President Donald Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” during his campaign were hollow at the time but seem laughable now.
The culture of corruption in Washington, D.C., has thrived under Trump — and every day seems to bring revelation of a new scandal, from misuse of campaign funds to insider trading to Cabinet secretaries living high on taxpayer dollars.
That doesn’t mean the bipartisan dream of better ethics in Washington is dead. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has introduced a broad ethics proposal that is picking up support across the partisan divide — including from U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
On “Meet the Press” last week, Sasse said he could agree with many of the measures Warren is proposing, despite their ideological differences.
“So, Sen. Warren and I are about as far apart on the political spectrum as you can get on most things,” Sasse said. “But on a number of ethics reform issues, I think she and I might well see eye to eye.”
Warren’s bill would prohibit elected officials from becoming lobbyists — ever. It would restrict stock ownership by members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries and put more restrictions on Americans lobbying for foreign governments and companies. All elected officials and candidates for federal office would be required to disclose their tax returns, including President Trump if he runs again.
“Our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: People don’t trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people,” Warren said at a press conference last week. “And here’s the kicker: They’re right.”
After memorial services for U.S. Sen. John McCain, Sasse suggested tough, meaningful ethics rules would be a suitable tribute to the senator. On “Meet the Press,” he also spoke of a crisis of public trust, and indicated a willingness to talk with Warren to work together.
We hope Wisconsin’s congressional delegation will join such a bipartisan effort. The stench emanating out of Washington didn’t begin with Trump, but it has certainly worsened under his watch, and its corrosive effects will harm faith in our democracy.
Public service should not be a path to personal fortune. Members of Congress shouldn’t use confidential information they receive to buy or dump stock. Members of the administration shouldn’t waste taxpayer money on charter flights when commercial flights are available. Congressional staffers and executive branch employees shouldn’t worry about their future job prospects with industries they’re supposed to be overseeing.
Warren’s bill would address many of these issues. It would shut the revolving door between Congress and K Street, require more disclosure from lobbyists about their activities and prohibit them from making direct contributions to candidates.
While several of the provisions in Warren’s bill are aimed clearly at Trump — from the tax return requirement to forcing the vice president and president to divest themselves of their businesses — the issue goes far deeper than any one president.
The American people have a right to know that their elected representatives are working for the public good, not private gain. Ethically untainted officials are far more likely to make better decisions that actually benefit everyone, not just the well-connected elite.