Includes Bennet-Authored Provisions to Close Revolving Door, Reform Lobbying Registration Rules, Restore Congress and States Authority to Regulate Campaign Finance
Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined several of his colleagues to announce a new legislative package and campaign to reform government and ensure it works for all Americans. The package includes measures to hold the government more accountable, amend the Constitution to allow commonsense campaign finance reform, and reform the lobbying laws to limit special interest influence on elected officials.
Bennet was joined at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol building to announce the reforms by Senators Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, Angus King, and Charles Schumer as well as leading reform advocates from Democracy 21, Public Citizen, American Enterprise Institute and Voices for Progress.
"Coloradans are fed up with Washington dysfunction, and they don't think the solution is more money in the system or more lobbyists in the halls of Congress. They believe in basic, good government principles like disclosure," Bennet said. "This reform package will shift power away from the special interests, dark money groups, and lobbyists with outsized, undue influence and put it back into the hands of the people we came here to represent."
Specifically, the package of reforms announced today include provisions that would:
- Rein in the "dark money" SuperPACs. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision led to a huge growth in the amount of secret money "SuperPACs." Senator Patrick Leahy has a provision that shuts down individual-candidate Super PACs and strengthens the rules that prohibit coordination between other outside spenders and candidates and parties.
- Mandatory disclosure of all special interest campaign donations. Citizens United unleashed a flood of undisclosed corporate dark money on our elections. This provision authored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse would require organizations spending money in elections - including super PACS and tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups - to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. The provision includes robust transfer provisions to prevent political operatives from using complex webs of entities to game the system and hide donor identities.
- Require all candidates for federal office to report major campaign contributions within 48 hours. Today, not all candidates for federal office report campaign contributions in real-time. This provision authored by Senator Angus King requires all candidates for federal office, including those for the U.S. Senate, to report contributions of over $1000 to the FEC within 48 hours.
- Reform the Federal Election Commission to ensure campaigns and special interests follow the law. This provision authored by Senator Tom Udall replaces the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission (FEC) and creates a new independent agency to serve as a vigilant watchdog over our nation's campaign finance system. The newly established agency would consist of five commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and would have greater enforcement and investigation powers than those of the gridlocked FEC. Unlike the existing FEC, the new agency would be empowered to hold candidates, politicians, and their financial supporters accountable for violating campaign finance laws.
- Enact a permanent ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress. The current law prohibits Senators from lobbying for a two-year period after leaving Congress. House members have a one-year ban on lobbying. This provision authored by Senator Michael Bennet permanently bans both House and Senate members from lobbying either house of Congress after they retire.
- Close the reporting loopholes that allow consultants not to register as lobbyists. This provision authored by Senator Michael Bennet requires lobbyists to register if he or she makes two or more lobbying contacts for a client over a two-year period, regardless of whether the lobbyist spends more than 20 percent of his or her time serving the particular client.
- Prohibit financial services companies from paying huge bonuses when employees take jobs in the federal government. It's hard for Americans to believe they have a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people' when they see Wall Street banks paying their executives millions to take high level jobs in government-regulating their former industry. That's why Senator Baldwin has a provision that prohibits private sector employers from offering bonuses to employees for leaving to join the government. Her bill also includes language to slow the revolving door by increasing cool down periods for those leaving government service and expanding recusal requirements for those entering.
- Fix the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution and putting real limits on campaign financing. This constitutional amendment resolution from Bennet and Senator Tom Udall provides Congress and the states with power to enact campaign finance reforms that withstand constitutional challenges. It would fix Citizens United, McCutcheon, Buckley, and other bad precedents. Finally, it provides the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, including those made by corporations and Super PACs.