When Democrats introduced an anti-corruption plank of their "Better Deal for our Democracy" platform in May, it didn't exactly make waves. But competing headlines this week about the indictment of one of Donald Trump's earliest congressional backers, New York Rep. Chris Collins, for insider trading and the serial grifting of Trump Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross have given a new group of young anti-corruption Democrats a chance to raise their initiatives once again with the American people. The AP writes:
“The fish rots from the head,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told reporters Thursday in a conference call. He added that Trump is “the most ethically blind president we’ve ever seen.”
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said Trump, Rep. Chris Collins and other Republicans have made the U.S. a country “of the rich, by the powerful and for the lobbyists.”
The proposition of these up-and-coming Democratic leaders isn't just that Trump and the GOP are corrupt and therefore voters should elect Democrats, it's that the problem is systemic and Democrats are going to offer a way to fix it.
Sarbanes told MSNBC in May that when they talk to voters about issues like improving the economy and health care, voters often say, "We support all those things but we don't think you can get it done" because Washington is so broken. That's why, Sarbanes explained, "in addition to an economic agenda, we have to have a reform agenda."
As Sarbanes noted during the reporter call, Rep. Collins was at a White House Congressional Picnic in June of 2017 when he called his son to alert him the stock of a biotech company they were both heavily invested in was about tank due to a failed drug trial.
“It’s almost as though he walked into an ethics-free zone when he got to the White House that day,” Sarbanes quipped.
Sarbanes and Bustos are promising to introduce legislation aimed at empowering voters and protecting access to the ballot box, boosting ethics and accountability in Congress, and fighting big-money influence in Washington.
Last month, Sarbanes introduced a lobbying reform bill to tighten lobbying disclosure laws. Among other things, it would require advisers with proximity to powerful government officials, such as Michael Cohen, to register as a lobbyist.
In the wake of news this week that Trump had handed off power over Veterans Affairs to a trio of his wealthy Mar-a-Lago buddies, Sarbanes also called for greater White House transparency with full disclosure of visitor logs and membership lists from Trump's private clubs.
And last year, along with 162 cosponsors, Sarbanes introduced the Government by the People Act, which seeks to empower voters with a $50 "My Voice Voucher" for making campaign contributions and a matching program for small dollar donations of up $150. In other words, it's a government system that would amplify the voice of the people in campaigns and encourage participatory democracy.
These are all worthy goals set against a backdrop that couldn't possibly provide a starker contrast—even if it had been scripted by a reality TV star, for instance.