Cleaning the Congressional Stables

The House Democratic class of ’19 is planning a major push on voting, ethics and campaign finance reform. All that stands in the way is the Senate.

From The Editorial Board, The New York Times, December 31, 2018

From petty grifting to allegations of treason, the early Trump era has offered a survey course in how to diminish public faith in democratic institutions. All signs are that the coming years will prove even more instructive.

Which is why it’s crucial for Democratic lawmakers to stay focused on and fired up about their emerging, much-hyped crusade to clean up Washington.

Inspired by the rolling spectacle of Trumpian corruption, Democrats ran hard on a midterm message of reform. They pitched an overhaul of the nation’s political system built around a trio of broad aims: improving access to and the integrity of the voting system, strengthening ethics laws and slashing the influence of big money.

It was a message for the moment. Americans are fed up with feeling that the system is rigged against them — to coin a phrase — and itching for leaders who will unrig it. In a September poll for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, 77 percent of registered voters cited “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington” as either the “single most” or a “very important” factor in determining their vote for Congress. (Only “the economy” scored higher, with 78 percent.)

In October, 107 Democratic candidates delivered an open letter to Capitol Hill, calling for reform to be a top priority and vowing to make it one if elected. Dozens of those crusaders are set to take over the House on Thursday. Their voters expect them to get busy fulfilling that promise.

Enter H.R. 1, a comprehensive package of revisions to current political practice that House Democrats are looking to introduce in the opening weeks of the next Congress. While the details are still being hashed out, H.R. 1 will attempt to: establish nationwide automatic voter registration; promote online voter registration; end partisan gerrymandering; expand conflict-of-interest laws; increase oversight of lobbyists; require the disclosure of presidential tax returns; strengthen disclosure of campaign donations; set up a system of small-donor matching funds for congressional candidates; and revive the moribund matching-fund system for presidential campaigns. A plan for repairing the Voting Rights Act will move along a separate track.

The package is, by design, ambitious. Now is not the time to piddle with closing this loophole and improving that reporting rule, say reformers. Read full article

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