In a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled a bill that would dramatically overhaul the way Washington D.C. does business—cracking down on lobbyists and special interest groups, embracing tightened ethics restrictions on elected officials and judges, and subjecting people to something actually resembling transparency. As it turned out, she chose a pretty good day to do this, since, by the end of the night:
- President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager had been convicted on eight counts of felony bank and tax fraud.
- His former lawyer had pleaded guilty to eight felonies and heavily implied in open court that Trump had directed him to break campaign finance laws.
- And the second member of Congress to endorse Trump was indicted along with his wife on charges that they spent over a quarter of a million in campaign funds on personal expenses and committed wire fraud—which itself is in addition to the first member of Congress to endorse Trump being indicted for insider trading earlier this month.
Warren’s 289-page bill, called the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, has six distinct parts. It would ban individual stock ownership by elected officials, judges, and senior agency and congressional staffers; impose a lifetime ban on lobbying by all federally elected officials and judges, as well as cabinet secretaries; and create a new United States Office of Public Integrity to investigate and enforce ethics violations, as well as a U.S. Public Advocate.
It would also create the most transparent government the country has ever known, requiring all government agencies to use a central website for Freedom of Information Act requests and drastically limiting exemptions. And there’s even a carrot for Resistance Legislators who think Trump is an aberration to an otherwise perfectly normal way of doing things: requiring the IRS to release tax returns for president and vice presidential candidates “from the previous 8 years and during each year in federal elected office.”
“Our government systematically favors the rich over the poor, the donor class over the working class, the well-connected over the disconnected,” Warren said said in her speech at the National Press Club. “This is deliberate, and we need to call this what it is - corruption, plain and simple.”
“Corruption has seeped into the fabric of our government, tilting thousands of decisions away from the public good and toward the desires of those at the top,” she added. “And, over time, bit by bit, like a cancer eating away at our democracy, corruption has eroded Americans’ faith in our government.”
This is not the first time there’s been an effort to revamp ethics laws. In April 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill to ban insider trading among members of Congress and their staff and “require a government-wide shift to electronic reporting and online availability of public financial disclosure information.” But a little over a year later, Obama signed modifications to the bill into law that relaxed disclosure requirements for top federal employees.
Not surprisingly, Warren’s bill stands very little chance of passing in a Republican Congress. But the one silver lining to the rampant corruption surrounding the Trump administration is that the mask has been ripped off of the graft. It’s all out in the open, meaning that at the end of wherever this road takes us, there might actually be an appetite to unfuck our political process. Warren’s bill wouldn’t be a bad start.