01.28.19

Whitehouse, Deutch Introduce Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act

Bill would close the ‘Pruitt-DeVos loophole’ that allows conflicts of interest from political and dark money fundraising

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and House Ethics Committee Chair Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced the Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act of 2019 today.  The bill would require presidentially appointed executive branch officials to disclose whether they have solicited donations for or contributed funds to political action committees (PACs), political non-profits, and industry trade associations.  Such disclosure would close a glaring ethics loophole that allows executive branch appointees to avoid divulging their ties to shadowy political spending groups and other interests they may regulate as federal officials. 

The American people expect their government to fight for them, not corporations and special interest donors,” said Whitehouse.  “The Trump administration is stocked with officials who paved their way to the top with massive political contributions and gobs of dark money.  To avoid the thicket of conflicts of interest this administration has become, and to ensure that Americans can trust in their government, we ought to require high-level appointees to disclose their financial and fundraising relationships.”

When the President nominates people to the highest powers of our government, the public has a right to know whether they have a personal stake in the game that could affect their decision-making,” said Congressman Deutch, a Vice Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force.  “Transparency is necessary for the American people to have faith that their government is acting on their behalf and with their interests in mind.  Presidential nominees must be held to a high ethical standard, as the American people expect and deserve.  This legislation will close an ethical loophole and require the president’s highest-ranking appointees to disclose their fundraising activities to the public.”

Joining Whitehouse to introduce the bill in the Senate are Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).  Representatives John P. Sarbanes (D-MD), the Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) joined Deutch in introducing it in the House.

The bill would prevent potentially serious conflicts of interest for cabinet secretaries and other top executive branch officials who may be charged with regulating the very donors who propelled their political careers.

President Donald Trump nominated and appointed several cabinet officials whose political fundraising activities raise potential conflicts of interest.  Before serving in the administration and resigning under a cloud of controversy in July, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt drew criticism for his solicitation of funds from fossil fuel corporations for the Republican Attorneys General Association PAC and its affiliate, the Rule of Law Defense Fund. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family have given massive sums of money to influence politics at all levels of government, including pressing for school voucher programs.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, DeVos and her family have donated over $20 million to Republican candidates, party committees, PACs, and super PACs.  Much of DeVos’s political spending has been focused on education issues she now influences as Education Secretary.

The bill was included in House Democrats’ sweeping government reform bill, the For the People Act (H.R. 1). 

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