Senator Warren’s Corruption Crusade

To date, Massachusetts’ junior senator, Elizabeth Warren, has served only one full term in the U.S. Senate. Yet she has attracted extraordinary national attention and recognition, particularly concerning her highest legislative priorities. Senator Warren’s Plan to End Washington Corruption covers nearly every aspect of lobbying and seeks generally to curb the excessive influence of money in politics — an influence that has grown seemingly exponentially over the past few decades. In her proposal (and other forms of legislation), Senator Warren documents the history of vastly increased political action committee (PAC) spending since the 1970s, as well as the rise of so-called “dark money” 501(c)(4) organizations in federal politics. Her proposed plan includes the imposition of taxes on lobbying efforts over $500,000; revised and improved ethical professional conduct standards for the federal judiciary; a ban on stock trading by federal elected officials; an end to lucrative “golden parachute” severance packages for corporate executives who move into appointed positions in the federal government; and various additional measures specifically intended to reduce and blunt the corrosive influence of money in politics.

Senator Warren’s policy crusade, however, has been years in the making. In 2018, Senator Warren introduced the 289-page Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act (S. 3357). Although the bill was initially denied consideration in the Senate, Senator Warren pursued further action in the Democratically-controlled House, where Representative Jayapal (WA-7) agreed to introduce the bill. While House members amended aspects of the proposed legislation — ultimately converting it into a broader anti-corruption bill — the final draft legislation contained most of Senator Warren’s key provisions. Although the amended bill was again not considered on the Senate floor, Senator Warren’s leading efforts on this front reflect a renewed hunger among elected officials for anti-corruption legislation — a hunger which is very much alive and well in the broader electorate.

Senator Warren’s advocacy concerning anti-corruption measures began well before her political career. Having previously published thirty-one books and considerable research on the topics of financial stability, consumer debt, and the American banking system (among other topics), Senator Warren was perfectly poised to take on issues surrounding the influence of money in politics. Under one of her now-familiar catch-phrases, “big, structural change,” Senator Warren released Ending Washington Corruption during her 2020 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, as the first of many proposed “plans” on the campaign trail. Although her campaign lasted only fourteen months, Senator Warren achieved the third-highest delegate count and was credited with drawing then-nominee Joe Biden’s priorities more in line with her own — starting with the Washington Corruption plan. From pushing for a specific, economic-focused team on Biden’s Unity Task Force (following his ultimate nomination) to withholding her endorsement until several policy goals had been agreed to, Senator Warren never relented on the issue that launched her campaign months earlier. And those ideas, that “pretty much nobody wanted to hear” from a professor ten years ago (Senator Warren; March 5, 2020), will soon sit on the President’s desk.

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