'In a Functional Democracy, This Would Be a No-Brainer': Warren Unveils Bold Anti-Corruption Legislation

"These reforms have one simple aim: to take power in Washington away from the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected who have corrupted our government and put power back in the hands of the American people."

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"These reforms have one simple aim: to take power in Washington away from the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected who have corrupted our government and put power back in the hands of the American people," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote on Twitter. (Photo: National Press Club/Screengrab)

Confronting the "rot" of corruption that has poisoned every corner of the American political system and rigged government to work solely in the interests of the rich and well-connected, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday introduced legislation that would address the flagrant ethics abuses of the Trump White House while also taking on the systemic crisis that gave rise to the thoroughly crooked status quo.

"Let's face it: there's no real question that the Trump era has given us the most nakedly corrupt leadership this nation has seen in our lifetimes. But they are not the cause of the rot—they're just the biggest, stinkiest example of it."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren

"Let's face it: there's no real question that the Trump era has given us the most nakedly corrupt leadership this nation has seen in our lifetimes," Warren said in a speech unveiling her ambitious anti-corruption platform at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "But they are not the cause of the rot—they're just the biggest, stinkiest example of it."

Officially titled The Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act (pdf), Warren's bill proposes transformational changes to the way Washington functions in an effort to create a government that works for the needs of the public—not the needs of lobbyists working to pollute the planet, imprison more Americans, and hike live-saving prescription drug costs for profit.

If enacted, Warren's ambitious measure would:

  • Completely ban foreign lobbying;
  • Bar members of Congress and congressional candidates from accepting campaign donations from lobbyists;
  • Require the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) release the tax returns for federal candidates, including the president and vice president;
  • "Padlock the revolving door" by imposing a lifetime ban on lobbying by former presidents, members of congress, and agency chiefs;
  • Ban members of Congress from owning and trading individual stock; and
  • Establish an "independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws."

"Our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: people don't trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people. And here's the kicker: They're right," Warren said in her address on Tuesday. "I'd love to stand here and tell you that this was some sudden drop after Donald Trump was elected, but that wouldn't be true. This problem is far bigger than Trump."

"But I'm not throwing my hands up and walking away," Warren concluded. "I still believe that in our darkest hours, at our lowest points, government can be a force for good to bring us back together. And here's the good news: deep down, still Americans believe it, too. You see it in the fight to make government affirm healthcare as a basic human right. You see it in the fight to make government stand for people and against giant corporations."

Warren's bold slate of anti-corruption proposals was met with enthusiastic applause by dozens of unions, environmental organizations, and consumer advocacy groups, which signed a joint letter on Tuesday calling the senator's bill a "comprehensive set of policy solutions" that would "address the broad, corrupting influence of corporations over federal government policymaking."

Adding to the progressive chorus applauding Warren's legislation, Morris Pearl—chair of the Patriotic Millionaires—called the measure "an important step toward building a government that works to improve the general welfare of all citizens, not pump up the bank accounts of current and former members of Congress."

"It is disgusting that some of our public servants see their time in office as little more than a path towards personal riches, leaving them to completely disregard their constituents' interests in favor of the kind of donor- and corporate-friendly policies that can earn them a plush lobbying gig after leaving office," Pearl said in a statement on Tuesday. "It's revealing about the state of Washington that this piece of legislation, full of common-sense limitations on the ability of public servants to enrich themselves at the expense of the country, would be considered radical. In a functional democracy, this would be a no-brainer."

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