Category Archives: Elections

Sanders Calling for Largest Voter Turnout in History, Declares ‘Imperative to Counter Trump’s Unique Threats to Democracy’

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), at a rally in Queens during the 2020 campaign. In remarks at George Washington University regarding the “unprecedented and dangerous moment we are in because of Trump’s unique threats to our democracy” called for unprecedented voter turnout, warning that Trump may well declare victory in Election Night, before the millions of mail-in-ballots are counted, confiscate the ballots to prevent them from being counted, and even instruct Republican legislators to disregard the popular vote and select Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College. If all that, including impeding delivery of mail-in-ballots, calling out thugs to intimidate voters who come to the polls, Trump says he is counting on the Supreme Court, with his third pick already on the court, to hand him the election. Only then, he says, will there be a “peaceful transfer” because there won’t be a transfer at all, but a continuation of power. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), in remarks at George Washington University regarding the “unprecedented and dangerous moment we are in because of Trump’s unique threats to our democracy” called for unprecedented voter turnout, warning that Trump may well declare victory in Election Night, before the millions of mail-in-ballots are counted, confiscate the ballots to prevent them from being counted, and even instruct Republican legislators to disregard the popular vote and select Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College. If all that, including impeding delivery of mail-in-ballots, calling out thugs to intimidate voters who come to the polls, Trump says he is counting on the Supreme Court, with his third pick already on the court, to hand him the election. Only then, he says, will there be a “peaceful transfer” because there won’t be a transfer at all, but a continuation of power. – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here are Senator Sanders’ remarks, highlighted, as prepared for delivery:

Saving American Democracy 

This country faces an unprecedented set of crises. We are struggling with a pandemic that has already cost us over 200,000 lives. 

We have an economy in which we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality, where the middle class is being decimated, where millions of workers have lost their jobs and half of our people continue to work paycheck to paycheck — many for starvation wages.  

We are living in the moment when climate change is ravaging this planet, leading to massive fires on the West Coast, drought and unprecedented levels of extreme weather disturbances all across the globe. 

We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, over 90 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

All of these issues, and others, are enormously important and should be the issues that are being debated in this campaign. But, today, I’m not going to talk about any of them.

What I am going to talk about is something that, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be discussing.  And that is the need to make certain that the President of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully.

What I will be discussing today is the danger that this country faces from a president who is a pathological liar, who has strong authoritarian tendencies, who neither understands nor respects our constitution and who is prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power. 

With less than 6 weeks left to go in this campaign it is my fervent hope that all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives — come together to defend American democracy, our constitution and the rule of law. We must ensure, in this unprecedented moment in American history that this is an election that is free and fair, an election in which voters are not intimidated, an election in which all votes are counted and an election in which the loser accepts the results.

This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.  This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win. 

The United States is the oldest continuous democracy in the modern world. We held elections in the middle of a Civil War in 1864. We held free and fair elections during World War I, during the Great Depression, and during World War II. After all of those elections, held in extremely difficult circumstances, the loser acknowledged defeat and the winner was inaugurated and took office.  That is what America is all about.  That’s what democracy is all about.

But today, under Donald Trump, we have a president who has little respect for our constitution or the rule of law. Today, that peaceful transition of power, the bedrock of American democracy, is being threatened like never before.

I am not in the habit of quoting former President Ronald Reagan, but I think something that he said in his first inaugural address makes the point about how important — how precious — is this part of our heritage. I quote: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.” Unquote. 

Protecting this “orderly transfer of authority” as President Reagan characterized it, this miracle, is absolutely essential if we together — all of us, Republicans, Democrats, Independents — want to keep faith with the American ideals we hold so dear and with the sacrifices that so many made in order to protect our democracy.

And in that regard I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to, and take seriously, what Donald Trump is saying.  

Several weeks ago, speaking at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, and I quote, “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.” What is remarkable about that statement is that he made it at a time when almost every national poll had him behind and when he was trailing in polls in most battleground states.

Think about what that statement means. What he is saying is that if he wins the election, that’s great. But if he loses, it’s rigged, because the only way, the only way, he can lose is if it’s rigged. And if it’s rigged, then he is not leaving office.  Heads I win. Tails you lose. In other words, in Trump’s mind, there is no conceivable way that he should leave office.

And just last night Donald Trump went even further down the path of authoritarianism by being the first president in the history of this country to refuse to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election. 

When asked by a reporter in the White House briefing room: “Win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferal of power after the election?” Trump responded:

“We’re going to have to see what happens.  You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.  We want to get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

That’s not his choice.  That’s for the American people to determine.  Let us be very clear.  There is nothing in our constitution or in our laws that give Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses.  In the United States the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted.  That may be what his friend Putin does in Russia.  It may be what is done in other authoritarian countries.  But it is not and will not be done in America.  This is a democracy.

I do understand that Donald Trump is a billionaire, or so he says.  I do understand that he was born to a very wealthy family and, from his earliest days, was able to get anything he wanted because his family was rich and his family was powerful.  I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you don’t  have to pay taxes like ordinary people and that it’s easy for you to avoid the military draft.  I do understand that when you’re rich and you’re powerful you can buy politicians and get hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare for your real estate empire.  

But this I also understand.  No matter how rich and powerful you may be, no matter how arrogant and narcissistic you may be, no matter how much you think you can get anything you want, let me make this clear to Donald Trump: Too many people have fought and died to defend American democracy.  You are not going to destroy it.  The American people will not allow that to happen.

Despite all of the evidence, Trump continues to be obsessed with the belief that there is massive voter fraud in this country. 

In 2017, after he won the presidency, Trump insisted that he would have won the popular vote, which he lost by 3 million votes, if, quote “millions of illegal votes had not been cast.” There is absolutely no evidence of that being true. In fact, it is totally preposterous to believe that millions of votes, or any significant number of votes at all, were cast illegally. This is an assertion supported by no one. Not Democratic officials.  Not Republican officials. No one.  And yet that is what Trump said after he won. 

There have been numerous studies done on the issue of voter fraud in our country. They have all concluded essentially the same thing.  Voter fraud in the United States of America is extremely rare. 

study by Dartmouth University found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election.  

An article in the New York Times from December 18, 2016 stated: “In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation … In Georgia, where more than 4.1 million ballots were cast, officials said they had opened 25 inquiries into “suspicious voting or election-related activity.”  But inquiries to all 50 states (every one but Kansas responded) found no states that reported indications of widespread fraud.”

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. The report concluded that it is more likely that an American, quote, “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” unquote.

Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, which maintains a database on election fraud, could only find 143 criminal convictions of mail in voter fraud out of 250 million mail-in votes cast over the past 20 years, a rate of 0.00006%.

But you don’t have to trust me on this issue.  Benjamin Ginsburg, one of the leading Republican experts on elections, a man who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, a man who played a major role for the Republican Party in the 2000 Florida recount, and who co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration, recently wrote in the Washington Post, and I quote, “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged,” unquote. 

Let me repeat from one of the Republican Party’s leading experts on elections: “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”

And if even the statement of Mr. Ginsburg is not good enough for you, here is what the Trump administration’s own voting integrity commission reported.  According to an analysis of administration documents by the Associated Press, Trump’s commission uncovered, quote “no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,” unquote, and disbanded in 2018. 

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tamped down concerns about mail-in ballots last month, saying, and I quote, “Many parts of our country vote by mail. Oregon, Washington and Colorado have voted by mail for years.”

And yet we have a president who calls mail in ballots “a hoax” and “a scam.”

Trump’s strategy to delegitimize this election and to stay in office if he loses is not complicated. Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression. He and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for people to vote. In addition, he is sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office. 

In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Trump refused to say that he would leave office if he lost. Asked to give a direct answer on whether he would accept the election results, Trump refused. He said, quote, “I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Pretty much what he said yesterday.

In the middle of a pandemic Trump made clear that he wants to defund the Postal Service in order to limit the use of mail in ballots. In an interview on August 13, discussing a possible deal for a relief package that would have funded the post office, Trump let the cat out of the bag by admitting that, quote “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”  

In other words, what Trump is saying to tens of millions of Americans is that at a time when over 200,000 people have already died from the coronavirus, you have a choice: You can either risk your health or even your life by walking into a voting booth or you can’t vote.  How disgusting is that?

Amazingly, at the very same time Trump is making completely baseless allegations about voter fraud, last month he urged his supporters in North Carolina to try voting twice, which is a felony. 

In order to advance his plan for mass voter suppression, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Nevada, which fortunately was dismissed, challenging the state’s mail-in voting laws. 

In July, Trump used false claims of voter fraud to propose delaying this year’s election, which he does not have the power to do. This was so outrageous that Steven Calabresi, the co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote that it was, quote “grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate,” unquote.

Last week, Trump told his supporters at a rally in Nevada that he, quote, “was entitled” to serve a third term, which is obviously a violation of the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment. 

On Saturday, Trump suggested to his supporters in North Carolina that he might sign an executive order to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president. 

Trump has also urged his supporters to become, quote, “poll watchers,” but what he is really saying is he wants his supporters, some of whom are members of armed militias, to intimidate voters. We’re already seeing this in Virginia, where early voters were confronted by Trump supporters, and election officials in Fairfax County said that some voters and polling staff felt intimidated.

On and on it goes.  Every day, over and over again, Trump is making it harder for the American people to participate in the political process and is attempting to delegitimize the outcome of this election so that if he loses he can remain in office.

The concerns that I am raising today are not just mine alone, and are not just concerns shared by progressives and Democrats.

Miles Taylor, a lifelong Republican who previously served as chief of staff inside the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security, warned that there is nothing that Trump will not do or say to defeat Biden. 

“Put nothing past Donald Trump,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “He will do anything to win. If that means climbing over other people, climbing over his own people, or climbing over U.S. law, he will do it. People are right to be concerned.” 

Well, I agree with Mr. Taylor. I am concerned. I am very concerned.

Last week, my former Senate colleague Dan Coats, Trump’s own former Director of National Intelligence, published a piece in the New York Times calling for a high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election to reassure all Americans that it has been carried out fairly. Coats wrote, quote, “The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.”

I couldn’t agree more. I strongly second Director Coats’ call for this election commission.

Last week as well, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and I sent a letter to Senator McConnell urging him to hold hearings on the issue of election and post-election security. Senator Schumer and I stated, “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

Majority Leader McConnell: Please respond to that letter.  Please establish that bi-partisan committee.  

And today I call on every elected official in America whether they be Republican, Democrat or Independent to vigorously oppose voter suppression and voter intimidation, to make sure that every vote is counted, and that no one is declared the winner until those votes are counted.  

And to my Republican colleagues in the Congress please do not continue to tell the American people how much you love America if, at this critical moment, you are not prepared to stand up to defend American democracy and our way of life.  Stop the hypocrisy.

With or without Donald Trump this election is unique in American history because it’s taking place during a pandemic and a public health crisis.   

As a result, states all over America are taking the appropriate steps to ensure more Americans can safely vote by mail in their own homes instead of risking their health or their lives to vote in person.  

The result is that this election will see, by far, the largest number of mail in ballots ever. 

And let’s be clear.  Despite what Donald Trump says, voting by mail is not a new or dangerous idea.  Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah conduct their elections almost entirely by mail.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and my state of Vermont have pledged to mail ballots to all registered voters for the upcoming election.  And many other states are making it easier to vote by mail. Trump himself, as well as members of his administration, have repeatedly voted by mail.  Members of the U.S. military have regularly voted by mail since the 1800s.

Given the significant increase in mail in ballots why, you might ask, are Trump and his allies trying to attack the integrity of our vote by mail system? 

The answer is simple.  A number of studies have shown that for, whatever reasons, Republicans are more likely to vote in person while Democrats are more likely to use mail in ballots.  

In fact, one poll found that only about a quarter of Biden supporters would vote in person on Election Day while some two thirds of Trump voters planned to vote in person.

In other words, if Trump can undermine people’s confidence in the validity of votes cast by mail, he will be calling into question the validity of votes that may overwhelmingly support Joe Biden.  

Let us consider the following scenario:  

On election night, Trump is ahead in many battleground states based on the votes of those who voted in person on election day.  All across the television screens people see Trump ahead before they turn in for the night.  But as more and more mail in ballots are counted, Trump’s lead falls.  Trump then announces, with no proof, that there has been massive mail in ballot fraud and that these votes should not be counted – and that he has won the election.

In other words, Trump may well announce that he has won the election before all of the votes are counted and that large numbers of mail in ballots should be discarded.

Furthermore, in states where Republicans control the legislature, it is possible that the election results will be ignored because of false accusations of voter fraud and that the legislature itself will use its power to appoint electors pledged to vote for Trump, overriding the will of the people. 

And, in the midst of all of this, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, Trump is attempting to push through a Supreme Court Justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election.  He is doing that at a time when early voting has already begun and millions of ballots will have already been cast.

In this unprecedented moment what can we as a people do in the struggle to preserve American democracy?  

First, it is absolutely imperative that we have, by far, the largest voter turnout in American history and that people vote as early as possible

As someone who is strongly supporting Joe Biden, let’s be clear: A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.  

Second, with the pandemic and a massive increase in mail in voting, state legislatures must take immediate action now to allow mail in votes to be counted before Election Day – as they come in.  

In fact, 32 states allow for the counting or processing of absentee ballots – verifying signatures for example – before Election Day.  All states should do the same.  The faster all ballots are counted, the less window there is for chaos and conspiracy theories.  

Third, the news media needs to prepare the American people to understand there is no longer a single election day and that it is very possible that we may not know the results on November 3rd.  

Fourth, social media companies must finally get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation and to threaten and harass election officials.

Fifth, in the Congress and in state legislatures hearings must be held as soon as possible to explain to the public how the election day process and the days that follow will be handled.  As we count every vote, and prevent voter intimidation everything possible must be done to prevent chaos, disinformation, and even violence.

Lastly, and most importantly, the American people, no matter what their political persuasion, must make it clear that  American democracy will not be destroyed.  Our country from its inception and through the sacrifices of millions has been a model to the world with regard to representative government.  In 1863, in the midst of the terrible Civil War, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg stated that this government “of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

That was true then. That is true today.  Regardless of what Donald Trump wants the American people will preserve democracy in our country.

Biden, Decrying Trump’s Failure to Protect US Elections from Foreign Interference, States Actions He Would Take

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office . Here is his statement:

Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.

I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.

Trump ‘Acquittal’ Triggers New Protests Vowing ‘We Will Remember in November’

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The widely anticipated vote to “acquit” Trump, impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, was never in doubt, though activists had hoped nationwide protests would shame Republicans into at least allowing witnesses and evidence into their show “trial”. But the activists are still determined for Trump to be held accountable – along with the Republicans in House and Senate who have been complicit enablers in higher and higher crimes and misdemeanors, breaching the public trust.

Mere hours after the Republicans voted to acquit – with the singular exception of Senator Mitt Romney who acknowledged Trump’s abuse of power – hundreds took to the streets, vowing to continue the protest, turn Trump out of office and “flip the Senate”. “We will remember in November,” they chanted as they marched from Columbus Circle, just across one of Trump’s Manhattan buildings, down 57th Street o Fifth Avenue, and passed the Trump Tower, to 42nd Street Public Library.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

About 2,500 people in all participated in the protest, met by fewer than a dozen pro-Trumpers.

They are calling for continued investigations and for Congressional oversight so that Trump isn’t able to skate away, as in the 2016 campaign, hiding his tax returns which most likely would have shown financial ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs (who made outsized donations to his inaugural and bought condos at inflated rates), and made secret payments to hush up a porn star, causing Trump to be labeled “Individual 1” in the prosecution of his “fixer” Michael Cohen, now imprisoned, and the 10 counts of obstruction of justice which the Mueller Probe found, saying they would have indicted but for a Department of Justice “policy” against indicting a sitting president.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In reaction, Trump, who used the State of the Union like a political rally  – even offering to broadcast the names of donors “live” – followed up with continued smears against any and all who have opposed him, even threatening to unleash the Department of Justice to do the very thing – political witch hunt – that he says he was the victim of. Except that there has never been any evidence or any testimony offered that contradicts the crimes he is accused of, only the abuse of his political power to extort complicity.

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, it is now revealed that the Treasury Department, which has stonewalled lawful requests from Congress for Trump’s tax returns (it is actually a law), based on some sort of invasion of privacy of a US citizen, and has sequestered the mandated audit of Trump’s returns while in office, has been probing Hunter Biden to supply Senate Republicans with dirt.

The question is how long Republicans can ignore substantial majorities of people who want climate action, gun safety, immigration reform, voting rights and preservation of the Rule of Law and the fundamental premise that no one, not even a president, is above it.

There were more than 300 marches and protests around the country in towns large and small – marches in places from New York City and Petoskey, Michigan to Wasilla, Alaska; rallies in 46 states and Washington, D.C. and a “flash mob to say thank you to Sen. Romney” at his office in Salt Lake City.

Here are highlights from the rally, march and protest in New York City, one of dozens held around the nation on Wednesday, February 5, 2020:

Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rally, march and protest in New York City after Trump acquitted by Senate Republican © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Releases Plan to Safeguard Elections, Strengthen Democracy and Restore Trust in Government

Senator Amy Klobuchar seeking to become the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 on the debate stage, released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government.   © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

Read the full plan here.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Releases Plan to Get Corporate Money Out of Politics

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York. Senator Sanders, long a crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in the political system, unveiled his “Money Out of Politics” plan. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.  

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 Feingold.  

Other key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:

Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal elections. 

Updating and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions. 

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 Co-Chairs

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 future. 

Banning advertising during presidential primary debates.

Instituting a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior staffers. 

​​​​​​​The full plan can be found here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Ambitious Campaign Finance Plan to Insure Government Works for People, Not Special Interests

Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 office;

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 substantiated. 

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:

Introduce a 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 flagged.  

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 spending.  

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 attention. 

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 spending.

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 public.

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.

Prohibit improper 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 Ethics. 

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 GOVERNMENT
 
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 appointment.

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 Trump Administration.

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.

Prohibiting foreign 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. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Releases Plan to Get Corporate Money Out of Politics

Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, has unveiled his plan to “end corporate corruption and return our elections back to the working class of America.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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 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. 
 

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 Feingold. 
 

Other key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:

Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal elections. 

Updating and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions. 

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 Co-Chairs

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 future. 

 Banning advertising during presidential primary debates.

Instituting a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior staffers. 

​​​​​​​The full plan can be found here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Would Tax Excessive Lobbying As Part of Her Anti-Corruption Proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, takes on the issue of corruption at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York City, that drew 20,000 people © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. 

Senator Warren has already laid out how she will end lobbying as we know it and strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. (Read more about her plan here.)

Here is more about her plan to tax excessive lobbying:

When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations, talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their big corporate clients. 

They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it needs to defend against these influence campaigns. 

But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt. 

When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed the second time, they sued to stop it in the courts. 

When the Environmental Protection Agency decided to act on greenhouse gas emissions by passing regulations on methane, fossil fuel companies called in their lobbyists. The rule was dramatically weakened – and then Trump’s EPA went even further than some in the industry wanted by proposing to scrap the rule altogether

When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump administration to cripple the rule – while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at a Trump resort. 

Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to implement the law? 

Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process of writing new rules – informally meeting with federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies in detailed industry comments during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway, they’ll argue to an obscure federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to challenge it in court. 

I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it. We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against this kind of onslaught when it occurs. 

Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1 million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35% tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying, the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will increase to 75%. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years. 

Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric utilities. 

Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable, and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million in taxes. 

Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest actions by the government. 

Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors. 

Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a “fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their best interests. 

It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests. After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan, the agency received over 100 more comments — including dozens from members of Congress, many of which were heavily slanted toward industry talking points. Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether – and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule, but said that it planned to try again in the future. 

Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade group, personally drafted a letter opposing this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience” when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama administration to delay re-issuing the rule. 

To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February 23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside them beat back thousands of comments, and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President before the rule fully went into effect. 

Trump came through for Wall Street: the new Administration delayed implementing the rule, and after financial firms spent another $3 million on lobbying at least in part on the rule, the Department of Justice refused to defend it in court. Today, the Department of Labor is led by Eugene Scalia, the very corporate lawyer and ex-lobbyist who brought the lawsuit to kill off the proposal. 

Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations. Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the ground. 

That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

First, we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support agencies. In my plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget Office. 

Second, we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying activity. Every time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of industry comments opposing it. 

Third, revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public Advocate. This office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in 2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking points.


My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.

And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal watchdogs to fight back.

It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have on our government for good.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Klobuchar Pledges ‘For the People’ Act to Protect the Right to Vote

Senator Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar has pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that contains 13 of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions to improve access to the ballot box — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The right to vote has been hard-fought and hard-won. Right now, insidious forces are working to take that right away. There are those who suppress the vote with intimidation, repress our voices with dark money, and refuse to address foreign attacks on our elections.

Not Senator Klobuchar.

Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She’s 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. She’s also worked to get dark money out of politics and in her first month as a Senator, she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.

At the same time, Senator Klobuchar is working to make it harder for foreign adversaries to interfere in our elections. In 2018, she secured $380 million in election security funds so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their elections from attacks by foreign adversaries. And she’s leading legislation in the Senate to protect our elections with backup paper ballots, election audits, and accountability for political ads on the internet.

Senator Klobuchar has 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.

She will also champion a voting rights and democracy reform package that:

Eliminates obstacles to voting and makes it easier to vote by

Spearheading automatic voter registration for all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Register America to Vote Act 

Restoring the Voting Rights Act protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination

Breaking down institutional barriers to voting, promoting early voting, and prohibiting states from purging voters from rolls for not voting in recent elections by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s SAVE VOTERS Act

Establishing minimum notification requirements for voters affected by polling place changes

Designating election day as a federal holiday 

Working with states to assist voters with disabilities

Passing Same Day Registration to require states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s Same Day Registration Act 

Ensures elections are free and fair by

Restoring citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration.

Ending partisan gerrymandering

Requiring backup paper ballots and providing election security grants to states for cyber improvements and audits as part of the Election Security Act — an effort Senator Klobuchar has led and continues to lead in the Senate 

Ensuring accountability for political ads on the internet by passing and signing into law Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan Honest Ads Act

Ensuring ballots are counted from Americans serving in the military and their family members

Combating foreign interference campaigns by improving media literacy education that teaches students skills to identify misinformation online

Overhauls our campaign finance system by

Supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United 

Establishing a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors through a multiple matching system for small donations

In addition, Senator Klobuchar has laid out a plan for her first 100 days that includes executive action she can take to strengthen our democracy immediately: 

Revive the aggressive protection of voting rights. Senator Klobuchar will restore the federal government’s longstanding position of challenging intentionally racially discriminatory voting laws. And while Congress works to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Senator Klobuchar will direct the Department of Justice to use Section 3 of the VRA to “bail-in” jurisdictions to its preclearance requirements, allowing federal courts to place jurisdictions under the oversight requirement of the VRA.

Prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections and other American infrastructure from cyber attack. 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 also 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 introduce legislation that provides election security funding, requires backup paper ballots, and requires campaigns to report contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in an election to federal authorities.

Impose full sanctions on Russia for hostile act against the United States and its allies. In 2017, Congress passed legislation providing additional authorities for the President to impose sanctions on Russia in response to its election interference and other aggressive actions. The Trump Administration has resisted full implementation of these sanctions. Senator Klobuchar will use these authorities to the fullest extent possible to impose serious costs on the Putin regime and its enablers for hostile acts against the United States and our allies.

Shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. Senator Klobuchar will shine a light on the dark money by requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending over $10,000 to their shareholders.

Bring transparency to dark money issue advocacy. Senator Klobuchar will direct the IRS to institute the requirement that tax-exempt organizations that engage in issue advocacy disclose to the IRS the names of individual donors who contribute more than $5,000 per year.

Restore protections for journalists and protect the First Amendment. Senator Klobuchar will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs.

Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will make clear that the President and Vice President must follow our conflict of interest laws, do more to investigate 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.

Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president.

Fill judicial vacancies by nominating well-qualified judges on day one. Senator Klobuchar will waste no time in working with the Senate and the American Bar Association to nominate a full slate of well-qualified judges who will follow the law to fill judicial vacancies on federal courts on day one of her presidency.

Mueller Hearings: House Intel Chair Adam Schiff Decries Trump Campaign Cooperation with Russian Interference In Elections-A Story of Disloyalty, Greed, Lies

House Intelligence Committee Chairman gavels in hearings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to address the findings of the Mueller Report © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his opening and closing statements for the historic hearings on July 24, 2019, set out the significance of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election, and the ramifications of the government’s failure to prevent such interference in future elections.

“When asked, ‘If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” ‘Why not?’ was the essence of his answer. ‘Everyone does it.’

“No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

“This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.”

Here is the text of his opening and closing statements: – – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Your report, for those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating, for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systemic intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.

That should be enough to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your report tells another story as well. The story of the 2016 election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.

Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy and used it.

Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?

That disloyalty may not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime in any event.

But I think maybe something worse: The crime is the violation of law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us.

This is also a story about money, and about greed and corruption. About the leadership of a campaign willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money at the same time.

About a campaign chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his position to make money from still other foreign interests.

And about a candidate trying to make more money than all of them put together through real estate project that to him was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars and the realization of a life-long ambition, a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow. A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial in history.

Donald Trump and his senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money. For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over human rights violations.

The secret Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and the Russians wanted more money for themselves and for their oligarchs.

But the story doesn’t end here either, for your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies. Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin. Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and lies about efforts to fire you, Director Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about WikiLeaks. Lies about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in the Seychelles to set up secret back channels and lies about a secret meeting in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to this committee. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history.

That is where your report ends, Director Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.

Even now after 448 pages and two volumes, the deception continues. The president and his accolades say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and noncriminal conduct.

Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.

They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outlined numerous actions by the president intended to obstruct the investigation.

They say the president has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.

In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI investigated it when they did.

But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that, too, continues.

When asked, “If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” “Why not?” was the essence of his answer. “Everyone does it.”

No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.

This is why your work matters, Director Mueller. This is why our investigation matters, to bring these dangers to light.

Closing Statement:

Director Mueller, let me close by returning to where I began. Thank you for your service and thank you for leading this investigation. The facts you set out in your report and have elucidated here today tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian intervention in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by greed, that it was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign power, and a presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states.

Your work tells of a campaign so determined to conceal their corrupt use of foreign help that they risked going to jail by lying to you, to the FBI and to Congress about it and, indeed, some have gone to jail over such lies. And your work speaks of a president who committed countless acts of obstruction of justice that in my opinion and that of many other prosecutors, had it been anyone else in the country, they would have been indicted.

Notwithstanding, the many things you have addressed today and in your report, there were some questions you could not answer given the constraints you’re operating under. You would not tell us whether you would have indicted the president but for the OLC only that you could not, and so the Justice Department will have to make that decision when the president leaves office, both as to the crime of obstruction of justice and as to the campaign finance fraud scheme that individual one directed and coordinated and for which Michael Cohen went to jail.

You would not tell us whether the president should be impeached, nor did we ask you since it is our responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not, we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.

You would not tell us the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form of money laundering, so we must do so. You would not tell us whether the counterintelligence investigation revealed whether people still serving within the administration pose a risk of compromise and should never have been given a security clearance, so we must find out.

We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any gulf nations were influencing this U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.

One thing is clear from your report, your testimony from Director Wray’s statements yesterday, the Russians massively intervened in 2016, and they are prepared to do so again in voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.

The president seems to welcome the help again. And so, we must make all efforts to harden our election’s infrastructure to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it, and to make them pay.

Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however, with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country, unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do and that the centuries old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.