Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has a bold idea for ending corruption in Washington and restoring the public’s trust in Congress.
In a press release, Warren described her Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act as “most ambitious anti-corruption legislation since Watergate.” The bill would, among other things, ban members of Congress, the presidential cabinet, and the federal judiciary from owning stock. Senior government officials would also be prohibited from owning any commercial real estate not tied to a qualified small business.
“Corruption is a form of public cancer, and Washington’s got it bad,” Elizabeth Warren said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Additionally, the bill would institute a six-year ban on corporate lobbyists becoming staffers within the executive or legislative branches, and put a lifetime ban in place on all former members of Congress, presidents, and agency heads from becoming lobbyists. Warren’s legislation would also ban corporations paying bonuses, salaries, or other benefits to employees who leave the private sector to work in the federal government.
“Washington reeks of corruption, and this problem is far bigger than President Donald Trump,” Sen. Warren’s office wrote in a one-pager summarizing the bill. “For decades, 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. And, over time, like acid eating away at our democracy, corruption has eroded Americans’ faith in our government.”
The Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act comes after Rep. Chris Collins (R-New York) was indicted for insider trading earlier this month. However, Rep. Collins is far from the only member of Congress who has used the power and influence of his office to enrich himself.
In 2011, university researchers Alan Ziobrowski, James Boyd, Ping Cheng, and Brigitte Ziobrowski analyzed roughly 16,000 stock transactions by approximately 300 members of Congress between 1985 and 2001. The researchers found that Congressional stock trades out-performed the market by about six percent each year. And as Business Insider reported that same year, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have a history of enriching themselves with land deals, sometimes tied to so-called “pork barrel” projects in their respective states and districts.
While Elizabeth Warren isn’t likely to even get a vote on her bill in the Republican-controlled Congress, pundits have speculated that the bill could make for a bold anti-corruption platform for a potential 2020 presidential run.
Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.