Newt Gingrich's 1995 Republican Revolution dismantled all the expert departmentsand bureaus that Congress depended on to make sense of the world, making lawmakers dependent on corporate lobbyists to advise them on everything from pollution to food safety to military technology to mass surveillance — nearly 25 years later, Washington DC is a literal and figurative swamp, and only 18% of Americans say they trust Congress.
Enter President Elizabeth Warren (2020-2028), who just unveiled her "Anti-Corruption Act" at a speech at the National Press Club.
The Act drives a deep wedge between public service and lobbyists, making it far harder for politicians and bureaucrats to cycle between the private sector and governments. It includes a flat out ban on lobbying for foreign governments (this being the activity that made Paul Manafort his vast fortune), and subjects domestic lobbyists to the kinds of oversight that foreign lobbyists endure today.
All candidates for political office would be required to release their tax returns, and all the rules would be enforced by a new Office of Public Integrity.
Corporate interests are ideologically opposed to proposals like Medicare for all, and will rally resources to oppose it if and when Congress considers it in a serious way. But Warren's use of government and law enforcement to reshape the political economy hits corporate America in a visceral way. The animosity for the CFPB is difficult to overstate, as the agency was empowered to launch investigations into corrupt firms that had the capacity to destroy those companies. Bringing the hammer of the law down on Washington corruption will likely be met with an equally visceral reaction.
When it comes to Warren's proposal, the elephant in the Senate is Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. If Warren were able to ultimately implement some of her anti-corruption agenda, it's near certain those impacted would challenge elements of it in federal court — courts that Donald Trump is busy stacking with right-wing ideologues. That Warren is pushing forward nonetheless also goes to the heart of her approach to government, which is never to shy from a fight.
"I'm not here to describe the death of democracy. I'm here to talk about fighting back," she said Tuesday.
Elizabeth Warren Unveils Radical Anti-Corruption Platform [Ryan Grim/The Intercept]