How to Really Drain the Swamp
What Trump should do in his first 100 days if he’s serious about stopping corruption
|By: Charlotte Hill
Senior Communications Director
"Drain the swamp." That's the current catchphrase of President-elect Donald Trump, who announced that in his first 100 days of office, he'll pass a series of policies to fight corruption and special interest influence in Washington, DC.
But Trump's proposals don't go far enough to kick corruption out of Washington.
Right now we have a corrupt political system where candidates have to court special-interest billionaires for donations to win elected office. Lobbyists write our laws, secret money floods our elections, and there's no cop on the beat to enforce our ethics laws. To stop the corruption, we can't just pass a few reforms here and there – we need to overhaul the system.
If Trump truly wants to crack down on big-money corruption in DC, he needs to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act, a comprehensive law that would stop political bribery, end secret money, and give voters a stronger voice.
Here's what "Draining the Swamp" with the American Anti-Corruption Act would do:
- Make it illegal for politicians to take money from lobbyists.
Special interests make giant donations to politicians – and in return, politicians create laws favorable to these special interests, even when those laws hurt voters. That's a clear conflict of interest. If you get paid to lobby, you shouldn't be allowed to donate to politicians, period.
- Eliminate lobbyist loopholes.
The definition of 'lobbyist' is weak and outdated. As a result, lobbyists regularly avoid disclosure, and former politicians and their staff can receive big money to influence politicians without formally registering as lobbyists. We need to prevent lobbyists from skirting the rules by strengthening the definition of lobbying and penalizing lobbyists who fail to register.
- Close the revolving door.
It's time to stop elected representatives and senior staff from selling off their government power for high-paying lobbying jobs. Donald Trump has the right idea by enforcing a five-year revolving door ban for both the executive and legislative branches.
- Ban lobbyist bundling.
Most people don't realize that lobbyists regularly bundle together big contributions from their friends and colleagues and deliver them in lump-sum payments to politicians. This turns lobbyists into valuable fundraisers, incentivizing politicians to keep them happy by working political favors. The Anti-Corruption Act would put an end to the bundling, so lobbyists could no longer get away with what's essentially legalized bribery.
- Prevent politicians from fundraising during working hours.
Most federal politicians spend between 3 and 7 hours a day fundraising from big donors instead of working on issues that matter to voters. Under the American Anti-Corruption Act, politicians would be prevented from raising money during the workday, when they should be serving their constituents.
- Immediately disclose political money online.
Current disclosure laws are outdated and broken. Many donations are not disclosed for months, and some are never made available electronically, making it difficult for voters to follow the money in our political system. It's just common sense that all significant political fundraising and spending should be immediately disclosed online and made easily accessible to the public.
- Stop donors from hiding behind secret-money groups.
Our elections are being flooded with big money funneled through groups with secret donors. Any organization that spends meaningful funds on political advertisements should be required to file a timely online report disclosing its major donors.
- Change how elections are funded.
We all know that running a political campaign is expensive. But most people can't afford to make a big donation to a political campaign. That makes politicians dependent upon a tiny fraction of special-interest donors. Under the American Anti-Corruption Act, every voter would be able to use a small credit to make a political donation to their favorite candidate, with no out-of-pocket expense. Candidates would only be eligible to receive these credits if they agreed to fundraise solely from small donors.
- Crack down on super PACs.
As a result of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, super PACs can spend unlimited money influencing elections, so long as they do not coordinate directly with candidate campaigns. Since then, there has been tremendous coordination between campaigns and their super PACs, making a mockery of the 'independence' the Supreme Court said must exist. It's time to enforce the Supreme Court's mandate by preventing and punishing super PAC coordination.
- Strengthen anti-corruption enforcement.
This is a big one. Agencies routinely fail to enforce the anti-corruption rules that already exist due to partisan deadlock – and when they are able to act, they often lack the enforcement tools necessary to uphold the law. The result is an elections system where even lax rules can be skirted or broken with impunity. The American Anti-Corruption Act would strengthen enforcement by overhauling the broken Federal Election Commission and giving prosecutors the tools they need to combat corruption.
Yes, this plan is comprehensive. That's the point. Political corruption isn't just a problem in our nation's capital; it's the problem that is blocking progress on every other issue, and fixing it will take a bold, transformative law.
The American Anti-Corruption Act is Donald Trump's chance to prove he can clean up Washington. If he fails to take it, voters will take matters into their own hands and pass their own reforms at the ballot, like they did this past Election Day in 13 places across America.
One way or another, we'll drain the swamp. The only question is who will do the draining.