Common Cause, Allies Back Package of Anti-Corruption Bills

"Bold solutions like the ones included in this package are desperately needed to fix our government and bring balance back to our democracy" - Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn.

Common Cause is among nearly two dozen watchdog and government reform organizations lining up in support of a sweeping anti-corruption agenda released today by congressional Democrats.

“Bold solutions like the ones included in this package are desperately needed to fix our government and bring balance back to our democracy,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “As similar reforms continue to pass with bipartisan support in states and localities, we hope all members of Congress can support these commonsense proposals.”

The Democratic reform package is part of a campaign platform, dubbed “A Better Deal,” that party leaders have been rolling out for several months. The anti-corruption proposals released today include a campaign finance system that enhances the power of small dollar donors, tougher campaign finance disclosure requirements, and a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and again permit sensible restrictions on political spending.

The Washington Post reports that the package also will include a proposal to toughen disclosure requirements for lobbyists and registration requirements for foreign agents. Those items appear targeted to respond to allegations that Michael Cohen, until recently President Trump’s personal lawyer, used his connections to the president to market himself as a “consultant” to a variety of major corporations.

“This administration is failing to police itself, to set moral standards, to clean up its messes, to shun corrupt behavior, and to drain the swamp,” a Democratic official told the Post. “It’s the American people who are getting stuck with a raw deal. That has to change.”

The party made many of the same or similar proposals in advance of the 2006 midterm elections, when public outrage over influence-peddling scandals involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham helped it score historic gains and take control of the House of Representatives.

Some advances followed that election, including the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, a watchdog agency on the House of Representatives, and House passage of the Disclose Act, which would have required public disclosure of donations to tax-exempt “social welfare” groups that use their funds – dubbed “dark money” – to help elect or defeat political candidates.

A Republican-led filibuster killed the Disclose Act in the Senate, where the legislation has majority support but less than the 60 votes required to force action. In the most recent midterm election, in 2014, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that dark money groups put nearly $180 million into helping elect their preferred candidates or defeat their political opponents.

“Candidate Trump ran for president claiming he would ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington,” Common Cause and other groups supporting the proposals said in a statement released today. “President Trump has done nothing to carry out his campaign commitment. Instead, President Trump and his administration have made the ‘swamp’ problem much worse. With our efforts, we intend to actually ‘drain the swamp.’”