Senate Democrats are planning to roll out a package of moderately incremental campaign finance proposals they call the “We the People” plan. They hope to take this plan to the public during campaign season this Fall.
The New York Times reports the story, in “Senate Democrats to Release a Policy Agenda,”
Led by Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the Democrats’ package will include Senate bills — likely to never see the light of day on the floor under Republican control — that would hit campaign contributions, lobbying laws and other accountability issues.
… Democrats plan to take their message on the road this summer, highlighting Republican opposition and generally painting the conservative party as being in bed with special interests.
According to the Times’ report:
● The plan would require candidates to report campaign contributions of more than $1,000 within 48 hours.
● The plan would require super PACs to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more.
● The plan would put a permanent ban on lobbying by former members of Congress.
ABC News earlier Thursday added that the package of legislation “also would prohibit financial services companies from paying bonuses to executives who leave the private sector to take high-level jobs in the government.”
It is not hard to identify what appear to be gaping holes in these proposals, based on initial reports:
● The plan would not end super PACs or even limit the amounts they can collect from donors.
● Members of Congress are banned from lobbying, but what about their staff?
● “Lobbying” is a very narrow legal term applying only to those who register as actual lobbyists, but not those who work at lobbying firms, or engage in other activities that influence legislation.
● The report does not mention requiring political 501(c)(4) organizations, often referred to as “dark money” groups, to disclose their donors.
● There is no mention of public financing of elections, enabling candidates to run without having to solicit contributions from the “donor class’ of high-income people and corporations.
● Nor is there mention of prohibiting corporate contributions or requiring corporations to disclose their political contributions.
● Most importantly, where is the plan to address the “revolving door” that enables people to enter government and regulate or otherwise oversee the companies they left, and then leave government to go back to those companies or related companies? Will there be a crackdown on other forms of pre- or post-government payoffs, including various forms of “consulting” or “speaking” fees?
There may well be more to the Senate Democrats’ plan, as well as more serious measures that actually do crack down on campaign abuses and the corporate/billionaire dominance of our political process. This is yet to be seen. But we can hope.