Democrats unveiled their legislative agenda in the form of H.R.1, a reform bill that has potential but is woefully short on details.
Vox is reporting the new Democratic congressional majority plans to put forward House Resolution 1 after they decide on a new Speaker in early January. The resolution aims to tackle corruption on Capitol Hill, which will certainly be a daunting task.
Some of these measures sound promising, but others are problematic, particularly when it comes to campaign finance. Others simply need more explanation. Here is Vox’s breakdown, with my comments:
Public financing of campaigns, powered by small donations. Under Sarbanes’s vision, the federal government would provide a voluntary 6-1 match for candidates for president and Congress, which means for every dollar a candidate raises from small donations, the federal government would match it six times over.“If you give $100 to a candidate that’s meeting those requirements, then that candidate would get another $600 coming in behind them,” Sarbanes told Vox this summer.
The main problem with public financing of campaigns is where the money comes from. If I donate $100 to a candidate, the federal government will match that with $600? Where does the $600 come from? Well, taxes, obviously. I’ve never understood this logic. Let people keep the money they earn and donate it to whom they wish. You’re going to tax more of my income and give it to some politician I may or may not support? No thanks.
Passing the DISCLOSE Act, pushed by Rep. David Cicilline (RI) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), both Democrats from Rhode Island. This would require Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.
I think this is a good idea, and we should know exactly where campaign donations originate. It would basically require politicians and political action committees to report every single donation, no matter how small, which sucks for them from an accounting perspective but it’s a win for public transparency.
Passing the Honest Ads Act, championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Warner (VA), which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money of political ads on their platforms, and share how much money was spent.
The Honest Ads Act would basically prohibit foreign individuals and entities from purchasing political ads on large social media networks, since every ad is designed to influence the public.
Requiring the president to disclose his or her tax returns.
I really don’t understand the obsession with seeing a president or presidential candidate’s tax returns. Who cares how much money they make or how much taxes they pay? I care about his or her ideas.
Stopping members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment cases or buy first-class plane tickets.
Uh, yeah! I didn’t realize members of Congress were using taxpayer dollars to settle lawsuits. This seems like a no-brainer.
Giving the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and put in stricter lobbying registration requirements.
I’d need to know some specifics here. More oversight over what? What specific powers do they need that they currently do not have? How will lobbying registration requirements be stricter? I’m guessing most people don’t even know what the current requirements are, myself included.
Create a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.
This is basically fluff with no specifics whatsoever. What exactly would be in this new code? Why does the Supreme Court need such a code? It would be nice to somehow reform the confirmation process so it doesn’t turn into a circus.
Creating new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt out, rather than opt in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting and online voter registration would also be promoted.
Nice in theory, but how would this work, exactly? Every child born in the U.S. is automatically registered to vote? “Here’s your social security card and voter card.” In some states, you’re automatically registered to vote when you get a driver’s license, but people still fall through the cracks. Plus, there’s talk about allowing non-citizens to obtain driver’s licenses. We don’t want non-citizens voting in our elections, right? Right?
Restoring the Voting Rights Act, part of which was dismantled by a US Supreme Court decision in 2013. Ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibiting voter roll purging.
I’m pretty sure once the Supreme Court decides something is unconstitutional, Congress can’t just go back and pass the same thing again. I do agree with ending gerrymandering, but “prohibiting voter roll purging”? Voter rolls need to be “purged” to make sure they are valid. People move or die and no one notifies the election commissioner. How are they supposed to update the list if no names are ever removed?
Beefing up elections security, including requiring the Director of National Intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
This seems like a no brainer, but conducting “regular checks on foreign threats” needs to be better defined. They’re not doing that anyway? That’s the purpose of National Intelligence agencies.
I realize what the Democrats announced earlier today was just a proposal, but they’re going to have to do some serious fleshing out before they put this to a formal vote. Some of these proposals will radically change our electoral process, and I’m not sure for the better.