Spanberger leads campaign-finance, ethics-reform push

CLINT SCHEMMER, CULPEPER STAR EXPONENT

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., yesterday urged the Senate to vote on the campaign finance and ethics reforms passed by the House of Representatives in March.

The 7th District congresswoman called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to let senators debate House Resolution 1, the For the People Act, the most sweeping clean-government measure passed by the House in a generation. The legislation, which passed 234-193, was House Democrats’ top priority after they took office on Jan. 3.

Leading the effort with 11 other Democrats, Spanberger co-wrote and circulated a letter to McConnell asking him to bring the bill to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. The missive was signed by 62 of the House’s 64 freshman Democrats.

“Constituents across #VA07 have told me that they want to see Congress do something about the power of undisclosed donors in our political system, and I will continue working to get this bill to the president’s desk,” Spanberger tweeted Tuesday evening about the initiative.

“Restoring faith in our elections and in the integrity of our elected officials should be a top priority that members of Congress from both parties can agree on,” the letter’s 62 signatories wrote McConnell. “These reforms are critical if members of the House and Senate are expected to regain the public’s trust that Congress is acting on their behalf and attempting to tackle the challenges that impact their lives, like the skyrocketing costs of health care and prescription drugs, the opioid epidemic, and building an economy that works for all Americans.”

In last autumn’s midterm elections, Americans made clear that they want Congress to combat government corruption, Spanberger and her colleagues told McConnell. That’s why the House freshmen acted swiftly on campaign finance, ethics and voting reforms in the 116th Congress, they wrote.

In an interview Tuesday morning before she left for Normandy to witness the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Spanberger acknowledged that the letter probably won’t change McConnell’s mind.

But she said it is an earnest attempt to get voters’ concerns heard by senators. “It’s good-faith effort to say, ‘This bill is incredibly important to the people we represent. Bring it up for a vote,’ ” Spanberger said. “If we’re bringing attention to the fact that one person can stop legislation from moving forward, and we’re turning up the heat a bit, that’s valuable.”

H.R. 1 is crucial to addressing the concerns of distrustful citizens who say, “ ‘Oh, they’re working for this lobby,’ or ‘No, my vote doesn’t matter,’ or, ‘Oh, I’ll just stay home, because what’s the point?’ or ‘Are we going to get a fix for this issue?’ ” she said. “These are all things I heard along the campaign trail, and that voters still discuss.”

If voters are to believe that their legislators are ethical and will fight for the people, campaign finance laws must be changed, Spanberger said.

“People often assume that those who give the most money, the lobbyists, the special interests, are the ones driving the conversation in Washington,” she said. “This is a really firm way for us to say, we’re going to be sure you know what dollars are flowing into campaigns and we’re rooting out dark money, to make sure that people feel like their voice matters more.”

“… Saying that a congressman can’t serve on a corporate board if you’re serving your constituents is a pretty straightforward way to say, ‘Yeah, I have one priority, and it’s you,’ ” Spanberger said.

“For me, [H.R. 1] is the key to unlocking so many elements that create this environment where there is such a lack of trust by voters,” she said. “The more we can restore voter trust, the better it is for our democracy.”

Spanberger cosponsored the For the People Act, which would make U.S. politics more transparent and limit how special interests and secret donors can influence the democratic process.

H.R. 1 includes Spanberger’s bipartisan amendment to strengthen the integrity of U.S. elections and prevent foreign interference in our political system.

Several provisions in H.R. 1 derive from bills with bipartisan support in the House or Senate, including the DISCLOSE Act to address dark money in elections, the Honest Ads Act to require digital ad disclosure, and the Prevent Election Hacking Act of 2018 to upgrade the nation’s election infrastructure.

Calling it “a terrible proposal,” McConnell has openly mocked the bill and vowed not to bring it to the Senate floor.

“Our bottom line is: If it’s a terrible bill, let it fail,” Spanberger said. “… We thought we had good ideas.”

“By introducing and passing H.R. 1, we followed through on promises we made to the people we serve—including the people of Central Virginia,” the Henrico County resident and her colleagues wrote the majority leader. “But our work isn’t finished, and right now, the Senate is blocking a potential victory for the American people.”

“The House has done its job, but because of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate hasn’t even held a hearing on the bill,” End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller said in a statement Wednesday. “Mitch McConnell is acting like a puppet in the hands of the big-money corporate special interests that keep him in power. McConnell should listen to the people and allow the Senate to vote on the For the People Act.”

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