Democrat — MO 2nd District

Ethics Reform

Politics will always attract horrible people. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to eliminate them from office – or discourage them from running in the first place. We need to fix our broken political institutions. But we also need to fill these institutions with men and women with honor and integrity. Congress, in short, needs an ethical overhaul.

My plan is to help lead an “ethical revolution” in Congress; to install a new generation of standards that will bring a level of respectability back to the people’s branch. Right now, the people hate the people’s branch. That cannot be tolerated. We need to “drain the swamp” and we need to do it now.

This is what I propose:

  • Full Lobbyist Disclosure. Who does your representative in Congress meet with during the course of a day? Right now, our representatives are not obligated to tell us which lobbyists they are meeting with. This lack of transparency is troubling. If members of Congress have the time to meet with special interests, they should have the decency to tell their constituents. All members of Congress should be required to make public a list of their daily meetings and appointments.
  • A Complete Ban on Lobbyist Gift-Giving. Currently, lobbyists are limited by law when it comes to the gifts they can give members of Congress. Limited? Why should bribery be “limited” and not prohibited? Lobbyists provide our representatives with gifts to gain an advantage. This is a corruption. All gifts, dinners, and trips to members of Congress, their staffs, or their immediate families must be banned.
  • Ending the “Revolving Door”. Even more scandalous than the trinkets and gifts that lobbyists shower our representatives with are the lucrative offers of employment that special interests provide members of Congress, their staffs, and their families. The prospect of a getting a cushy high-paying job as a lobbyist or “consultant” after their tenure influences members of Congress. More often, this affects how legislators treat these lobbying special interests. This is a corruption. Therefore, members of Congress must be barred from ever working as a lobbyist or a consultant for any interest that lobbies Congress. Bans of 5 years and 10 years must be placed on family members and staffers, respectively.
  • Strict Limits on the Time and Place for Fundraising. Members of Congress are barred from fundraising in their Capitol offices. That’s great. But most still spend an outrageous amount of time fundraising and they do this in party offices just off of Capitol Hill. The amount of time members spend “dialing for dollars” is outrageous. Every minute they spend fundraising is a minute they shirk their duty to the American people. All members of Congress should be prohibited from fundraising outside their home districts while Congress is in session. If Congress is in session, that means important work needs to be done. If important work needs to be done, they should not have time for fundraising.
  • Required Blind Trusts for Presidents and Members of Congress. The Trump presidency has demonstrated what a disaster it is when public office holders have potential conflicts of interest. This only succeeds in further eroding the public’s confidence in elected officials. All presidents and members of Congress must be required to place all of their financial holdings in independent blind trusts for the duration of their tenure.
  • Public Disclosure of All Federal and State Tax Returns for all Federal Candidates. The Trump presidency has also demonstrated the corruption that exists when federal office holders fail to disclose their sources of income. All candidates for federal office – Congress and the President – must make public the last five years of their federal and state income tax returns.
  • Greatly Strengthening the Office of Congressional Ethics. Members from both parties tried to quietly gut the power of this independent non-partisan office in early 2017! Public outrage forced the Republican majority to reverse their plans. Instead of stripping it of its powers, the OCE needs to be given greatly EXPANDED powers. Congress can’t police itself and the public needs to be regularly informed of congressional misbehavior. The OCE needs expanded powers – including the power to subpoena – to adequately meet its duty to review allegations of congressional misconduct.
  • Creation of a National Commission on Government Ethics. The House and the Senate already have committees on ethics. And they have been proven time and again to be worthless and ineffective. When it comes to ethics, Congress can’t police itself. What the nation needs is an independent commission – made up of individuals outside of elected office – to thoroughly investigate ways to restore ethics to the Federal government. We need bold initiatives to restore confidence in our branches of government. That can’t come out of a Congress seen as a defender of an unethical status quo. A Commission made up of retired government officials and the nation’s leading experts on ethics will provide the additional legislation and regulation needed to establish a revitalized level of trust in our federal institutions.
End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.