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tv   House Oversight Reform Committee on HR 1 Legislation  CSPAN  February 6, 2019 10:12am-12:01pm EST

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together so many years later and celebrating what is great about america and how it exports that freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world. mr. speaker, i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: pursuant to clause 12-a a of rule 1, the chair declares the house in recess until noon the house to return, we will take you live now to the house oversight committee. they're meeting this morning to hear testimony on h.r. 1, a voting rights, campaign ethics and house rules committee.
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house judiciary committee held a hearing on the issue. elijah cummings is in the chair, he is the chair. mr. cummings: mr. sarbanes. mr. sarbanes: thank you very much, mr. chairman. i appreciate you having this hearing on h.r. 1. also want to salute some of the new members on the dais here because they came with this message pinned to their chest. americans from across the political spectrum want a democracy that works for themmers a democracy where big money doesn't dominate, the political debate where access to the ballot boxes are ensured to all citizens and where public servants work for the public interest. like any system, our republic requires regular maintenance. without it the gears grind down, the operating systems fail, and the people's democratic will is ultimately compromised. this is what's happened to our democratic institutions over
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the past few decades. we have failed to beat back the new inventive ways that moneyes that found to corrupt our politics. we have failed to modernize our election system, and we have failed to implement meaningful ethics rules. no wonder the public's faith in elected representatives is flagging, why confidence in our democratic constitutions is near historic lows and why cynicism is so high. h.r. 1, the for the people act, is about giving the americans their republic back, unrigging the rules of american democracy by fighting back against big money in politics, ensuring all americans can vote and ending partisan gerrymandering and enacting tough new anti-corruption measures. today's hearing, mr. chairman, will be an opportunity to examine the imperative for and the design of anti-corruption measures that are included in h.r. 1, and i very much look
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forward to that discussion. mr. chairman, h.r. 1 will give americans their power back in our democracy. the power of the ballot box, the power of political voice, and the power of accountable representative democracy. put plainly, these reforms are not partisan. they're patriotic. we can and must do better to work together to repair our democratic institutions. many of the provisions in here actually incorporate bills that have had bipartisan support in years' past. i hope my colleagues on the other side of the dais will join us in the effort to strengthen our democracy. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. mr. cummings: i yield to the distinguished member, mr. lynch, one minute. mr. lynch: thank you very much, mr. chairman. my legislation that is incorporated in this bill, my bill h.r. 391, is the white house ethics transparency act which would simply require the trump administration and future administrations to automatically disclosetics
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waivers that they issued to executive branch officials. ese waivers allow former lobbyists, consultants who previously worked for the private sector and present a significant conflict of interest with their positions in the sdemreck tiff branch to nevertheless participate in matters in which their prior employers or clients have a stake and pursuant to the bill, disclose uste must be submitted to the independent office of government ethics within 30 days and o.g.e. websites. mr. shab is well aware of this. -- mr. schaub is well aware of this. one of our witnesses. early on the white house just refused to say whether and when they had given waivers to various lobbyists to go work in his administration. so the inclusion of this ction of the bill will prevent that from happening in the future. yield back the balance of my time. mr. cummings: i yield the final
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two minutes to mr. raskin of maryland. mr. raskin: with your leadership, with the robust new majority in the house of representatives, it's a new day in washington. a great republican president, abraham lincoln, spoke of government of the people, by the people, for the people and that's always been the want liesing dream of america. it's our role as congress to guarantee that we are a government of the people, but today the executive branch is drowning in big money corruption, self-dealing and lawlessness. they said they were going to drain the swamp, mr. chairman. they moved into the swamp. they built a hotel on it and they started renting out rooms to foreign princes and kings and governments. it is our job to restore government by the people in america which is why i'm thrilled to introduce the executive branch comprehensive enforcement act with senator blumenthal on the senate side. it would give subpoena power to the office of government ethics. it will allow formal proceedings take place there.
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it makes clear it extends to all white house personnel as well as executive branch agencies. it authorizes the office of government ethics to order corrective actions like divestiture, blind trust, recusal and have appropriate administrative penalties if they trample our laws. it protects the independence of the office of government ethics by providing the director can be removed only for cause. so it strengthens the independence of the office of government ethics to make sure we can feherty out the corruption that's now per -- ferret out the corruption that's now pervasive in the trump administration. i yield back, mr. chairman. mr. cummings: thank you very much. i now yield to the distinguished gentleman from ohio, the ranking member of our full committee, mr. jordan. mr. jordan: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank our witnesses, as well, for being here. normally when you start a new congress, the majority gives the designation of h.r. 1 to its key priority. last congress h.r. 1 was the
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most significant tax reform, tax cut package in a generation, returned millions of dollars to americans, simplified our tax code, and was one of the key reasons, i think, we've seen five million new jobs added to our economy in the last couple years. that bill, the tax cuts and jobs act, was bold, realistic, and it was signed into law just over a year ago. i think it's also helped create the lowest unemployment in 50 years, an economy that's moving in exactly the direction we want. this congress, the democrats' h.r. 1 is the so-called for the people act. more accurate title would be for the people who want democrats to win elections from now on. it includes a laundry list of proposals designed to benefit the majority by tilting the playing field in their favor. it's not a stretch to label many of these proposals radical. you can laugh but it's true. h.r. 1 would steer potentially billions of dollars to political allies in the name of
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campaign finance empowerment, restriction americans' right to free speech and exact political retribution on the president of the united states. unfortunately, this is not all surprising. this is the latest on a series of attacks to stifle a free range of ideas. 2018 we learned that the i.r.s. targeted conservatives for their political beliefs during the 2012 election cycle. systematically for sustained period of time, they went after people for their conservative beliefs. plan in place, targeted people, they did it. the gross abuse of power would have continued if not for the efforts of this committee. 2014, the obama administration doubled down and attempted to use the i.r.s. rulemaking process to gut the ability of social welfare organizations to participate in public debate. congress has so far prevented this regulation from going into effect but h.r. 1 would change that. furthermore, this bill would roll back another critical
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victory for free speech secured last summer. following this effort by this committee and others, the i.r.s. changed its policy as it relates to schedule b information. schedule b contains personal information like names, addresses, and the amounts donated to nonprofit entities. even though this information is supposed to remain private under current law, states and federal governments have leaked these personal details in the past. in changing its policy, the i.r.s. noted there had been at least 14 breaches resulting in the unauthorized disclosure of schedule b information just since 2010. the result was everyday americans receiving death threats and main containing white powder all because -- all because someone disagreed with what they believed and who they gave their hard-earned money to. the reason that the protection of schedule b information is important has nothing to do with the vast conspiracies on the right or the left. the so-called dark money issue. rather, it dates back to the supreme court's 1958 decision. critical decision. the naacp vs. alabama, which
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formerly recognized the freedom of association and prevented the naacp from being compelled to turn over information about its members. look, i haven't even got to all the other problems with that bill. this bill, mandatory -- talk about violation of the 10th amendment and our federal systems. mandatory early voting by mail, felons can vote. how about public financing of campaigns? the taxpayers have to pay for the politics agencies campaigns. taxpayers have to pay for the same politicians who created the swamp, who are in the swamp so they can get re-elected. this is what this legislation does. there's much that can be done to improve the functioning of transparency and effectiveness in the federal government. however, this 571-page bill reads more like a wish list for the democratic party than an honest attempt at reform. i fear this legislation is a sign our friends in the majority want to play games, engage in political theater,
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rather than use this time to work constructively to find solutions for hardworking americans that sent us here. mr. chairman, i would like to yield -- i think we have a few more minutes left. i want to first yield to the gentleman, if i could, from tennessee, mr. green, two minutes. mr. green: thank you, mr. chairman. h.r. 1 should be called fill the swamp act. it seems every year that passes more and more power is shifted away from the people and into the hands of wealthy elites in weafrpblt these politicians and bureaucrats can't help themselves from micromanaging more and more of our everyday lives. from roads and bridges, firearms, relationships with our doctors, even our toilets, these freedom and federalism-hating politicians can't seem to help themselves. and now, now they want to decide how we can run our elections in tennessee. you want to tell tennessee to enact same-day voter registration with no time for verification? you want to tell tennessee we
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can't require i.d.'s to be shown at the polls? increasing the likelihood of voter fraud? you want to tell tennessee that some unaccountable commission gets to draw our districts? you want to tell tennessee it has to subsidize far-left-leaning candidates in other states with our taxpayer dollars? how dare you. how dare you tell tennessee what we can do with our elections. this bill is wrong. it is a power grab. politicians -- politicians that want to give the federal government more power. does the majority party care about voter fraud? well, then let's allow states to have voter identification laws. does the democrats suddenly care about foreign interference in our elections? why are they allowing illegal immigrants to vote? the hypocrisy is mind-boggling. the fact remains there is no constitutional authority for the federal government to come
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down and seize control of elections in tennessee. the constitution creates a federalist system with power disbursed amongst the people. i will keep my oath to uphold the constitution, and my promise to tennesseans to drain the swamp. thank you. i yield back. mr. jordan: mr. chairman, i'd like to recognize the gentleman from texas for two minutes. >> thank you to the distinguished ranking member. i'd like to co-sponsor the remarks from my friend from tennessee. i wholeheartedly endorse all what he said as well as what mr. jordan just said. one question i had eab asking as we look into all of -- i'd be asking as we look into all of this -- why are we so divided as a nation? i say in part because we try to overn from washington 320, 330
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million people with solutions here from the swamp in direct contradiction to the very republic our founders gave us looking ahead at knowing what it would look like if we tried to do that. mr. roy: we are are republic. e are a republic for a reason. we have a structure of government for a reason. that structure of government serves to preserve our inalienable god-given rights. that structure of government has served well-to-do those things. and that structure of government recognizes the importance of states in the decisionmaking process across the vast majority of the issues we're supposed to deal with. when we take our eye off the
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ball of the core constitutional functions we don't end up well. we end up with $1 trillion deficit pile up on $20 trillion of national debt. yes, both parties are a part of that problem. we end up immersed in foreign wars that continue, as the president pointed out last night. we end up with spiraling health care costs because the president immersed itself into washington instead of allowing the people and markets and states to function. now, we want to extend into every aspect of every issue of voting, issues that are supposed to be left to the states so people in the states can decide who they want to send to washington, whether they are in the senate or in the congress. we will undermine the very structure and core of this government further if we pursue this path down h.r. 1. thank you. mr. jordan: mr. chairman, for our remaining two minutes, i'd
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like to recognize the gentleman from georgia. >> i thank the ranking member. i join with my colleagues in just being extremely alarmed by h.r. 1 and 600 pages, almost every page has issues of great concerns. just one small part of that, the chairman mentioned a while ago the automatic voter registration. mr. hice: it forces states to automatically register people which may sound good on the surface but what it will do is open the floodgates for fraudulent voting by illegal individuals in this country. and here's how. here's what happens. these illegals who come into this country use government services and programs and under h.r. 1, the information collected by these services and programs would automatically be transferred to election officials for registration. and there's only one safeguard in h.r. 1 and that is for the
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illegal alien to publicly declare they're here illegally and they're not eligible to vote. how can we really expect that to happen? it's not going to happen, for them to draw attention to themselves and identify themselves as being here illegally and therefore ineligible to vote. simultaneously, when an illegal alien fails to decline, fails to recognize they're here illegally and they're ineligible to vote, despite the ineligibility, they cannot be prosecuted. so this bill is just going to make it extremely difficult to maintain accurate voting records. it's going to open the floodgates for fraud. so what we basically have here is a proposal that will lead to more illegal aliens renlsterg to vote, making it virtually impossible to prosecute them --
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registering to vote, making it virtually impossible to prosecute them and making it difficult for states to clean up their voter lists. what happens to the american voter, it waters down the power of their vote by allowing illegals to do so. it makes those who are eligible, their votes, to have less impact. so i'm very concerned. i thank the gentleman and i yield back. mr. jordan: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. cummings: thank you. i want to thank all of our members for your statements. and now all members will have 10 legislative days in which to submit opening statements for the record. ladies and gentlemen, today we welcome five distinguished witnesses to our committee. mr. walter shaub is the former director of the office of government ethics and now serves as a senior advisor to citizens for responsibility in
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ethics in washington. mrs. karen hobert flynn is the president of common cause, a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to holding the core values of american democracy. r. rudy mehrbani is the former director of the office of presidential personnel and now serves as a senior counsel at the brennan center for justice. mr. scott amey is the general counsel for the project on government oversight. and finally, mr. bradley smith is the chairman of the institute for free speech. pursuant to committee rules, all witnesses who appear before our committee must do so under oath. i now ask each of you to stand and raise your right hand to
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take the oath. do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god? everybody has now answered yes. and let the record reflect that. i will now recognize each witness to present their testimony. i want to remind the witnesses that we have your written testimony before us so you don't have to read it all. we have it. and i ask you to do me a favor, just since we have five witnesses and we have a lot of members wanting to ask questions, that you obey the lights, you'll get a warning light. and then when it says red i would appreciate it if you
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would let us -- that you stop and let us move on to the next witness. so we're going to go with mr. shaub first -- mr. amey. mr. amey: i want to thank chairman cummings, ranking member jordan and the committee for asking the project on government oversight, pogo, to stify about executive branch ethics. pogo is a nonpartisan watchdog that exposes waste, corruption and abuse of power. h.r. 1, which pogo supports, is an opportunity to make a good -- make good on the bipartisan work that this committee has performed and reform the ethics system to meet old and emerging challenges. we support stronger laws to slow the revolving door, improve the office of government ethics, expand ethics restrictions to senior level officials. title 8 in h.r. 1 is a step forward in improving consistency in enforcement, but more importantly, to reduce improper influence over government decisions, missions, programs, and spending that are
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office contrary to the public's interests. groups at this table have assembled for over a decade to correct problems created by the revolving door and cozy relationships that result in a nonlevel playing field. pogo published reports on it in 2004, 2005, and one just last year. the 2018 report showed lobbying was the occupation of choice when officials left government service. a job that relies less on management skills and more on your connections back inside of the government. despite the focus on the revolving door coming and going from the department of defense, the problems exist governmentwide and concerns exist about having a personal len vate interest, being yent toward future or past employers and having an unfair advantage, all which are detriment to the public. h.r. 1 would help provisions, especially in title 8.
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pogo supports title 8, related to making the office of government ethics more independent, slowing program and procurement officials from heading to companies they worked with or oversaw while in government service, codifying the presidential ethics pledges that have come out since 1993, prohibiting a bonus for accepting government position. this really came to light during the obama administration when wall street executives reinvolved into the government. expanding cooling off periods when coming and leaving the government and i creasing transparency. with the limited time i will briefly highlight the top three. first, the office of government ethics should become an independent agency with new authorities to ensure consistent enforcement of ethics laws governmentwide. h.r. 1 would provide the o.g.e. director approval over resolutions and any recusals, exemptions or waivers from ethics rules. increased transparency, give o.g.e. improve investigative power and grant o.g.e. to issue
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legal remedies when ethics violations are found. we support for-cause removal for a director. it will preserve the agency's independence and help with continuity after turnovers in between administrations. we have heard stories of pressure coming from the top on the office of government ethics as well as agency ethics officials and that must end. second, amending the procurement act is essential. we need to strike the provision in the law allowing former program and procurement officials to work for companies with they contracted with or oversaw, so long they go to a different part of the company. we can't risk allowing officials to leverage their relationship with the company for future employment, calling into question the decisions they made while they were in government. additionally, those officials should not be allowed to access their former colleagues, which can create an unfair competitive advantage. darlene left the government and took a position with boeing's missile's division. prior to leaving government service, she was -- played a
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role in the award of a $20 billion contract to boeing for refueling tankers and in a plea agreement she stated she agreed to ahere price even though she believed it was not appropriate as a parting gift to boeing. her cozy relationship also included helping her daughter get a job with boeing. she pled guilty to a separate ethics violation and served nine months in prison. these violations are not exposed by ethics officials or i.g.'s. it was senator mccain who found them while investigating the tanker deal and he became concerned with the blatant reinvolving door concerns. -- very -- revolving door concerns. pogo supports making a pledge law because otherwise ethics orders exist only at the whim of each president. making the pledge law would add continuity within the ethics community and prevent the pledge from being revoked on the president's last day in office. as was the case with president
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clinton. in 1965, president lyndon b. johnson issued and executive order saying every citizen is supposed to complete confidence. president johnson's order is the foundation for our ethics system today. our support for title 8 in h.r. 1 and the details i told you today is necessary to prevent conflicts of interest. h.r. 1 is a step forward in reducing improper influence over our government and the bad deals that harm the public. thank you for inviting me to testify today. i look forward to answering the questions from the members of the committee and working with the entire committee to further explore how federal ethics and conflicts of systems can be improved. thank you. mr. cummings: thank you very much. mrs. hobert. mrs. hobert flynn: thank you, chairman cummings, ranking member jordan, members of the committee for holding this critically important hearing. i'd like to thank congressman sarbanes for his leadership championing the for the people act as the type of bold, innovative package of solutions
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that can restore people's trust in our government. one final note of thanks to house speaker pelosi for her commitment making this the first order of business in the new congress. my name is karen hobert flynn and i'm president of common cause, a national nonpartisan watchdog organization with 1.2 million supporters. for nearly 50 years we've been working to strengthen the people's voice in their democracy. i'm here to testify in support of the for the people act. first, i want to say americans have not been waiting for washington to fix what ails them in our democracy. we've been working at the state and local level with many other groups to pass significant pro-democracy reforms. this is the second consecutive election cycles where voters surpassed 95% of democracy reforms in the ballot. in 2018, voters in red, blue, purple passed democracy reforms with strong support from republicans, independent, and democratic voters. this includes voting rights restoration in florida,
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same-day voter registration in maryland, it includes independent redistricting commissions in colorado, michigan, and redistricting reform in utah, automatic voter registration in nevada and michigan. and independent ethics commission in new mexico and anti-corruption package in missouri. i should note, also, these kinds of reforms and many embodied in h.r. 1, campaign finance disclosure, ethics reforms and others, also passed with bipartisan support in state legislatures. the reforms embodied in h.r. 1 are not lofty and tested ideas. most are pragmatic solutions that are already working in a city or state somewhere in this country. these solutions are proven to work and in many cases save taxpayers money. the timing of this legislation has never been more important as americans grow more frustrated and cynical about our state of politics. while every presidential administration has in our nation's history has had various ethical challenges we
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have never seen so many corruption scandals and appall lack of concern for the ethic rules that should govern our executive branch than with this administration. we have a series of reports that detail dozens and dozens of ethical challenges and conflicts of interest that have plagued this administration in the last two years. the american people want transparency, honesty, and accountability from its elected representatives. they do not want their elected leaders to use their public office for private gain, to enrich their businesses, their wealthy donors, their family or themselves. we believe tough ethics laws, like the ones that we're talking about here today with the strengthen office of government ethics, that has independent oversight and investigative and enforcement tools can help us help the assault on our democratic values and our constitutions of self-government. my written testimony outlines the support for all the measures before the committee today and i' add two more comments. one, i agree with chairman
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cummings on election day we should make election day a holiday. we have found as we do election protection nonpartisan election protection across the country that with aging infrastructure and machines, machines malfunctioning and a lack of polls, poll workers, that people have long lines up to four hours. many working americans can't afford to take four hours off of their day in order to vote. so making it a holiday would make a huge difference. in addition, we strongly support the conflicts from political fundraising act because americans deserve to know whether people nominated to serve in the executive branch have raised money or benefited from special interest money from the industries they are supposed to regulate. there are currently no requirements for presidential appointees to disclose whether they solicited funds or contributed funds for political c-4 es, to p.a.c.'s, 504
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501-c-6. we don't work on these issues just to look good. we pass reforms so the government can be more responsive to the needs of everyday americans. you will hear some who benefit from the current system. saying it works fine. the american people do not believe that our current system is just fine. you will also hear people talking about the first amendment to justify billionaires, corporations, and special interests, spending millions of dollars in politics while our children, our families, our schools and communities and our environment all suffer. polls show that people want bold ethics and transparency reforms and they want to clean up our system and give people more voice in our democracy. we look forward to working with this committee. we believe this is a strong package. there are always elements that can be strengthened and we look forward to the questions ahead. mr. cummings: thank you very
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much. mr. mehrbani. mr. hehrbani: i want to support the h.r. 1, the for the people act. the brennan center enthusiastically support h.r. 1. it would be historic legislation. it addresses long standing problems with our system of self-government, long lines, vast sums of money, of dark money, harmful rules and practices that make it harder for many, especially voters of color to cast their ballot. the ongoing challenges of gerrymandering, inadequate election administration and at-risk technology. addresses these issues with groundbreaking reforms that are proven to work. automatic voter registration, small donor matching, election security and more. it is thus fitting this bill is the very first introdeuced in this congress. today, i will focus on title 8 of the act, ethics reform for the president, vice president, and federal officers and employees. the reforms respond to the erosion of ethical guardrails
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in government we have seen over a number of years. they are a strong first step to restoring public faith and accountable and ethical government. we have long assumed that all presidential administrations would follow long standing ethics practices and ideals that aren't required by law. for example, following precedent established by their predecessors over the last 40-odd years to publicly release their tax returns. voluntarily comply with conflicts of interest laws that apply to other executive branch employees to keep their assets in a qualified blind trust. strive to avoid the appearance of improper or undue influence of outside interests in the way their administrations formulate official policy. or strive to fully enforce existing ethics laws. unfortunately, these commonsense practices that presidents from both parties followed for decades can no longer be taken for granted. this means that new laws are needed to compel a commitment to ethics and ensure accountability. as i detail in my written
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testimony, when presidents and agency heads do not lead on ethics issues, they can result in serious ethical lapses. the improper use of government positions, running afoul of other laws like appropriations laws, and violations of revolving door prohibitions. the results -- excuse me -- this results in an incredible waste of taxpayer resources and it seriously harms public trust and faith in government. from my experience in government, presidential leadership on ethics issues filters down throughout an administration the when i ran the presidential personnel office, we followed certain practices, not just because of my office's commitment, but because president obama demanded we have an ethical personnel process. that meant we worked collaboratively with the office of government ethics and strengthened postemployment lobbying restrictions even if that wasn't technically required by law. some have said that more robust ethics rule would deter talented individuals from serving in government, but many of the reforms in h.r. 1 have
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long been voluntarily followed by administrations. and some administrations, like the one that i served in, went further and supplemented those rules. what was the result? a historic number of americans expressing interest to serve in an administration. arguably the most diverse administration in history. and appointees who on average served in their position substantially longer than their predecessors. strong ethics laws in short help recruitment. a recent poll showed only a third of americans trust government to do what is right. a decline of 14% from 2017. more than 3/4 of voters ranked corruption in government as a top issue in the 2018 election. with almost a third calling it the most important issue. at the same time, we know americans are yearning for solutions to these problems, and real action on those solutions. this congress was elected with
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the highest voter turnout in a mid-term since 1914. many of you were elected with a pledge to reform democracy, and in states across the country, major ballot measures were passed by large bipartisan margins to implement bold and creative reform. voters spoke clearly. the best way to respond to a tax on democracy -- attacks on democracy is to strengthen it, which is exactly what h.r. 1 does. we urge you to pass it. thank you and i look forward to answering your questions. mr. cummings: mr. shaub. mr. sh aumbings b: chairman cummings, ranking member jordan, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to talk about the ethics reforms in h.r. 1. i served in the office of government ethics as director and before that as a career ethics official. in my 14 years there i have been intimately involved in protecting the principle that public service is a public trust. based on this i know how
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urgently we need reform and that's why i support h.r. 1. o.g.e. has no real enforcement authority. in theory, o.g.e. can order officials to cease ongoing violations, but statutory limitations prevent ineffective use of this authority. o.g.e. can ask agencies to conduct investigations and can request copies of records, but it has no power to do anything if they ignore these requests. lacking enforcement tools, o.g.e. relies on the director's ability to persuade or shame officials into doing the right thing. this was never ideal, but it worked fairly well for four decades. during my time in government, presidents bush and obama were reliable supporters of o.g.e. they showed that government ethics is not a partisan issue. we now find ourselves in an ethics crisis. the trigger was president trump's refusal to divest his conflicting financial interests.
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this radical departure from ethical norms leaves the public with no way of knowing how personal interests are affecting public policy. what we do know only raises questions. for example, questions surround president trump's response when individuals associated with the saudi government murdered a "washington post journalist, a resident of my home state. we can only wonder if president trump's financial interests influenced the handling of sanctions on certain russian businesses. did they affect his decision to help chinese telecom zinet z.t.e. -- giant z.t.e.? why would they scrap the idea to move f.b.i. headquarters? is it because they didn't want them to move close to his d.c. hotel? and the president's disinterest in ethics has affected his appointees. the heads of six agencies have stepped down under a cloud of ethics issues. at least seven other appointees resigned under the taint of an
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investigation, ethics issues, or security clearance concerns. the office of special counsel has found that nine of his appointees violated the hatch act, and there are dozens of pending ethics-related investigations. h.r. 1 kicks off what i hope will be a wave of reform. it focuses not just on the current crisis but also issues that predate this administration. for example, h.r. 1 addresses big payouts to incoming officials. these golden parachutes raise concerns about an employer -- appointee's loyalty to a former employer. when former treasury secretary jack lew left wall street to join the state department, he received a large bonus. his employment agreement let him keep that bonus specifically because he landed a high-level government job. i'm glad to see a provision in h.r. 1 addressing this issue, and my written testimony offers a suggestion for strengthening it further. h.r. 1 would also make o.g.e. more independent, like the
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heads of o.s.e., o.g.e.'s director would be allowed to communicate directly with congress. rather than depending on all agencies, o.g.e. will be able to conduct meaningful inquiries by issuing subpoenas. h.r. 1 would increase the transparency of waivers which can undermine the ethics program if granted improperly. the public needs to know about waivers. before leaving o.g.e. i exposed questionable practices about the issuances of undated, unsigned and retroactive waivers, sum of which designed to paper over ethics violations. i'll close by emphasizing that what's at stake is the very integrity of government. the supreme court has warned that a conflict of interest is an evil that endangers the very fabric of a democratic society. the court explained that democracy is effective only if people have faith in those who govern. we need ethics reform before
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the public's trust in government is shattered beyond repair. i urge you to pass h.r. 1. thank you, again, for inviting me. i'm happy to answer any questions that the committee may have today. mr. cummings: mr. smith. mr. smith: thank you, chairman comings, ranking member jordan, members of the committee. e institute of free speech has -- some of those pages are available here today. i am going to focus very briefly on two aspects of this bill which i have particular expertise as former chairman of the federal election commission and leading author of soup irp.a.c. and coordinated spending and many of the author of the current coordination rules. since its inception, the federal election commission has been a bipartisan agency. this is at the insistent of people such as democratic representative wayne hayes and democratic senator allen cranston who warned we must not allow the f.e.c. by become a tool for harassment by future esidents who seek to the a--
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abuse such as watergate. this would have a five-member panel subject to partisan control. in theory only two members can come from any one party, crying for a fifth seat to be held by an independent but this is a fig leaf. the f.e.c. has an independent now. steven walter was appointed at the behest of former democrat senator harry reid whom mr. walther had represented in election matters. he holds a democratic seat. under h.r. 1, senator bernie sanders, a frontrunner for the democratic nominee could be an independent. any president could find a nominal independent to reflect his party's views, creating a partisan position on the commission. h.r. 1 gives vast new powers to the f.e.c. chairman. the chairman would have the sole power to determine the agency budget, to subpoena which is witnesses, to compel
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testimony and reports and appoint the staff director who oversees the f.e.c.'s audit division. this is a prescription for partisan control and abuse. i assume the majority knows that and that's why this provision of the bill, unlike others, does not take effect until 2021. they won't allow president nominees for the chair. the only reason that the f.e.c. has any credibility is its bipartisan makeup. under title 6 the person elected in 2020 will appoint all five members of the commission, including the powerful chair, which will have the power to write and rewrite new rules with an eye toward the 2022 mid-terms, the 2024 and 2028 presidential elections. now, some of you may consider this a feature rather than a pug, but be careful what you wish -- big, but be careful what you wish for. you didn't think president
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trump would win either. and the next is stopping super p.a.c. coordination. the some don't understand what is being put in their own legislation. nothing in subtitle b, nothing limits its reach to super p.a.c.'s. applies to every union, advocacy group and unincorporated company in the country. it applies to plained, right to life, to the naacp, aclu, to the national federation of independent business and to the brady campaign for gun safety. it even applies to individual citizens who seek to participate in public discussion. thing limit it is to super p.a.c.'s. the definition of coordination and coordinated spenders, the traditional treatment of coordinated spending as a contribution to candidate and contribution limits in the law. subtitle b would have the effect of banning, not limiting, but panning a great
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deal of speech that was legal even before the supreme court's decisions in citizens united vs. f.e.c. and buckley v. valeo. so, again, this law goes backwards to outlaw speech that was always legal in american history, even before the citizens united decision. as the full text of my prepared remarks explains in greater details problems of title 6 but in a nutshell it should be called the new alien and sedition act. with just a few seconds remaining, let me add only on title 8, this seems to be one of the least harmful provisions of the bill. that is not to say like so many provisions a bit of overkill. it's interesting to me it does not include as covered individuals people who have previously lobbied for cities and counties and local government units and it would normally be the case that those groups lobby extentsively in congress and should perhaps be checked for a conflict of interest. i also question the assumption of the bill which seems anybody
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with a past experience in a private sector is somehow dangerous and should have a legal conflict of interest defined by law before they even take office. i think that's overkill and inappropriate. thank you very much for your time. i'm free to answer any questions. mr. cummings: thank you very much to all of our witnesses. thank you for staying within the time limit. i will now yield five minutes to the distinguished lady from . chigan ms. talib ms. talib: thank you. h.r. 1 is important in trying to restore public trust into this institution. i know i am a freshman, i'm new. i think a lot of people know i really truly believe in the rule of law and believe in trying to restore to the core center of getting people to understand this body here, works for them. and so as a new member, you know, i see now why a lot of my
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residents are really taken aback by this process and not feeling like it belongs to them. through the chair, we all know this is a very critical issue. i think both republicans and democrats alike see this as a critical issue in taking corruption out of government. and so for me, as you said about strengthening, but more importantly, you know, first two years in office i think the president made 281 visits to properties he has profits from. more than 100 political committees include campaign party committees have spent nearly $5 million at trump businesses since he became president. at least 13 special interest groups have lobbied the white house around the same time they also did business with the trump organization. i can go on. i can submit this for the record. one of the things as a person that's coming here as a brand new member, i cannot believe this is not illegal already, that this is not something we push up against and say enough,
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because as we step into here, we work for the people. we have to check our businesses. we have to check our personal and professional conflict. any lawyer across this country will tell you, it is dangerous to allow any sort of conflict to exist while you're trying to serve others, especially in a public position like this. . i have seen modern presidents, both parties, before this president addressed these potential conflict of interest by adhering to all ethical norms completely divesting in their foreign and domestic investments . i am taken aback we have to fight for something that's so critically important. we're setting a precedent that it's ok for the president not to die vest. it's ok that i have many gary, president trump's director of national economic counsel, receive more than $100 million
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payments from goldman sachs before he came in to work for trump. for the president. sorry. one of the things i'm taken aback by talking to my good colleague from ohio mentioned, the original h.r. 1 tax break. who works on that? back home in the district, they call that a payout. they do. they know who was behind the scenes running that and pushing that forward. my question to you is, how can we move -- the should have, could have, maybe, to me that doesn't go far enough to starting to make people feel like this is their house. this congress belongs to them. because right now all they see is people that are at the top that make millions of dollars, completely disconnected with the american people. i can tell you, every single day from underemployment to poverty in my district, we're feeling like here we don't have a voice. so with that, mr. schaub, i would love to hear how do you think we can really slent strengthen this?
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where the dangerous precedent is. more and more we're seeing other people interested, former c.e.o.'s, others, interested in becoming presidents of the united states. mr. shaub: i applaud the bill for including a statement of congress that the president should divest. i think that takes a step toward re-establishing the norm, it would have been helpful to me as director of o.g.e. to point to that. i personally like to see it go further and require divestiture because we have a situation now where people who seek to influence the government can funnel bags of cash to the president through his various properties. you have you have government contractors, businesses, charities, associations, political parties, political groups, using his facilities and paying just absolutely gobs of cash for the privilege of hobnobbing with the president. unfortunately the president has done nothing to discourage this. he didn't even try to mitigate
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it by saying, i am and my appointees will refuse to attend events at my properties to discourage people from holding them there because they would lose access to the government by having the event there. instead, there seems to be this embrace and encouragement and the sense on the part of interested parties that they have to engage in this to even be on an even footing with their competitors. >> mr. chairman. mr. cummings: the gentlelady has five seconds. go ahead. >> the constituent you spoke about, do you know in 2017 for example saudi lobbyists spent $417,000 to reserve a room at trump owned hotel. that to me make me pause about your skit being killed by that government. mr. cummings: thank you. mr. chairman, i would just point out to the chairman the witness may want to clarify his remarks
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when he's saying gobs of cash. i don't know that he would have any proof. since he's under oath i don't know that he would want to make that type of statement. mr. cummings: i will allow it if you want to clarify what you minute by gobs of cash. mr. shaub: representative meadows, what i mean is people are paying money to the trump organization to use his facilities. and the direct beneficiary of that money is president trump because he's the beneficiary of the trusses -- trusts that holds that. the money is flowing to president trump and the steps he's taken to step back from it have had absolutely zero effect in any way to diminish the financial interest and the money that comes through. i do indeed mean that this is a funnel for money, but -- mr. cummings: you didn't mean cash. mr. shaub: yes, i don't mean they are handing it directly to him. mr. cummings: the gentleman has defined it. thank you. we will now hear from mr. gosar for five minutes. mr. gosar: thank you very much,
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mr. chairman. i must have been living in the twilight zone for the first six years of my first eight years. fast and furious operation choke point, benghazi, the i.r.s. targeting, the intimidation of the press, the unmasking of american citizens, and out-of-control d.o.j. really? really? mr. smith, i'm going to concentrate with you. h.r. 1 expands the definition of foreign national. do you think it would make sense to strengthen the disclosure requirements in order to prevent foreign nationals from funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to the u.s. campaigns? mr. smith: the difficult question is always how exactly does one intend to do this. one of the things you have to keep in mind is that most regulations that would be imposed will be felt by american citizens. the vast majority of people who have to comply will be american citizens. so when we engage in this type of thinking, we need to be
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careful that we're not giving up our own rights. we fought the cold war without surrendering our own rights. now the fact we're afraid of the facility of the former soviet union will somehow destroy america, now we should rush to throw away hard worked protections, i think mr. jordan talked about them in the cases like naacp vs. alabama. we need to be careful. i do think foreign engagement poses a different issue. kind of a scattershot approach that mainly hits american citizens is unwise. mr. gosar: i agree. let's tailor that aspect. do you think amending the federal election campaign act of 1971 to require what is already required of american citizens, the disclosure of the credit verification value or the c.v.b. and legal billing address for all loan contributions would help ensure the credit cards are registered to someone who actually lives in the united states? mr. smith: one thing could you do, most campaigns for years
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just voluntarily, this became something of an issue because the obama campaigns did not, was to put checks in place on credit cards, in particular prepaid credit cards. that is the kind of thing that could be done by regulation through the f.e.c. or i suppose by statute if there was a desire to do that. not just hand it out to whoever wants to use prepaid credit cards. mr. gosar: these are two great ideas t would make sure that somebody is living in this contry, wouldn't you agree? mr. smith: do note people don't have to live in this country, there are citizens aabroad. mr. gosar: this is a means of calibration that would stop some of the illegal contributions. mr. smith: it would probably safeguard. one of the most campaigns have followed and one that could be enacted i think by either regulation or statute. mr. gosar: the last administration we sawmill tipple examples of average american citizens being targeted for
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their political beliefs. most notably the i.r.s. and f.b.i. targeting political opponents. with that in mind, h.r. 1 with create create a farther zahn f.e.c. to address that that could use the power of the federal government that calls speech that disagrees with it. what effects do you think this would have on free speech and discourse? mr. smith: i call the new alien sedition act. i think it's a strong statement to put in very general terms. one of the things that has been an issue at the f.e.c. and enforcement in the state as well and so on is the use of these complaint process as political weapons in and of themselves. it often doesn't matter if you actually even prove the violation, you start the investigation process, responding to an f.e.c. investigation can be very costly. the investigation is intrusive. they can go into your strategies and tactics. tie up campaign time. get bad press. so often it was said the punishment is the process. rather than any fine tend
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because you quite likely did nothing wrong. very definitely there could be a chilling effect here. that effect is most pronounsed on small grassroots campaigns which don't have the lobbyists and lawyers and so on who know these complex regulations and can deal with them easily. mr. gosar: can you explain what ethics reform, f.e.c. restructuring, and a new federal holiday have in common? mr. smith: i suppose they all deal in some way with the federal government. but this is certainly a grab bag of bills. i would actually suggest that one of the best things the majority could do would be to divide this bill into its components yent parts so they could be focused on one at a time. many are in the most vague sense related. mr. gosar: why do you think my good friend from maryland chose to combine such differ topics into one bill? you started in on it. mr. smith: i think that would probably be a question better directed to your good friend from maryland. i'm not going to try to reach mine. mr. gosar: i yield back.
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mr. cummings: yield to the distinguished lady from new york, mrs. maloney, five minutes. mrs. maloney: thank you. i thank you. mr. sarbanes, for yourselfless devoted work on h.r. 1 over many years. i would like to ask you about presidential contracts. the ability of the president and vice president now under the law to compete against members of congress -- to compete for properties that other federal employees an members of congress are barred by law from entering into contracts or leases. i want to speak to the presidential conflicts of interest act, which is part of h.r. 1, which would put a restriction on the president and vice president in entering into any contracts which happens to be the standards for members of congress and federal employees. would you agree that the intent of hintrow one's specific
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proposal on presidential conflicts of interest? mr. amey: yes, congresswoman. obviously you are talking about the general services agencies lease with president trump and the trump hotel here in washington, d.c. there is a provision in that lease to -- that is up for debate. obviously the g.s.a. and their legal counsel have had different feelings. a lot of people on this side of the table have had about the interpretation of that lease provision. the one problem and why h.r. 1 on this specific provision is necessary is it was in about 1994 that the federal acquisition regulation stripped the provision that was called the officials not benefit provision. so it was in one of the acquisition reform bills, federal acquisition reform act or services acquisition reform act. that provision was stripped out. it's no longer in the farr. i think it's important to put back. you raise a good point that provision actually mentioned members of congress at that time. and that has continued for members of congress but hasn't
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affected other people in the executive branch. i do think it's necessary. mrs. maloney: as many of my colleagues know, in 2017 members of this committee, the democrats, literally sued for information about the lease and contract between the president's hotel, here in washington, d.c. hotel. anti-lease with the old office building. -- and the lease with the old office building. we were told then by the general accounting services, general services administration, that we were not entitled to exercise our oversight responsibilities of reviewing this lease. they barred us from getting this information. so we're literally still in court trying to obtain this. many of us feel that this is a glaring conflict of interest. why shouldn't the oversight committee have access to leases and contracts that we want to question, even if it includes
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the president of the united states? now, in this case of the trump international hotel, the president is both the landlord and the tenet. -- tenant. he ultimately also oversees g.s.a., the agency that was responsible for enforcing this lease, this contract. how can congress, mr. amey, or the american people be sure the g.s.a. is really acting impartially and carrying out the law when they are really interpreting what they are it -- mr. amey: when you have someone that's the landlord, tenant, judge, and jury can obviously appointed the head of the general services administration, then at that point it is a major conflict of interest. there were also some concerns because the trump children were involved in the negotiation of that lease. and actually outraged at the fact that g.s.a. hasn't turned
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over the information to congress. that's where it is important. that's where transparency when it comes to government ethics matters. that we should be seeing as much information about that to remove the appearance of a conflict of interest, but also to ensure that there is not an actual conflict of interest that needs to be resolved. mrs. maloney: in this particular lease for the old post office building, it explicitly prohibited an elected official from being a party, but g.s.a. failed to enforce it. and i would say that there would definitely be an impact, i'll , there could be a definite conflict of interest that could have a freezing effect on competition. how many people want to compete against the president of the united states for a lease or a contract? wouldn't you agree that would be a chilling effect on any competition? what would be the effect of this going forward? mr. mehrbani: i would agree with
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that, congresswoman. as you know, the inspector general and the general services administration recently released a report that was critical of g.s.a.'s analysis of the validity of this lease for improperly omitting constitutional issues from their analysis. and to me that raises the question of whether there was improper influence or at least the specter of self-dealing to the public that greatly undermines public trust. it's also one of the reasons why i should say that the national task force for democracy and rule of law, which is the brennan center initiative that includes some of your former colleagues and a bipartisan group of former republicans and democrats, and they have proposed extending the existing prohibition and the conflicts of interest law to the president and vice president to avoid specific instances like this. mrs. maloney: that's what intro one will do. i strongly support it and urge
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the passage. mr. cummings: the gentleman from north carolina, mr. meadows. mr. meadows: thank you, mr. chairman. thank all of you for your testimony. mr. mehrbani. you are in favor of matching dollars. using taxpayer dollars to match small donations as is outlined in h.r. 1, is that correct? mr. mehrbani: the brennan center does support the proposal in h.r. 1 which is modeled after an existing proposal that has existed for years in new york which multiple -- mr. meadows: do you support it? mr. mehrbani: yes. mr. meadows: here's the interesting fact that i just find just fascinating. a democrat bill, h.r. 1, would actually use taxpayer dollars to re-elect the freedom caucus chairman. i would -- under their bill i would get almost $4 million of taxpayer dollars, and i would
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say i don't see any of my constituents in the audience here. i can't imagine they would be happy with taxpayer dollars being used to re-elect a freedom caucus chairman. do you not see a problem when we use taxpayer dollars to re-elect individual congress? mr. mehrbani: if i may -- mr. meadows: would you support me financially? mr. mehrbani: i would support my spending the equivalent that h.r. 1 would require, which i think is $1 per citizen every year over 10 years. mr. meadows: it's a matching deal. we have done the math. it's $3.8 million that i would get because i'm one of the top 10 in terms of small dollar donations in congress, i would get $3.8 million upped this bill for re-election. i cannot find anyone who holds government accountable that would think that that would be a ise use of taxpayer dollars. i would? mr. mehrbani: sir, campaigns
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need to be funded from somewhere. and i -- mr. meadows: i agree. not my taxpayer dollars shouldn't be going to it, sir. mr. shaub, let me come to you. are you in support of h.r. 1's investigative mandate for o.g.e.? you were in the job. mr. shaub: i have said publicly that i preferred to see an inspector general that has global authority over every agency that doesn't have an inspector general. nd has supplemental ethics referral. that's what i said to former chairman gowdy and current chairman cummings. i do support the current bill. mr. meadows: it has investigative authority. i have gone through t let me tell you why i'm concerned. because you came before my committee and you gave sworn testimony which is exactly opposite of h.r. 1, yet here you
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are today espousing its merits. i can't find why all of a sudden you would have this newfound interest to have investigative authority if it were not directed at the current president of the united states. mr. shaub: two statements about that. one is, i don't think it creates the kind of investigative authority that an inspector general does. i don't think all investigative authority is created equally. mr. meadows: i agree with that. mr. shaub: it does create some. my views on that have changed. but this proposal -- mr. meadows: with this president? mr. shaub: this proposal would not apply only to this president. mr. meadows: it's not my first rodeo. it's not yours, either. i find it extremely hypocritical you would come here today having sworn under oath that this was not the way to go when there was a different president in the white house and then here today and followed it up with a letter -- we've got numerous quotes from you, over and over and over
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again, which would undermine h.r. 1, yet here you are today supporting that. how do you have this evolution in such a short period of time? lele mr. shaub: first of all i was telingt truth then and i'm telling the truth now. be clear about that. i did disagree with the investigative authority back then. i now sat for two years and watched -- mr. meadows: you were just wrong? mr. shaub: i wasn't. mr. meadows: i was suggesting you should have the investigative authority. you said quote -- mr. shaub: i recall you suggested -- mr. meadows: let me quote you here. you do not want the authority to be able to investigate it? no, i don't think so. i said you don't want it? in quotes. well, don't think we should have t what i might want one way or another is not relevant as it would not be right thing. close quote. all of a sudden today you are having an epiphany and it's changing? mr. shaub: it's not all of a sudden at all. it's after watching for two years somebody prove to me that
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the executive branch ethics program was much weaker and much more fragile than i ever thought it was. frankly i was naive. i never imagine a president could come in and refuse to eliminate his conflicts of interest, have appointees who were completely disinterested in government ethics, and have, with all respect, a congress refuse to exercise oversight over them in that respect. so in the absence of any other avenue, i do now believe that the office of government ethics is going to have to fill the gap. mr. meadows: that was precisely the point i made in 2015. you disagreed with me then. i yield back. mr. cummings: thank you very much. mr. shaub: i'll just say you were right. mr. cummings: thank you very much. mr. meadows: we can agree on that. mr. cummings: thank you very much. we'll now hear from ms. norton from the district of columbia. ms. norton: thank you very much,
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mr. chairman. unrelated to my question i do want to thank mr. sarbanes for the findings in h.r. 12 garding the -- regarding the d.c. statehood act, because these findings simply speak for themselves. people i represent pay the highest taxes per capita in the united states. do vote in the committee of the whole, but have no final vote on the house floor. i'm grateful to have a vote in this committee. i thank you, chairman cummings, for bringing the -- to hold a hearing on this bill. i want to speak about the parts of h.r. 1 which simply go to transparency. i think my first question to ms. flynn. i would also like to hear mr. smith's view of this question. secretary of education, betsy devos, and her family, have
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donated millions of dollars to organizations who lobby for ducation policy. do either of you think that the public has a right to know if the secretary has the -- has donated substantially to organizations, her background in donating, that could now influence her policies as secretary? first ms. flynn. ms. flynn: thank you. education secretary betsy devos and her family have given large sums of money to influence politics at all levels of government. including pressing for school voucher programs, something she's clearly very supportive of. according to the center for responsive flicks, devos and her family have donated over $20
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million to republican candidates, party committees, pax, and superpax, and -- p.a.c.s, and superer p.a.c.s, up of that has been focused on education. she's now education secretary. to me i think it's important when the senate is looking at the nomination when the american people are paying attention, it's an important part of the equation that helps shed light both on issues that she cares about and also her investment in that. she gave an interview in "roll call" where she said she, quote, decided to -- decided to, quote, stop taking offense at the suggestion that we were buying influence. quote, now i simply concede the point. she wrote 20 years ago, they are right. we do expect some things in return. we expect to foster conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government in respect for traditional american values. i think it's important for the nomination process to have a
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fuller picture of where their fundraising and political spending is going. ms. norton: how could that do any harm? how can that do anything but good the more information we have? mr. smith: i have to say shocked, shocked to discover that the republican appointee to secretary of education has been a republican who has donated to republican candidates and causes that her viewpoints -- ms. norton: for the public to know about that background history as she takes office? mr. smith: i think as mrs. hobart said, i think it's something in the confirmation process. i find it hard to believe there is an ethical conflict. ms. norton: reclaiming my time. i'm not implying an ethical conflict. my question about transparency are simply going to that. let it all hang out. and then let everybody make their own judgment. the committee make its own judgment.
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let the public make its own judgment. mr. smith: i have a number of questions about your personal life i would be interested in but i won't be -- ms. norton: go straight ahead. the point is, it's not her personal life that i'm asking about, mr. smith. what we're asking about is her ofations of money--donations money that in ways that could reflect on a shot she's now been given as part of her enforcement activity of the -- actives. it's not let it all hang out about my personal life, it's about the relevance to what it is she is enforcing, she is enforcing education policy. she's had a known not only position but given millions of dollars in ways that may conflict with parts of that policy. as i indicated when i opened this line of questioning, it's only about transparency.
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let me go on to ask about the conflicts of political fundraising. i'm a co-sponsor of that. it's also in h.r. 1. mr. cummings: the gentlelady's time has expired. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield to the ranking member, mr. jordan. mr. jordan: i thank the gentleman for yielding. professor smith, does h.r. 1 require states to offer early voting? mr. smith: yes. mr. jordan: does it require states to offer no excuse absentee voting? mr. smith: yes. mr. jordan: does it require paid leave for federal workers to be poll workers? mr. smith: yes. mr. jordan: does it -- does h.r. 1 require taxpayers to finance campaigns? mr. smith: definitely. mr. jord man: does h.r. 1 require taxpayers, to pay for
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the campaigns of candidates they oppose? mr. smith: yes, for example under the system if i were to contribute $10 to the re-election campaign of the president, the folks on this side of the aisle would selectively with others contribute $6 or something like that. mr. jordan: does h.r. 1 require states to have same day registration for voters? mr. smith: i believe it does. mr. jordan: does h.r. 1 require automatic voter registration? mr. smith: i believe that's correct. mr. jordan: does h.r. 1 require states to pre-registered 16-year-olds? mr. smith: i don't know. mr. jordan: it does. professor, does h.r. 1 require election day to be a federal holiday if you work for the federal government? mr. smith: it does. mr. jordan: does h.r. 1 require the outing of donors? direct violation of freedom of association? you give to a campaign you permit that through the disclosure you are going to be out. mr. smith: a great many provisions require a tremendous out of outing of a great many
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donors. mr. jordan: does h.r. 1 make the bipartisan s.e.c. a partisan organization? mr. smith: yes. mr. jordan: we'll take the united states senate. mitch mcconnell and ted cruz. the republicans say, corey booker and kamala harris are the democrats. independent is bernie sanders. mr. smith: that would work. mr. jordan: that would work. that's what the majority intends for it to be in 2021. something like that. maybe not those people. es h.r. 1 require -- limit free speech? mr. smith: i believe it does. in significant ways. as pointed out in my testimony. in ways it was not limited even before some of the supreme court decisions that h.r. 1 purports to want to overturn. mr. jordan: let me take a whack at a little summary here, professor. h.r. 1 requires taxpayers to pay for a holiday on election day for government workers, h.r. 1 requires taxpayers to pay for
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six days of paid leave for government workers who want to be poll workers. h.r. 1 requires taxpayers to pay for politicians' campaigns. and if those same taxpayers give to some organization, they can be outed under h.r. 1 so that the anyone could harass them or their families? mr. smith: yes. mr. jordan: such a deal for the taxpayer, right? mr. smith: i'll leave that judgment to you folks. mr. jordan: this is exactly where h.r. 1 sends us. and that is -- that's why we're opposed to t that's why we're going to keep fighting it. that's why we're saying the things we're saying. anything on this on my summary, anything would you like to add? mr. smith: i would only add that i think that the disclosure provisions are often worse than people think because they are defined as political activity things that have never been defined as political before. you run the risk of regulation
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swallowing up the entire discourse which the public engages. i would only say i think the provisions are worse than people think and they are often hidden through the complex relationship -- one example would be if an organization, for example, were to hire somebody who previously had been an intern, paid intern for a member of congress, that organization would then be prohibited from making any communications that were deemed to promote attack, support, or oppose that candidate. and that term could apply to almost anything. praising the candidate for introducing a bill. criticizing the congressman for opposing a bill. whatever. mr. jordan: that puts the whole consultant business in town out of business. mr. smith: it puts out of business all of the interest groups and all the civic groups and people belong to. mr. jordan: i appreciate it. i yield back. mr. cummings: thank you very much. i'm going to yield myself a few
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minutes. mrs. the things that hobart and mr. mehrbani, give me chills when i read it, was the 2016 opinion of the fourth circuit court of appeals it it sitting t it we're around here acting like not it's an unalienable right to be able to vote. to be said ething it's chilling. we can argue back and forth all we want. and they talked about the legislature down there in north arolina.
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before acting that law the legislature requested data on e use by race of a number of voting practices. upon receipt of the race data, the general assembly enacted gislation that restricted, unalienable rights, that restricted voting and registration in five different ways. all of which disproportionately affected african-americans. they went on to sarkse this is the fourth circuit, i didn't say this, the federal court said it. said their response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the state offered only
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meager justifications. although the new provisions target -- this is what the court said. although the new provisions target african-americans with almost surgical precision. they constitute inept remedies for the problems assertively justifying them and in fact impose cures for problems that did not even exist. they went on to say, thus, the asserted justifications cannot and do not fulfill the state's true motivation, end of quote. the reason why that quote means so much to me is that one year ago today on my mother's dying bed, 92 years old, former sharecropper, her last words
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were do not let them take our otes away from us. they had seen people harmed, beaten, trying to vote. talk about unalienable rights. voting is crucial. i don't give a damn how you look at it. there are efforts to stop people from voting. that's not right. this is not russia. this is the united states of america. and i will fight until the death to make sure every citizen, whether they are green party, whether they are freedom party, whether they are democrat, whether they are republican, whoever has a right to vote.
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because it is the essence of our democracy. and we could play around and act like -- guess what? i want to be clear that when they look back on this moment 200 years from now, that there are those who -- of us who stood up and they'll be able to say they stood up and said we will defend, they defended the right to vote. because you know what the problem is? for so many people the rights are pulled away from them and then they have to put them in law to get them back. what does that mean? they cannot progress rapidly. they cannot progress with the rest of society. and all they are trying to do is trying to control their own destiny. i'd like to just hear your comments, mrs. hoe bart, and mr.
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mehrbani, on the fourth circuit's opinion. mrs. flynn: we have seen since 2010 a number of states move efforts to shut down opportunities for people to vote. we have seen proof of i.d.enship laws, photo have seen early voting days repealed. we have seen states that have election day registration repealed. all in efforts to make it difficult for people to vote. a lot of this is focused on so-called in person voter fraud, .0003% chance that had a happened. it is a very rare thing. so what we have is all these measures that are trying to tap down on something that isn't happening out there, and the end result is, we see many people
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purged from voter rolls and other things with the thought they are going to be addressing something that isn't happening. very frequently. and so that is a real challenge. one that we have seen in states across the country. to put reforms in h.r. 1 in place early voting, to deal with voting machines so they are working and functioning, add poll workers where we have a real shortage of poll workers so people aren't standing in line and leaving, all these things are put in place to help create opportunities for people to vote. election day registration is a perfect antidote to a purge so that you can show up on election day, if you see that there is a problem, you can register to vote and vote on that day. that's why it's so important to be looking at these reforms. mr. cummings: mr. mehrbani. mr. mehrbani: the one thing i want to add is that these reforms not just make it easier for people to vote and proven to increase turnout and
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participation, it actually increases the accuracy of the rolls. so what we're hearing as reasons not to adopt things like automatic voter registration, same day voter registration. as was said earlier these are reforms that already exist in states across the country and the brennan center has studied the implementation of them and they have shown to increase the accuracy of the poll and even fix existing errors in the system. i want to say, mr. chairman, i appreciate you telling that personal story and impact it had on me personally and aim sure on emp who was listening. mr. cummings: mr. hice. mr. hice: i thank the chairman. i would just, mr. chairman, all of us want integrity at the voting booth. but if you are somehow implying that only republicans have been engaged in voter fraud, i challenge that and take great offense at t we saw in texas tens of thousands of illegal
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aliens voting. this is an issue that goes far and wide and is not one side of the aisle, sir. i would like that to stand corrected. this bill does not -- mr. cummings: would the gentleman yield. i'll give you a second back. nobody said that. i didn't say that. i quoted the court. and i did not just blame republicans or anybody. all i know -- was trying to make it clear that it has been made far difficult for people who look like me to be able to vote. period. and we all need to be addressing that. that's what i was trying to say. mr. hice: reclaiming my time. mr. cummings: if you took it any other way, i did not intend it that way. mr. hice: it was certainly implied that way. i accept what you just said. my intention across the board, however, h.r. 1 does not address this problem. it makes the potential for voter fraud even a greater
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possibility. this is not a solution to the problem that all of us in this room are concerned about. mr. smith, i'd like to go to you. should taxpayers be required to pay for political speech? mr. smith: i think there are a couple of points. one is a sort of a moral point that was raised earlier by mr. meadows and mr. jordan. but there is something sort of deeply wrong about forcing people to fund the political campaigns of candidates they greatly abhor. but there is also practical problem here. mr. hice: yes or no. mr. smith: i think clearly not. there are practical problems as well. mr. hice: absolutely. maybe we'll have time to get into that. they should not be required to pay for political speech. i am assuming you would also agree they should not be required to pay for political speech they disagree with. mr. smith: in particular, yes. mr. hice: our cleengs on the other side pointed to the
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so-called success in expanding public funding in election in places like arizona, maine, new york. so far as you are aware these programs been successful? mr. smith: no. typically the measure they use for that how many candidates take the money. if the government offers you free money and take it. the program was successful. in terms of quality governance, all the claims do not come true. they elect more minorities, not the case. elect more women, that's not been the case. you don't see much difference in the makeup of legislatures. don't think people look at new york city and say, wow, they have had this matching program. they are well governed. better governed than the past. mr. hice: these programs have been successful in preventing corruption? mr. smith: i don't see any way thefment they are often an avenue for corruption because you have things that were previously private money. candidate wants to waste money, he can do it. now it's public money. it creates greater scandal. mr. hice: do these programs
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limit the special interest groups. mr. smith: not at all. particularly with these matching fund things, groups that are well organized to go out and solicit large amounts of small contributions can do that. they also invite fraud in the sense that in the past a person might contribute to $250,000 or $500,000. now he tries to get a bunch of other people to contribute an amount below the matching amount and give them money to make the contributions. then you up the matches. it is an invitation to corruption. mr. hice: you touched on this a while ago. i would like 230r you -- for to you go further. what would this program do to public discourse and free peech? mr. smith: public financing programs. i think are not helpful for free speech in part because mr. smith: they tend to be avenues for corruption in many ways. we also find there are studies that show that the small donors that are often solicit for these things tend to be more partisan donors than more institutional people. so that they tend to it meet
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further polarization of the system. mr. hice: one last question. going back it was interesting to me when you mentioned the five member versus six member on the f.e.c. could you elaborate on that why six members in your opinion is the appropriate way to go as opposed to five? mr. smith: it's a unique commission it regulates elections who is going to win those offices or can have that effect. it's always required four votes on a six member commission. you had to have some measure of bipartisanship. once you got to five member commission, you lose that requirement of bipartisanship. furthermore, it will totally go away because the chair will have this tremendous authority on his own, even if all the other commissioners oppose him, to subpoena people and launch investigations. mr. hice: thank you very much. i yield back. mr. cummings: mr. raskin of maryland for five minutes. mr. raskin: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to first start by applauding the sentiments you
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just expressed. there's been a profound struggle for the right to vote in american history. we began with the vast majority of people in our country not having the right to vote, but through political struggle and constitutional change we have enlarged the electorate to include african-americans and to include women, to include 18-year-olds. we have dismantled the property and wealth qualification. at every turn there have been forces of conservatism and reaction that have tried to stop the changes. often zionists claiming fraud. oftentimes claiming that the people newly enfranchised weren't really truly deserving voters. we're seeing the same historical process re-enacted right now. that's the first part of the issue. once we get people elected to office, there is the problem of the agency of people who go into government. the founders of the constitution wrote in article 1, section 9,
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the emoluments clause to make sure the president and other federal officials would not be on the take from foreign powers, kings, princes, and governments. would accept no money alt. no payments. no offices. no titles. yet with that signal, originally breach, that original sin this administration basically opened the floodgates on corruption in washington. then appointed a fox to preside over every hen house in washington. every regulatory agency taken ver by a regulated industry. we need to protect the right to vote against these constant efforts to take people's right to vote away. we need to make sure that people come to work in washington are actually serving the american people. that's what part of this legislation is all about. it's about strengthening the office of government ethics. and it includes the executive branch, comprehensive ethics
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enforcement act which i'm proud to introduce on the house side, along with senator blumenthal on the senate side. one of the things it would do is provide the director of criminal ethics with the same authority inspectors general have to subpoena documents. i'm wondering how would this help the work of the o.g.e. director? can you give us some examples of what that might mean. mr. amey: specifically, that's one of the problems. o.g.e. currently has some authorities, very limited authorities to conduct investigations. hold a hearing and ask government officials to come in and testify. but that needs to be strengthened. we have found that o.g.e. is really a paper tiger. without this authority it's very difficult. the ethics system is based on self-policing. from day one. it's up to a government official to come to an ethics officers and disclose certain things. it's during the confirmation process, up to them to go to o.g.e. and make certain disclosures. that's where at least allowing o.g.e. to subpoena and hold the
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proper investigation with the proper information in front of them will instill the fact that we're trying to get to the conflicts of interest and whatever waivers or exemptions apply to make it more transparent so we're aware of those conflicts and can handle them in due course. mr. raskin: thank you very much. mr. shaub, you testified before this committee in 2015 while you were the director of office of government ethics, during that hearing mr. chaffetz, then the chairman of the committee, was frustrated with some of your testimony because the o.g.e. was not doing its own investigations. and he thought it was toothless. he said, i quote, i'm just suggesting you are just shuffling paperwork. you are taking everything at face value and reprinting and put it on a shelf. what good are you? why should we have you if you don't review them and hold people accountable. h.r. 1 would give o.g.e. precisely the authority to do meaningful investigations that chairman chaffetz and our counterparts on the other side
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of the aisle were commanding then, isn't that slight? -- right? mr. shaub: i tried to explain that as a practical matter despite the appearance that might look like investigative authority anti-current version of the ethics and government act, o.g.e. was powerless to conduct any investigation. this bill would change that. mr. raskin: would you give us a sense of culture of corruption and lawlessness that permanent nates washington. most people would be astounded go people come to washington, go the agency not to pursue common good but other agendas. can you suggest from your wide experience what those other agendas might be? mr. shaub: i think one of the concerns we look at is the types of loyalties that they have. and the goal of any ethics program should be to ensure that the loyalty of the government officials is only to the people they serve. and not to companies for which
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they previously lobbied or previously served as a high-level executive or anything like that. mr. raskin: -- >> the one problem we have seen with the ethics system is even if you look at o.g.e.'s prosecution surveys or go back through the public integrity section at the department of justice, most of it is blow lowe hanging fruit. most of it is low level people that are handling the contract or doing something. as you go up the chain of command, the ethics laws kind of dwindle off. i truly believe it's kind of a catch me if you can system. mr. raskin: i yield back, mr. chairman. thank you very much. >> thank you. chairman cummings, i don't want to make it harder for people to vote. i just want to make sure that elections are fair and that evenly eligible voters vote. i'm from rural kentucky.
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many elections, this election cycle, were decided by 10 votes or less. but i have a huge problem with the proposal for same day voter registration. what i witnessed in california this past federal election cycle with questionable ballot harvesting, gave me grave concerns about the integrity of our elections and who is actually casting votes in some state that has ties -- this type of version of election reform. i want to ask my first question to mr. smith and touch upon what congressman highs mentioned. this proposal, one of the things it does, it removes the standard of the chairman and vice chairman being from separate parties. in kentucky we have a board of elections and it's split down
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the middle. mr. comer: half republican, half democrat. how might consolidating power in the hands of a single party and a chairman of a single party undermine the legitimacy of the federal election commission? mr. smith: as i mentioned earlier, historically it's required by part -- bipartisanship. there has to be some degree from buy-in from one commissioner who has identified with the other side of the aisle. and that disappears here. in theory independent commissioner doesn't need to be truly independent. it's worse than that because if the president simply doesn't fill certain positions, then a three-member quorum, which could be two members of one party and one independent or something, could be free to launch whatever investigations it chose, pass the regulations. the regulations you pass can be terribly biased in favor of one party or the other. but also the enforcement process, priorities you choose,
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how you choose to go after people, whether you choose to pursue certain folks can be damaging. as i pointed out oftentimes the punishment is in the process itself. you get bad press. your resources become tied up. this can be on charges that are very poe beau gus that have almost no real foundation in fact. partisan f.e.c. is a very dangerous potential weapon. and it's worth noting that groups, from time to time, the f.e.c. will get criticized, republicans will say something like this is a biased agentcy. and the very first response that always comes out of the mouth of people like some of the organizations represented down the table here is, requires some degree of bipartisanship. they themselves know that's really the only thing that gives the agency it's legitimacy is that bipartisan makeup. mr. comer: follow up on that. this proposal, h.r. 1, also allows the general counsel to initiate an investigation without bipartisan support.
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and issue subpoenas on his own authority. does the bill provide sufficient checks on the general counsel to make sure this significant authority is not abused? mr. smith: i don't think -- there is the possibility for the commission to override the general counsel's actions, but if the commission doesn't act, doesn't have time to act for some reason another, can't muster a quorum, the general counsel can simply plow ahead. it allows the commissioners themselves to dodge any responsibility. they can simply not vote and let the general counsel's recommendation to move forward. note that first general counsel will be appointed by the chair with concurrence of two of the commissioners. those will all be people appointed by this first president who makes that appointment. once he's in, can he stay in indefinitely unless you can muster a majority of vote. mr. comer: the asserted purpose of h.r. 1 is to increase transparency in the electoral process. i think we would all support that. but in what way does creating a
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secretive taxpayer funded blue ribbon panel to lobby the president about whom to appoint to the f.e.c. increase transparency. mr. smith: fascinating part of the bill. one part of the bill requires the creation of this blue ribbon panel that's supposed to make religiouses to the president as to whom he ought to appoint to the f.e.c. it's not clear what the purpose of the panel is since they don't have binding authority. it is interesting the first thing the bill does is take this body out of the requirements of the federal advisory committee act, which exists precisely to make sure it operates transparently, and allow it is to operate in secret. mr. comer: i yield back. mr. cummings: thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for your comments earlier, clear reminder for all of us here as to what our obligations are to all americans. it in 2010, citizens united was settled by the supreme court. in that decision thele majority made it very clear that they did
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not think that decision would have virtually any impact on dark, soft money coming into the election process. the reality is in that same year there was approximately $140 million of dark money that came into the election process. $1.6 2016, it was billion. $1.6 billion. mr. rounda: all because the supreme court decision basically said corporations are people, too. it i don't know about you, but personally i have never held hands with a corporation. i never date add corporation. i never made out with a corporation. and i'm pretty sure no one else in this room has, either. we know that dark money leads to undue influence at best and at worst outright corruption. at the end of the constitutional
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convention in 1787 in philadelphia and independence hall, 11 years after the declaration of independence was adopted by our founders, benjamin frankly was exiting the building, and a citizen came up to him and asked him, mr. franklin, what kind of government do we have? and he answered and said, a republic, if you can keep it. let that be a reminder to all of us as we contemplate the amount of dark money and soft money coming into our government and the ethics that can be corrupted by it, that this is something that our founders never envisioned. now more than ever we do need to restore decency, transparency, and responsibility by introducing ethics reforms for the president, vice president, and all federal officers and employees. this administration has had at
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best a very awkward relationship with ethics and integrity. we must make sure the president and family members do not use the presidency to enrich themselves at the expense of the american people. i know every single one of my colleagues here didn't come to congress to get rich. they came here because they believe in america. in putting service above self and country over party. we can do that by passing commonsense reforms to our political system. met's work together to reduce the -- let's work together to reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen our rules for public servants. with that i'd like to ask mr. shaub, does current law prohibit all federal employees from taking official actions to benefit their own financial interests? and if so, what gray area still exists that need to be addressed? mr. shaub: i think the biggest gap it doesn't cover the president or vice president. it's important to remember that
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that exemption was not supposed to be some kind of perk of high office. but rather a recognition that a president can't really recuse, not participate, in urgent matters of state. which is why divestiture was always the practice until now. i think there are other conflicts of interest in the form of these golden parachutes where people are not sufficiently kept out of matters affecting those companies that give them big payouts. and i think that there is an oversight problem that's become apparent that there just is a limited ability to be able to get into the matter and find the information because o.g.e. doesn't have the authority to do it. i think this bill addresses that. >> the u.s. house is about to gavel in. we're going to leave this house oversight committee hearing on the voting rights and campaign finance bill. watch all of our programs at our website, live now to the floor of the house for debate and vote on a number of transportation related
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suspension bills. reminder that government funding runs out on february 15 as negotiations over border security funding continue today. live house coverage here on c-span. choopchoop summon prayer all in need. armed a with our founder's prayers and dreams. more perfect union, less divided. liberty and


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