Cleaning up elections

In late September, my congressman, Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced legislation aimed at fixing the nation’s broken campaign finance system and restoring power to us, the voters. This bill aims to increase transparency, remove conflicts of interest and restore enforcement of the nation’s laws affecting elections. Price and Udall titled it the “We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017.” For decades, money, cynical politics, greed and conflicts of interest have corrupted America’s campaigns and elections. These two public servants want to clean up the mess and restore the principles of a free democracy for all of us Americans. In a previous blog, I promised to return with more detail to shed light on this bill. Here it is.

As with any federal legislation, the bill is wordy and complex, but key highlights will help us understand and appreciate its principal goals. This bill, if it becomes law,

  • would require disclosure of donations exceeding $10,000 by organizations that spend $10,000 or more in an election.
  • prohibits domestic corporations with significant foreign control, ownership, or direction from spending money in elections.
  • cracks down on shell companies, which can be used to launder foreign money into elections, by requiring disclosure of true owners of such companies.
  • requires candidates to report all contributions over $1,000 within 48 hours.
  • expands the “Stand By Your Ad” transparency requirement to include corporations, super-PACs and other special interest groups.
  • requires the president, vice president, their spouses and minor or dependent children to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest placing those assets in a blind trust.
  • prohibits presidential appointees from participating in matters that directly involve the financial interests of the president, the president’s spouse or businesses controlled by the president or the president’s spouse.
  • requires the sitting president and presidential nominees of a major political party to make public federal income tax returns for the three most recent tax years.
  • mandates disclosure of visitor lists at the Trump Organization’s Mar-a-Lago Club and other locations where official business is conducted.

Price and Udall’s bill includes provisions to help restore the role of small donors in presidential campaigns, to streamline the voter registration process, and establish independent citizen redistricting commissions in each state to redraw congressional lines every 10 years.

One yearns to be optimistic about the chances of this legislation becoming law, but that seems doubtful given the spinelessness of most members of our current congress. We can hope, and we can than thank Rep. Price, Sen. Udall and their colleagues who have contributed parts of the legislation and pledged their support. Some of the people representing us in Washington have the guts to actually represent us and work hard for us and our democracy.

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