The Center for American Progress recently released a new report to address the threats to representative self-government inherent in special interest lobbying, revolving door politics, corruption of public service, and lax ethics and contracting oversight, as well as the major danger of direct conflicts of interest. These solutions are a starting point to restore trust in government that works for all Americans—not just wealthy special interests.
The report comes after a presidential campaign that centered on political corruption and raised demands to “drain the swamp,” and at a time when much of the country’s attention—and that of members of Congress—is tuned into issues of ethics and conflicts of interest, especially as it concerns President-elect Donald Trump and several of his cabinet nominees, including executives of some of the largest corporations and billionaires who supported his presidential campaign. As the report notes, CAP research shows that far too many Americans currently share the view that government is run by and for wealthy and powerful special interests, believing that “a few big interests looking out for themselves” are controlling government.
“Americans voted for change in our federal political system and throughout the country at the state and local level, and they need to see strong, clear proposals that will actually work to stop wealthy special interests from having an improper and anti-democratic amount of influence on the levers of government,” said Liz Kennedy, Director of Democracy and Government Reform, and author of the report. “While three-quarters of Americans believe corruption in government is widespread, nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that, with the right kind of leadership, the federal government can be a force for good.”
CAP proposes a full set of solutions on lobbying, revolving door, public corruption, conflicts of interest, and government and contractor oversight, including that Congress act to:
- Require that the president, vice president, and their families divest financial conflicts through a true blind trust and disclose their tax records
- Require members of Congress to disclose the time they spend fundraising and attending fundraising events
- Require Congressional offices and the executive branch to publish their lobbying contacts
- Ban members of Congress from becoming paid special interest lobbyists for life, and ban members of Congress and senior government staff from representing foreign governments
- Ban special interests lobbyists from fundraising and bundling money in politics and strengthen transparency requirements for lobbying
- Ban government contractors from spending money in politics
- Restore public corruption laws that protect honest services and official actions
“At this time, it is imperative that progressives and all those who care about preserving American democracy set forth clear policies and a real agenda to clear the toxic undergrowth of paid private influence peddling that threatens to drag down representative government,” added Kennedy. “American’s interests are not well served when their representatives are aligned with wealthy special interests instead of working to represent all of their constituents fairly. We must not succumb to cynicism but instead fight for policy solutions that can put us back on a path toward fair representation and effective government that works for all people.”
Click here to read CAP’s full report and recommendations in “Drain the Swamp: Conflicts of Interest, Lobbying, and Corruption Solutions to Restore Trust in Government that Works for Americans”