By Lucy Komisar
Sept. 23, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s speech in Washington Square Park was a stunner. On Monday (Sept 16), she threw down a gauntlet against America’s staggering and paralyzing political corruption. She said she wanted to plant signs in front of federal buildings, not for sale!
We heard a lot of the old Democratic standards about worker‘s rights, at least they used to be standard till Wall Street and corporations took over the Democratic Party. She made it clear where she stood by starting with the story of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, where women were burned to death or killed jumping out windows, murdered by corrupt factory owners who ignored safety and had actually locked escape doors. All supported by corrupt politicians they paid off. Frances Perkins, who saw the carnage, went on to fight for worker safety, finally becoming Franklin Roosevelt‘s Secretary of Labor.
But the corruption still exists, and Warren presented a stunning program which I didn‘t hear any candidates, especially the corporate elite‘s anointed “front runner” Biden, endorse.
Warren said, “If you choose to be a public servant, you should serve the public ” not your own financial interests or the financial interests of the rich and powerful…. Too many public officials can easily leverage public service for personal gain. And the ability to walk around government with obvious and direct personal financial conflicts reduces public faith in honest officials. To fix this, we need a total rewrite of our ethics laws.”
- She would end self-dealing in the White House by applying conflict of interest laws to the President and Vice President. Under my plan, Presidents and Vice Presidents would be required to place their businesses into a blind trust to be sold off. No more payoffs. No more bribes from foreign governments. No more self-dealing.”
We must begin by rooting out financial conflicts of interest in Washington.
- Disclose tax returns of federal candidates and officeholders to the public automatically. Tax return disclosure for federally elected officials shouldn‘t be optional ” it should be the law. And it shouldn‘t just apply to Presidents ” it should apply to everyone running for or serving in federal elected office.
- Force senior government officials to divest from privately-owned assets that could present conflicts of interest.
Completely ban the practice of government officials trading individual stocks while in office. Under current law, members of Congress can trade stocks and then use their powerful positions to increase the value of those stocks and pad their own pockets. ….Instead, they can invest in conflict-free mutual funds or funds managed by the federal Thrift Savings Program.
- Ban members of Congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards…Require every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial conflicts before they take office.
- End the possibility of trading on access to insider political information. ….(with) strict disclosure requirements and regulations on so-called “political intelligence consulting,” including criminal penalties for former public officials who use insider political information to make investments or advise others who are doing so.
Close and padlock the revolving door between government and industry.
Ban members of Congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards…Require every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial conflicts before they take office.
- Gary Cohn, the former President of Goldman Sachs, who became Trump‘s top economic adviser…. On his way out of Goldman, the firm gave him a whopping $285 million ” $123 million in the form of cash and stocks that he could only collect if he left the firm to work in government. I call that a “pre-bribe.” And it paid off, too. While cashing that $285 million check, Gary Cohn helped rewrite our nation‘s tax laws, rammed the changes through Congress, and gave Goldman Sachs their money back ” and a few billion dollars in change.
Ban “golden parachutes” that provide corporate bonuses to executives for serving in the federal government. We can‘t let big companies get away with installing their top executives in senior government positions and paying them pre-bribes on their way out the door.
- Restrict the ability of lobbyists to enter government jobs. … current lobbyists won‘t be able to take government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when the hiring is in the national interest. Corporate lobbyists will have to wait at least 6 years ” no exceptions, and no waivers.
- Make it illegal for elected officials and top government appointees to become lobbyists ” ever. Ban Presidents, Vice Presidents, Members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet Secretaries from ever becoming lobbyists ” not for one or two years, but for life. All other federal employees will also be barred from lobbying their former office, agency, or House of Congress after they leave government service for at least 2 years ” or 6 years for corporate lobbyists.
- Restrict the ability of companies to buy up former federal officials to rig the game for themselves. …Companies would be banned from immediately hiring former senior government officials whose agency or office the company has lobbied in the past two years. ….Ban giant companies, banks, and monopolies from hiring former senior government officials for at least four years.
Then she went to the judiciary, up to the Supreme Court. But you get the idea. The whole speech is here. Read it! Or see it. If enacted, it could — long shot — make the U.S. into a democracy! One person one vote instead of one dollar one vote.
Postscript: None of the candidates deal with this, but the next step of combating corruption is to deal with the offshore bank and corporate secrecy system (tax havens) which is where the world’s crooks, corporate and otherwise, hide and launder their loot. It will take a while before they get to this.
On the other hand, there is this, reported in Dec: Elizabeth Warren helped company to avoid clearing up toxic waste, document reveals.