About 40 cars participated in a “Drive Out Santos” caravan event on Saturday, February 25, organized by Courage for America, Concerned Citizens of NY 03, and Moveon.org. The event was aimed at “driving” home and keeping top-of-mind the many lies, frauds, and failures of George Santos, who remains in Congress months after his frauds came to light, despite investigations by federal, state, local, and even international (Brazil) authorities.
The caravan route was a veritable tour through the labyrinth of Santos’ lies, passing key landmarks that represent the main categories: an animal hospital, exemplifying the bogus charities he set up to bilk people out of money; Citibank, emblematic of his fabricated resume; Lake Success Jewish Center, a reminder of the pain he caused by claiming a Jewish heritage and grandparents who escaped the Holocaust, then saying he didn’t mean he was “Jewish,” but rather he was “Jew-ish:; Il Bacco, where he spent $26,000, encapsulating the campaign finance violations and financial dealings, which are actual crimes, now being investigated by federal, state and local authorities; ending at Santos office (still with former Congressman Tom Suozzi’s name) at 242-09 Northern Blvd, Queens, where he ghosts his own constituents.
(To be refreshed about the dozens and dozens of Santos’ lies, text Santos to 50409 and you can see one by one 40 to 50 of Santos lies, and generate a letter to your Congressmember to vote to expel Santos, a campaign set up by Concerned Citizens of NY 03.)
The route, and the website are aimed at highlighting Santos’ lies and frauds “he wants us to forget” but which have strong emotional impact on the constituents he defrauded, said Casey Sabella. “He lied his way to Congress. And while he is a lackluster legislature [not able to serve on committees] he is pushing legislation that doesn’t comport with the needs, wants and values of NY-03.”
For example, Santos is co-sponsoring legislation to make the AR-15 the “national gun,” – which should also be a reminder that he lied about having four employees massacred at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida. But, it must be said, brings him closer under the protection of the most radical extremists, the Sedition Caucus.
“That encourages violence and makes it harder for teachers and people in public service to do their jobs,” Sabella said, who must be fearful about the next mass shooting, which now happen with more frequency than the days of the month,
Governor Kathy Hochul reacted to Santos co-sponsoring the bill, stating, “It’s outrageous and appalling that New York Congressman Santos would attach his name to legislation that would designate the AR-15 as the ‘national gun of the United States.’ This weapon of war has been used in mass shootings across the United States – from my hometown of Buffalo, where the shooter used a modified AR-15 to murder ten people in a despicable act of white supremacist terrorism, to Parkland, Florida, where the shooter killed seventeen innocent people with an AR-15-style weapon. The families and friends of those killed in Parkland have become heroic advocates for gun safety – including the Beigel-Schulman family of Dix Hills, who fight for change in memory of their son, Scott. This bill, which attempts to glorify the weapons that have been part of such horrific tragedies, adds unforgivable insult to injury for those families. It should never become law, and Congressman Santos should immediately remove his name from it, if he has any respect for New Yorkers.”
The route went past Lake Success Jewish Center, to highlight Santos’ lies about having Jewish heritage, which really rankled Charlie Robbins, a Moveon volunteer and NY03 constituent with his children and grandchildren. “At a time when antisemitism is growing, somebody lying about being Jewish, about being a descendant of Holocaust survivors, is offensive, disqualifying. A man of his character shouldn’t be in Congress. Expel him.” Instead, Santos (who boasted about being at the January 6 rally and contributing money to bail out Capitol rioters) has allied himself with the White Christo Fascists in Congress – including Marjorie Taylor Greene,.
(Indeed, while these constituents were rallying, White Christo Fascists have become so emboldened by Trumpism, as to declare February 25 “National Hate Day,” prompting Governor Hochul, at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah’s Shabbat of PeacN not Hate, to state, “There are 20 million New Yorkers who are with you today and every day as we stand up and call out antisemitism and racism and homophobia and all the other isms, because there’s still far more of us than there are of them, and I want them to know that. There is strength in numbers, but there’s also strength and a legacy of courage of standing up to evil. In the last century, what we saw, the lessons, what happened with the Holocaust.”)
“There is no question in my mind that Mr. Santos is not fit to represent the people of Congressional District 3. We have no idea what he stands for except himself and his power and greed,” Robbins said.
Marie Marsina, who lives within walking distance of two of the sites along the caravan route, Il Bacco restaurant in Little Neck, and Santos’ district office in Douglaston, said, “Santos may think he got away with lying about campaign finance, funding, spending, but these are serious violations of federal law. They are illegal.” Santos patronized Il Bacco frequently – listing expenses of $199.99, exactly one cent short of the $200 threshold for requiring documentation, seven times; he listed items at $199.99 at least 37 times, totaling $7000, on everything from airlines, to purchases at BJ’s to Target. “Where did the money really go?”
“In TV interviews, Santos can play the victim and normalize candidate fraud, he can blame his treasurer [Nancy Marks, who has since resigned] or errors, but he is a grafter under investigation by federal, state, local authorities. Where did the money really go?” she declared. “NY03 deserves a representative, not a fraud. We are being held hostage by Santos, while he is earning $174,000 salary. We are not going away. New York Republican representatives need to step up and call on Congress to vote to expel Santos now.”
“George Santos is a career grifter who seeks out people’s vulnerabilities, including repeatedly preying on their good qualities of compassion and love for vulnerable animals. These actions, among so many other things he has done, make him manifestly unqualified to serve in Congress,”said Emily Raphael from Plainview, a member of the Steering Committee of Concerned Citizens of NY-03.
The route also highlighted Santos’ animal charity fraud, and is even accused of stealing money intended to save the life of a veteran’s dog (many participating in the caravan brought their dogs), prompting a cheer that is unlikely to ever have been used in any rally, “Woof woof. Bow wow. We want Santos gone now.”
The drive passed Citibank in New Hyde Park, represented how Santos fabricated his entire work history, including having worked for Citibank. “If anyone lied about those things, they would be fired. But Santos is still in power,” Sabella said. “And that makes it harder to do our jobs.”
The caravan ended in front of Santos’ office – still with Tom Suozzi’s name on the window and awning – to highlight the fact that though Santos has been back in the district during the Congressional recess, intended for Congressmembers to meet with constituents, he has had no town halls and no engagement.
“He can’t serve as our representative. Every day Congress fails to do something, is an insult to the community,” Sabella said. Santos, she said, betrays the district’s “wants, needs and values.”
“George Santos told real and significant lies that impacted all of us. It’s unacceptable that he is still in Congress actively legislating against us, and he needs to be expelled,” Sabella said.
Follow on social media: @Courage4America, @MoveOn, @CCNY03
Asked if he feels cheated out of being elected to US Congress, the Democrat Robert Zimmerman who was defeated by Republican George Santos now being exposed as a fraudster who falsified his career and finances, was emphatic that it was the constituents, the political process and democracy itself Santos cheated.
“It’s not about me,” Zimmerman declared. “It’s about restoring integrity to our political process. The fact Santos thought he could get away with it – this is the antidote. The fact we’re here.”
And they came out in sizable numbers for a press conference at rally in front of the Nassau County Courthouse, calling for Santos to resign and for the Republican leadership to refuse to seat him, and carrying signs including “Make lying wrong again,” “Santos lies. Democracy dies.” “Follow the money.”
Prosecutors at the federal, state and local level have already announced investigations into how Santos, who only two years ago reported earning $55,000 a year, managed to loan his campaign $700,000 and declare income and assets in the multi-millions of dollars.
State Assemblyman Charles Lavine reflected that everyone gathered has the same trauma as any victim of a crime, a fraud, a Ponzi scheme. “the difference is the first few get some of their money back, but we, the citizens of the 3rd District are left holding the bag, the laughingstock of the United States and international community.”
Greg Leung, a youth activist from Great Neck and freshman at Boston University where he is studying political science and is thinking about entering government or politics, reflected the feelings of many young people, new voters, who have a right to be disillusioned, jaded, cynical about the political process.
“As a first generation American, in the extraordinary position of a Congressman elect, you are living the American Dream, a set of ideals that those who came before fought so vehemently to defend. The American Dream is an ideal nurtured over centuries – Government for, by the people with integrity. Lately, people like you resorted to deception to take power, eroding the American Dream you vowed to defend in the campaign. You lied for your own gain. Most vile, you lied about the Holocaust and mass shooting…. What do you say to those around here who depend on government to protect their version of the American Dream? Resigning is the way to preserve the American Dream,” Leung said.
Linda Beigel Schulman, who is a daughter of an actual Holocaust survivor as well as the victim of her son’s murder by the Parkland shooter, “1800 days ago,” spoke of the pain and trauma of being re-victimized by Santos’ false claims of his grandparents having fled the Holocaust and having had four employees killed in the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
My father lived in Ukraine, in Kiev. He slept in the forest, in bomb craters evading Nazis for years. He went to Canada and then the US. Others in his family were not so lucky. He would not speak of it, except in an interview by Spielberg’s organization.
“It is insulting and demeaning to every child of a Holocaust survivor. “How dare you lie about being a child of Holocaust survivors, or being Jew-ish? You lied about having four employees at Pulse. How dare he try to gain sympathy. I know all too well the sense of loss, the grief from gun violence.
“Lying has become commonplace and worse, accepted. Outright lying shouldn’t be accepted by anyone. Integrity matters,” she declared. “Lies are analogous to a virus, afflicting pain, fever, sometimes killing the host. We the people have become an infected host. If we accept lying from political leaders, it will surely destroy our fiber. The antidote is we the people, here today. We are the antidote. This country was founded on We the people, not lies.’
Schulman thanked Republicans Nassau County Executive Blakeman, DA Donnelly, incoming Congressmen Anthony D’Esposito and Nick Lalota for speaking out, calling for a full investigation.
“This is not a matter of politics or party. It is about right versus wrong, lying versus trust, deception versus honesty. NY 3rd needs a Congressman who is honest, who we can trust.”
Rabbi Deborah Bravo of the MakomNY Worship Center in Bethpage, said Santos’ lies about his Jewish ancestry were particularly offensive. “To lie about being descendants of Holocaust survivors for the purpose of political gain is beyond unacceptable..No one has the right to presume this ancestry for the purpose of political gain and empathy from constituents.”
State Senator Anna Kaplan cast blame on the Republicans at the local and federal level who propped Santos up and who are complicit in Santos’ fraud.
“George Santos has perpetrated a complete and total fraud on our community, but we cannot forget that for the last three years, he was enabled and supported by the entire Nassau County Republican machine and his Republican running mates, many of whom sit in elected office today and others who will soon take office. The questions about exactly who George Santos are not new, but they were brushed aside and minimized by local Republicans desperate to flip this congressional seat at any cost.
“Our entire community has been victimized, and we demand accountability. George Santos must be investigated by all appropriate authorities, particularly surrounding his shady business dealings and mystery millions that seem to have appeared overnight despite having no legitimate career to speak of. The outstanding criminal charges against George Santos in Brazil must be answered for. And we all deserve an apology for his reprehensible lies about his nonexistent Jewish faith and his completely fake connection to the Holocaust.
“To allow George Santos to be seated as a member of Congress would be a further knife in the heart of this community, and I’m urging Congressional Republican leadership to stop that from happening while investigations are ongoing.”
Kaplan added, “I’m also calling on every Republican in Nassau County who stood with this man over the course of the last three years to apologize to the voters, and renounce their support, along with every organization who endorsed his candidacy.”
Lavine noted, “Each of us is a victim of fraud – whoever represents the 3rd district acts not just for 3rd but the United States. But top of the list of victims of Santos’ fraud is Robert Zimmerman.”
“I am angry and frustrated too,” Zimmerman declared. “But the answer is all of us. Standing here today, demanding a House ethics investigation, investigations at federal, state and local levels, making sure Santos does not stay in Congress. That’s not Democratic or Republican politics. It’s about protecting democracy, standing up for justice against corruption and Santos’ fraud. At stake: democracy, faith in the integrity of our political system, the American Dream.”
At least one in the crowd of hundreds was a Republican who not only voted for George Santos, but helped elect him.
Teodora Choolfaian said she left the Democratic party, registered Republican and backed Santos over the issue of COVID-mitigation in public schools. Santos came to the rallies she held, and seemed to embrace her call to end mask mandates in school.
But at the rally calling for Santos to resign, she said she believed she had been deceived by Santos. One of her concerns is the source of Santos’ funding – as recently as 2020, he reported a salary of $55,000. In this cycle, his financial disclosures reported a salary of $750,000 plus assets of millions of dollars, without accounting for the source.
She now is calling upon him to resign “Santos is worse than you think,” she told reporters.
She will tell Santos as much when she sees him at the swearing in, at the Capitol on January 3, to which she has been invited.
Indeed, Santos’ campaign finance disclosures are now being investigated by the US Attorney, the New York State Attorney General and the Nassau County District Attorney.
A search of the FEC.gov database shows that Santos raised $2.933,614 for his 2022 campaign, including $1,001,151 in itemized individual contributions, $464,406 in unitemized individual contributions, $12,950 in party committee contributions, $247,551 in other committee contributions, $487,258 in transfers from other authorized committees, $705,000 in loans the candidate made to himself.
While a sitting congressman cannot be removed for lying about his background – though the House Ethics committee might see fit to censure him – actual federal crimes are another matter. But investigation and prosecution would take months, possibly years. So New York’s 3rd Congressional district may have to be resigned to waiting to 2024.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential
nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator
Bernie Sanders, long a crusader to end corporate influence and corruption in
the political system, unveiled his “Money
Out of Politics” Plan. This is from the Sanders campaign:
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Money Out of Politics Plan, a comprehensive proposal to end all corporate influence and corruption in the political system.
“Our grassroots-funded campaign is proving every single day that you don’t need billionaires and private fundraisers to run for president,” Sanders said. “We’ve received more contributions from more individual contributors than any campaign in the history of American politics because we understand the basic reality that you can’t take on a corrupt system if you take its money. Working people all over the country are responding to that message and demanding a political revolution through their small dollar donations. When we win the Democratic nomination and defeat Donald Trump, we will transform our political system by rejecting the influence of big corporate money.”
Sanders’ plan will end the greed-fueled, corrupt corporate influence over elections, national party convention, and presidential inaugurations.
2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National
Convention funding, with large corporations like Comcast, Bank of America and
Facebook donating millions. At the 2013 Presidential inauguration, corporate
donors including, AT&T, Microsoft, and Chevron donated millions.
the Democratic nominee, Sanders would ban all corporate contributions to the
Democratic Party Convention and all related committees, and as President he
would be ban all corporate donations for inaugural events and cap individual
donations at $500.
Sanders’ plan would abolish the now-worthless FEC and replace it with the
Federal Election Administration, a true law enforcement agency originally
proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.
key elements Sanders’ Money Out of Politics Plan include:
Enacting mandatory public financing laws for all federal
and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of
mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions.
a Constitutional Amendment that makes clear that money is not speech and
corporations are not people.
the influence of corporations at the DNC.
donations from federal lobbyists and corporations.
a lifetime lobbying ban for National Party Chairs and Co-Chairs
Chairs and Co-Chairs from working for entities with federal contract, that are
seeking government approval for projects or mergers, or can reasonably be
expected to have business before Congress in the future.
advertising during presidential primary debates.
a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.
This is from the Biden campaign:
“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”
Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain.
As president, Biden will:
Reduce the corrupting influence of money in
politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for
Return integrity to the U.S. Department of
Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;
Restore ethics in government;
Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts
of interest; and
Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a
higher standard of accountability.
Highlights from Biden’s plan include:
Biden will introduce a constitutional
amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will
return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek
to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful
change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide
public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a
public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.
Biden will block any future president or
anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or
what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive
Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration
may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific
DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to
terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving
the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper
partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG
to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is
Biden will establish the Commission on Federal
Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce
federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce
its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ,
as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to
proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing
loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let
lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be
tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance,
financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.
Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying
disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to
disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose
any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party.
Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity.
Biden will bar lobbying by foreign
governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must
verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.
Biden will enact legislation that requires all
candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.
FACT SHEET: THE BIDEN PLAN TO
GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE
REDUCE THE CORRUPTING
INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we
flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections.
Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not
prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds,
regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations
have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very
beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for
House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as
well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage
caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United.
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices
of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans.
Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of
equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all
government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:
constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal
elections. Biden believes it is long
past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As
president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require
candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public
dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process.
This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people and away from
the corporate interests that seek to distort it.
Enact legislation to
provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small
dollar donations. While we work toward a
constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden
will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar
donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time
candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on
interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.
Keep foreign money out of
our elections. Biden will propose a law
to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence
federal, state, or local elections. He will direct a new independent
agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure
vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The
Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online
electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and
Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment
– but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will
work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of
campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and
Increase transparency of
election spending. Our campaign
finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era.
Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook
and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted
to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose
legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law:
any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its
ads or communications must disclose its contributors. No more hiding
behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online
ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to
a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can
target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political
End dark money
groups. Federal law recognizes
“social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to
advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly
been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on
federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact
legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that
applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the
Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that
spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission
on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors.
Require real time
disclosure. Today, voters have to
wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their
decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns
and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any
new contributions within 48 hours.
Ban corporate PAC
contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who
they lobby. Biden will ensure that
lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s
presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate
PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making
contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This
legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as
possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence
officeholders and other government officials. Any lobbyist contribution
must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event
must be disclosed before it occurs.
Reform funding for
national party conventions. Biden will propose
legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of
the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.
Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for
democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate
or monied interests.
Close the federal
contractor loophole. As president, Biden will
close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal
contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from
government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign
RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and
protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the
president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after
time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political
opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful
oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and
others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax
returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working
career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by
the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million
Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before. He has
similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch
agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and
Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and
asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to
ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law
requires. It’s wrong.
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system
and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:
Prevent the president or
White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and
prosecutions. Biden will work to
block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly
interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute.
Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from
political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement
priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or
companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will
issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of
his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly
influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he
will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact
legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any
allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and
prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time
such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to
strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of
an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how
to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone,
including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports
are transmitted directly to the Congress.
Increase transparency in
DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ
policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many
of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the
Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made
without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in
detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the
Empower agency watchdogs
to combat unethical behavior. Biden will
strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly
every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and
independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or
attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express
authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.
interference in agency matters. Biden will ensure
that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts
or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political
preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the
White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he
will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation,
individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help. This
information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal
Empower DOJ to enforce
the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the
resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump
Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that
protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the
environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy
and Natural Resources divisions to their missions.
RESTORE ETHICS IN
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of
scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever
adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made
on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama
and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and
existing law must be followed.
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting
foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business
overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts
with countless tax dollars.
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins
to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that
the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more
aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:
Establish the Commission
on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single
government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and
ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific
mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and
receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our
elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will
make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our
government easily accessible.
The office will have broad investigative and
civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the
Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own
subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have
the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an
obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that
referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let
public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak
influence campaigns in vague disclosures.
In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics
(CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop
destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and
appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that
service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying
information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information
will be more comprehensive than ever.
CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE
will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same
political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms
across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to
the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors,
judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public
corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for
To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure
that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the
Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of
bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board
will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen
ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to
consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed.
Require that all
candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to
the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level
positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a
person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for
office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of
elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have
been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden
will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office
disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their
candidacy for their first federal office.
Expand on and codify into
law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge. On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and
improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses
day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing
else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but
also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and
other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever
policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.
REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH
FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full
of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals.
Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone
in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their
financial holdings could influence decision-making.
As president, Biden will:
Prevent the president and
other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal
financial holdings. No member of the Biden
Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President,
just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds,
annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any
retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual
funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics
agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior
administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these
practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the
Extend this standard to
U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with
Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members.
Eliminate the trust
loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for
federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets.
It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to
identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But
candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by
family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the
trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior
officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant
financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and
will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a
beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.
HOLD THE LOBBIED AND
LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the
merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a
right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch
officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more,
lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to
be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist
regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate
interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time
that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by
making sure they meet these higher standards too.
As president, Biden will:
Hold elected officials
accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are
doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials
who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting
with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education
is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders,
you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the
obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the
lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected
officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist
or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific
bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or
developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be
required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any
lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any
regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and
senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any
access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will
make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes
that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.
Make lobbying disclosure
meaningful. Lobbying law should
effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government
decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are
riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever
disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references
to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only
general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to
shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those
seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to
include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing
or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in
detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials
they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are
proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.
governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a
foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive
Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to
share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it
should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will
bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign
business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially
owns or controls any part of it.
Ensure truly public
access. In Washington, the
ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a
form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior
Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the
public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or
prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden
Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists.
This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.
Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care. 800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.
The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.
Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.
It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.
Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.
This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)
Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.
Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)
You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.
“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.
“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.
The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.
Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
Major U.S. government contractors have received $1,171 in taxpayer money for every $1 invested in lobbying and political action committee contributions during the last decade, according to a MapLight analysis.
The 25 largest federal contractors during the 2014 fiscal year have received almost $1.6 trillion for their work since October 2005. These companies spent about $1.2 billion on lobbying and contributed more than $150 million to PACs during that time, according to MapLight’s analysis of federal procurement data and lobbying and PAC contributions from the Center for Responsive Politics.
A relatively small amount of the $1.6 trillion can be described as profit. But the major contractors’ return on investment demonstrates their ability to leverage political power to bolster their revenue.
The nation’s largest contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., has received $331 billion in federal dollars since October 2005. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company provides a vast array of goods and services to the U.S. government, ranging from devices used by Census takers to the development and building of the F-35 “Lightning II” jet fighter, the most expensive weapons program in the nation’s history. The company has spent at least $140 million on lobbying and political contributions between October 2005 and September 2015, yielding a $2,366 return on every $1 invested in political influence.
A spokesman for the company declined comment on the MapLight analysis.
The second- and third-largest contractors, Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp., together have received about the same amount of federal funds as Lockheed during that time. The Chicago-based Boeing, which took in $201 billion over the decade, spent $150 million on lobbying and campaigns, giving it a return of $1,341 for every $1 invested. General Dynamics, based in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Falls Church, Virginia, accumulated $136 billion in contracts, while spending $96 million on lobbying and political action committees. Its return amounted to $1,421 in contract revenue for every $1 invested in political influence.
Not all major contractors make major investments in lobbying and campaign contributions. The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, based in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Tysons Corner, Virginia, has earned $29 billion in government contracts since October 2005. During the same period, it spent $80,000 on lobbying and none on political contributions, giving it a return of $362,564 for every $1 spent on political influence.
Booz Allen declined comment on the analysis Booz Allen declined comment on the analysis. The firm has used the so-called “revolving door” between corporations and the federal government to hire some top officials, and some of the firm’s executives have worked in key government positions. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of National Intelligence, served on the board of directors of Booz Allen before taking the nation’s top intelligence job. John M. McConnell, who left Booz Allen to become director of National Intelligence under former President George W. Bush, returned to the company as a top executive in 2009.
The Pentagon spends more on contracting than any other federal agency. During the 2014 fiscal year, it paid out $285 billion to private businesses, more than all other federal agencies combined. That year, the Department of Defense provided most of the revenue for the majority of the top 25 federal contractors.
Health care firms also ranked among the largest contractors. Humana Inc., the Louisville, Kentucky-based health insurer, took in $1,609 in contracts for every $1 invested in political influence — the median return on investment in political influence for the top 25 largest contractors. McKesson Corp., a pharmaceutical distributor, reported the most federal revenue of any health-care concern. The San Francisco-based company has received $43.8 billion in contracts during the last decade, while spending $12.6 million on lobbying and $4.4 million on political contributions, giving it a return of $2,585 for every $1 spent on political activity.
McKesson declined comment. According to its website, the company “seeks to educate elected and appointed officials about the solutions we offer to improve patient safety, reduce the cost and variability of care, and improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery.”
MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics. More information about MapLight can be found here.