Cleaning Up the Washington Swamp

Mitch McConnell built the Washington swamp to help his donors, and the corruption he created is breaking our democracy. We need to clean up Washington and make sure it works for families, not donors, lobbyists, and special interests.

We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of Americans to COVID-19, millions have lost their jobs and our economy is in shambles. But, it didn’t have to be this way. The dysfunction and corruption in Washington are major reasons why we have been unable to effectively respond to this pandemic. Mitch McConnell is the architect of that dysfunction and corruption.

While McConnell has been in office, he has allowed special interests and the ultra rich to profit while everyday Americans have seen their wages stagnate, with too little investment in health care, infrastructure and education. McConnell has waged legal challenges against campaign finance laws. He has opened the door to dark money groups that now manipulate the electorate. He has personally taken over $1.1 million from Big Pharma and almost $6 million from Wall Street. He works for his donors and special interests, and he has tried his best to make it easy for every representative in Washington to do the same.

It’s not a surprise that 4 out of 5 Americans don’t trust their government to do the right thing.

I took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and I know our government is supposed to work for the people, not corporations and the ultra-wealthy. If we are going to rebuild Kentucky and rebound from this virus, we need to clean up Washington and make sure our representatives work for everyday Americans. Here’s how we need to do that:

Get Big Money Out of Politics

The sad truth of politics is that elected officials spend more time fundraising than doing anything else–more than legislating, certainly more than meeting with their constituents. In fact, members of Congress spend as much as 70% of their time in office fundraising.

Why is that? Because Mitch McConnell has fought for Big Money to control Washington for decades, even going to court against his own colleagues to ensure money that comes from big corporations can legally dominate Washington.

If we are going to help everyday people, we need to end Big Money’s hold on Washington. Here’s how we can do that:

  • Increase Transparency: Every time we turn on the TV, there are ads being run from groups that disclose nothing about what they support, who funds them, or even what country they’re from. That’s why we need to put financial restrictions on Dark Money groups and require them to disclose their donors, while ensuring there is no foreign money in our elections.
  • Limit Corporate Power: McConnell’s secret to maintaining his position in Washington for 36 years is the massive donations he has received from big corporations. We need to ban corporate PAC contributions to candidates.
  • Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United: The 2010 Supreme Court decision that enables corporations and other outside groups to pour unlimited amounts of money into elections, despite that there are limits on citizens’ direct political giving, has broken our politics. It’s time to change that. We have to overturn Citizens United.

Implement Term Limits

When politicians are in office as long as McConnell, they think more about their careers than their constituents. Every question becomes one of, “Will I get reelected if I do this or don’t do this?” These incentives and this mindset are why Washington is broken. Donors have so much power because if politicians are constantly running for office, they need their money. Additionally, elected officials start only voting with their party and rejecting bipartisanship, regardless of how it will affect their constituents, because they need their party’s backing to keep winning.

That’s why we need to implement term limits. With term limits, we can make room for new leaders who understand new problems and come from new backgrounds, and we can ensure that our leaders don’t feel bound by partisanship or by their donors’ whims. We need to get our Senate working again, and term limits is the way to do it.

End the Influence of Lobbyists and Special Interests

In Washington, so much of the agenda is set by big corporations and their interest groups both because of their deep pockets and their close relationships with elected officials. Officials and their staff often leave public offices to work for lobbyist groups, and their connections with members of Congress give them outsized influence.

During this pandemic alone, 149 clients have dispatched former McConnell aides to lobby for what special interests want in COVID relief legislation.

We have to change this system if Washington is going to work. Here’s how we can do that:

  • Close the Revolving Door: We can’t let our elected officials walk out of their job into a cushy lobbying job, where they use their connections and knowledge to benefit big companies. We need to put a five year ban on going from serving in elected office to lobbying. We also need to find ways to limit the amount that staff immediately go into lobbying jobs so that they cannot use their access to serve special interests.
  • Prevent Lobbyists from Donating to the Officials They Lobby: If an official is working on a bill or on a committee related to an industry, lobbyists from that industry should not be able to donate to that official. It’s that simple.
  • Prevent Lobbyist Fundraising: Lobbyists shouldn’t be able to hold fundraising events for officials whose votes they need. We need to ban that practice immediately.

Expand Voting Rights

Just like McConnell has continually tried to increase the power of lobbyists and special interests, he has spent 36 years fighting to take away power from voters. He doesn’t want people to be able to vote because he knows if they do, incumbents like him, who’ve long forgotten about their constituents, will lose.

To drain the Swamp, we need voters everywhere to be able to cast their ballots easily and safely. Here’s how we can do that:

  • Provide Needed Funding: McConnell is holding up direct funding to ensure Kentucky’s election goes smoothly. Safeguarding our democracy right now should be every official’s priority, and I would ensure states have the funding they need now and into the future to have secure, efficient elections.
  • Protect Voters’ Rights: In 2020, voting rights should not still be under attack, but Mitch doesn’t care whether people can cast their ballots. We need to immediately pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act–which Mitch has been sitting on for 294 days–to restore voting rights protections nationwide.
  • Make Voting Easier: Our goal should be to make voting easy for every American. We should pass H.R. 1. to restore former felons’ voting rights and make voter registration easier for every American.
  • Secure Our Elections: We have a great democracy, and our enemies know to hurt us, they need to hurt it. McConnell is sitting on two bills right now that would help secure our elections from foreign interference. Democracy should never be partisan, and we need to protect our elections, not play for political points.

Fight for a Washington with Integrity

In 2017, McConnell voted down a measure to allow prescription drug importation from Canada, which would have made prescriptions cheaper for working Americans. At the same time, he owned as much as $25 million in a fund that invested in America’s largest drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead and Eli Lilly.

Meanwhile, during this crisis, two of McConnell’s closest allies in the Senate sold stocks when they found out about the coronavirus rather than alert the American people about its danger.

These actions are corruption plain and simple, and it’s got to end. Here’s how we can fight to make sure every public official has to act with the integrity Americans deserve:

  • Require Honesty: We need to require the release of complete federal tax returns by members of Congress, the president, the cabinet, and the Supreme Court, and require that all candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office.
  • Prevent Self-Serving: We need to fight to end “Cadillac benefits,” benefits Congress members give themselves on the taxpayers’ dime.
  • Increase Accountability: We should establish a Commission on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law and strengthen Inspector General laws to give IGs full subpoena power and the independence they need to investigate and publicize improper conduct. Our officials cannot be exempt from standards of decency, honesty and integrity that every American expects from each other.

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