David Price’s colleagues in the U.S. Congress will smile knowingly at the actions of the 4th District representative from North Carolina. Because they know everything Price – and, in a companion measure, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico – is proposing in the way of campaign finance reform is exactly right. But the veteran congressman doesn’t have a chance, and that’s a sad commentary on the state of things in Washington. The big-money special interests run the show, and fat-cat lobbyists are the ringmasters.
But Price is still pulling up that reform hill, and may he continue.
His “We the People Act of 2017” is similar to and goes beyond the similarly named legislation of last year. But it has an appropriate title.
Here is some of what Price would do:
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Loopholes that have allowed big-money groups to put hundreds of millions of dollars into federal elections would be largely closed, with more disclosure rules and more timely reporting of contributions required of campaigns. The hocus-pocus of moving money around from one group to another and dodging reporting contributions through all those groups with various numbers and letters in front of them would be diminished. The goal would be to require contributions of all kinds to be disclosed.
Price would have a new federal agency formed to oversee campaign finance and to enforce its laws. The agency would have the power to penalize those who broke campaign finance laws with financial penalties.
And here’s a big one for North Carolina: Partisan gerrymandering would end with a new independent redistricting commission established. This has long been the common-sense way to go about drawing districts after every census, but political parties are reluctant to go with it. In North Carolina, Republicans wreaked havoc with districts to give themselves a partisan advantage; if Democrats regain power in the General Assembly, they’ll of course want to engage in payback. An independent commission would make for better government.
Price has another good one in his bill that would be simple enough to do: same-day voter registration. That would reverse some of the voter suppression laws Republicans in North Carolina and other GOP-run states have passed, attempted to pass or are in court trying to get affirmed.
Price’s bill also would strengthen delays in and restrictions on lobbying by former government officials who join the private sector, and would toughen lobbying laws in general.
And, Price would have more disclosure of the financial interests of presidents and vice presidents, requiring them to divest assets that would create conflicts of interest with their government service. This speaks directly, of course, to President Trump’s pretty loose attitude about his own assets, giving his sons control of his real estate company, as if that renders him without conflict.
There’s another Trump-inspired provision, to require the publication of White House visitor logs. Trump repealed the Obama-established requirement when he came into office, putting his penchant for secrecy above the right of the American people to know who is in their house visiting their president.
The hill’s going to be steep for Price and Udall. But at least this is a blueprint of how good government should work. And by the way, how it can work.