Democrats’ newest midterm pitch: A crackdown on corruption

are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The first planks of the “A Better Deal” platform, released last year, focused on the party’s economic agenda. Now, with questions about pay-to-play politics swirling around President Trump and his current and former aides, Democrats are set to introduce anti-corruption proposals Monday billed as “A Better Deal for Our Democracy.”

According to a senior Democratic official familiar with the announcement, the new agenda will include proposals that would eliminate loopholes that allow lobbyists and lawmakers to buy and sell influence without the public’s knowledge. The message: Elect Democrats in November to “clean up the chaos and corruption in Washington.”

One proposal — which would tighten the federal laws governing lobbying disclosures and foreign-agent registration — responds to the apparent sale of influence by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. According to recently disclosed financial records, Cohen earned millions of dollars from companies that wanted to secure access to Trump’s inner circle in the early days after his 2016 win.

But Cohen never registered as a lobbyist or otherwise disclosed the payments — possibly because, under federal law, only those who spend more than 20 percent of their time on lobbying on behalf of a client must register as a lobbyist. Democrats will propose to change the law so any lobbying contact would have to be publicly reported.

Another proposal could rewrite federal statutes that might have allowed lawmakers of both parties to skirt convictions on bribery and pay-to-play allegations — including former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R), former senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and  Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). All were charged with fraud violations but then escaped conviction (due to a hung jury, in Menedez’s case) or had their convictions overturned after courts found that their actions were not criminal under the current letter of federal law.

“This administration is failing to police itself, to set moral standards, to clean up its messes, to shun corrupt behavior, and to drain the swamp,” the Democratic official said. “It’s the American people who are getting stuck with a raw deal. That has to change.”

 

 

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