Sarbanes, Cicilline, Whitehouse, Outline Democrats’ Efforts to Clean Up Corruption in Washington


Aug 22, 2019
Contact: Daniel Jacobs
(202) 225-4016

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) for a press conference highlighting House Democrats’ efforts to clean up corruption in Washington and take action on a whole host of critical issues –  including climate change, gun violence and the opioid epidemic – that wealthy and well-connected special interests have blocked for decades.

In March, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act – the most sweeping and transformational reform package in generation. The bill ends the corrupting influence of big money in politics, restores ethics and integrity in government, promotes clean and fair elections and gives power back to the American people. Mitch McConnell has refused to bring up H.R. 1 for a vote in the United States Senate.

“Last year, the American people elected a new Democratic Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to clean up corruption in Washington and make progress on the issues that matter most,” said Congressman Sarbanes, Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force and author of H.R. 1. “As our first order of business, we delivered on that promise by passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to fight back against big money in politics, improve ethics across all three branches of government, ensure the right to vote, fix partisan gerrymandering and protect our elections from foreign interference. By cleaning up the culture of corruption in Washington and reducing the power of wealthy donors and well-connected special interests, we can make our government more responsive to the needs and priorities of the American people. If Majority Leader McConnell and his Republican allies in the Senate continue to block this historic and transformational bill, they’ll do so at their political peril.”

“The American people are tired of a Washington full of politicians who can’t get anything done because of corporations and special interests that flood their campaigns with dark money,” said Cicilline, who helped craft House Democrats’ For The People agenda last Congress as a Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). “It’s time to root out the corruption and self-dealing that has plagued our political system for too long. Our constituents deserve a government that works For The People, not just the wealthy and well-off. Mitch McConnell should immediately bring up H.R. 1 so that people can have renewed faith that their elected officials are working with their best interests in mind.”

"The DISCLOSE Act that Congressman Cicilline and I sponsor would dry up the dark special interest money poisoning our politics," said Senator Whitehouse. "The House has done its job by passing a strong anti-corruption agenda, including our DISCLOSE Act, but Republicans in the Senate continue to block any effort to clean up our democracy and restore power to the American people."

As the Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, Congressman Sarbanes authored the For The People Act, which includes two proposals authored by Congressman Cicilline, who also serves on the Task Force – the DISCLOSE Act, which he introduced with Senator Whitehouse, to shine a light on secret corporate political spending, and the Automatic Voter Registration Act to require states to register eligible voters and make it easier for young people, working people and minorities to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

"It is time that leaders in Rhode Island and in Washington abandon the gun lobby who profit off of mass shootings and loss. The blood of victims on gun violence is on their hands and the only way we can move forward and pass so needed reforms is if we listen to the majority of voters," said RICAGV Executive Director Linda Finn. "Here in Rhode Island, over 60% support banning assault weapons. Nationally, according to a Fox News poll released last Wednesday, 67% of Americans favor the ban."

"While preventing gun violence is a professional, public health issue for me, it is also very personal," said Pamela Lauria, a volunteer at the RI Chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“The passage of H.R. 1 will make democracy work for all of us, not just special interests like the oil and gas industry,” said Jonathan Berard, Rhode Island State Director of Clean Water Action. “These corporations dominate elections and buy their way into government, securing policies that support their narrow, destructive agenda. We thank Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Cicilline for their leadership on this critical issue, and in advocating for the passage of the For the People Act, which will not only curb the influence of money in politics but also protect and expand the right to vote and strengthen ethics rules. It is well past time that we restore power to where it belongs – in the hands of the people.”

Key highlights of H.R. 1 include:

Clean and Fair Elections

  • Improve Access – H.R. 1 expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting. Patchwork and cumbersome registration systems, disenfranchisement and limited voting hours are roadblocks to a more participatory democracy. H.R. 1 will create automatic voter registration across the country; ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored; expand early voting and simplify absentee voting; and modernize the U.S. voting system.
  • Promote Integrity – H.R. 1 commits Congress to build the record necessary to restore the Voting Rights Act; prohibits voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere; and ends partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters.
  • Ensure Security – H.R. 1 ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by enhancing federal support for voting system security, particularly paper ballots, increasing oversight over election vendors, and requiring the development of a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions.

End the Dominance of Big Money in Our Politics

  • Guarantee Disclosure – H.R. 1 shines a light on dark money in politics by upgrading online political ad disclosure and requiring all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors. H.R. 1 also breaks the so-called ‘nesting-doll’ sham that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide the true funding source of their political spending.
  • Empower Citizens H.R. 1 gives political power to everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations, thereby allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in our politics. This new 21st century system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people. H.R. 1 also reaffirms that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics, pushing back on the wrong-headed Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.
  • Strengthen Oversight – H.R. 1 ensures that there are cops on the campaign finance beat that will enforce the laws on the books. H.R. 1 tightens rules on super PACs and restructures the Federal Election Commission to break the gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms. It also repeals Mitch McConnell’s riders that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.

Ensure Public Servants Work for the Public Interest

  • Fortify Ethics Law – H.R. 1 breaks the influence economy in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slowing the revolving door, preventing Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidents to disclose their tax returns.
  • Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – H.R. 1 gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, closing loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, ensuring watchdogs have sufficient resources to enforce the law and creating a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

See here for more information about H.R 1, the For the People Act.