos to be seated as a member of Congress would be a further knife in the heart of this community, and I’m urging Congressional Republican leadership to stop that from happening while investigations are ongoing.”
Kaplan added, “I’m also calling on every Republican in Nassau County who stood with this man over the course of the last three years to apologize to the voters, and renounce their support, along with every organization who endorsed his candidacy.”
Lavine noted, “Each of us is a victim of fraud – whoever represents the 3rd district acts not just for 3rd but the United States. But top of the list of victims of Santos’ fraud is Robert Zimmerman.”
“I am angry and frustrated too,” Zimmerman declared. “But the answer is all of us. Standing here today, demanding a House ethics investigation, investigations at federal, state and local levels, making sure Santos does not stay in Congress. That’s not Democratic or Republican politics. It’s about protecting democracy, standing up for justice against corruption and Santos’ fraud. At stake: democracy, faith in the integrity of our political system, the American Dream.”
At least one in the crowd of hundreds was a Republican who not only voted for George Santos, but helped elect him.
Teodora Choolfaian said she left the Democratic party, registered Republican and backed Santos over the issue of COVID-mitigation in public schools. Santos came to the rallies she held, and seemed to embrace her call to end mask mandates in school.
But at the rally calling for Santos to resign, she said she believed she had been deceived by Santos. One of her concerns is the source of Santos’ funding – as recently as 2020, he reported a salary of $55,000. In this cycle, his financial disclosures reported a salary of $750,000 plus assets of millions of dollars, without accounting for the source.
She now is calling upon him to resign “Santos is worse than you think,” she told reporters.
She will tell Santos as much when she sees him at the swearing in, at the Capitol on January 3, to which she has been invited.
Indeed, Santos’ campaign finance disclosures are now being investigated by the US Attorney, the New York State Attorney General and the Nassau County District Attorney.
A search of the FEC.gov database shows that Santos raised $2.933,614 for his 2022 campaign, including $1,001,151 in itemized individual contributions, $464,406 in unitemized individual contributions, $12,950 in party committee contributions, $247,551 in other committee contributions, $487,258 in transfers from other authorized committees, $705,000 in loans the candidate made to himself.
While a sitting congressman cannot be removed for lying about his background – though the House Ethics committee might see fit to censure him – actual federal crimes are another matter. But investigation and prosecution would take months, possibly years. So New York’s 3rd Congressional district may have to be resigned to waiting to 2024.
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.