I have a plan to protect public service and fight political corruption

By Jared Golden, D-Maine

Whether it’s our first responders, servicemembers, schoolteachers, or any one of the other selfless jobs Mainers fill every day, public servants make countless sacrifices in pursuit of the same mission: to serve the common good.

Americans deserve certainty that their government does the same. That’s why I’ve introduced a Government Integrity and Anti-Corruption Plan, a set of 15 bills to reinforce the meaning of public service and restore faith in our political system.

I believe most elected officials get into public service for the right reasons. But in the end, weak guardrails allow too many to leverage their position for their own benefit. At the same time, ordinary people’s voices are being increasingly drowned out by a political system that’s tilted in favor of powerful special interests, multinational corporations and even foreign entities willing to write big checks. 

My plan builds on bipartisan momentum I’ve developed throughout my time in Congress. While some of the proposals make some of my colleagues uncomfortable, I welcome that tension. Reform should be uncomfortable for the political class because the status quo is unacceptable. My goal is to start a new conversation that brings real solutions into the mainstream.

These reforms are based on four simple values: First, public service is an honorable calling that should be about the public good, not personal gain. Second, government service should not be a stepping stone, where experience serving the public is leveraged to build a career serving special interests as a lobbyist. Third, government should regularly make room for new voices. And lastly, politics is best when it centers the people and the public good, not corporations, dark money groups or other deep-pocketed, self-interested political actors.

To protect the public interest and ensure leaders aren’t wrongly profiting from their positions, my plan bars members of Congress and their families from owning or trading stocks except through a blind trust and bars politicians and their families from earning money from foreign businesses. It closes the politician-to-lobbyist pipeline with a lifetime ban on lobbying by retired elected officials and high-ranking military leaders. And it would enact term limits for members of the U.S. House and Senate. 

These restrictions could revive confidence that elected officials’ only interest is the common good. In the cases where officials are convicted of abusing their office, my plan would strip them of their taxpayer-funded pensions. 

However, politicians serving their own interests are not the only challenge to our political system. Dark money groups and foreign actors are spending a record amount to divide Americans and can simply pay for the privilege to spread propaganda in our homes. 

My plan would make dark money groups, social media companies and tax-exempt organizations disclose major funders of political activity and block all foreign spending in campaigns and ballot initiatives, because American elections should be decided by Americans.

Most people also understand that large multinational corporations don’t share the average American’s interests. So why should these companies have more influence than our own communities? 

My plan fundamentally rejects the idea that corporations are people. I’ve co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, which I think has been one of the single most damaging blows to our democracy. Similarly, my plan bans corporations from operating, sponsoring or contributing to political action committees and bars tax-exempt 501(c) nonprofits from spending more than 10 percent of their expenditures on political activity.

With less money pouring in from Wall Street and special interest groups, local communities can finally take back control over the issues directly affecting them — and know that elected officials are hearing their voices. 

The solutions I’ve outlined irritate those who view politics, at least partially, as a way to make a dime. I don’t care if they don’t like me. There’s no bigger indication of a politician’s backward priorities than their fear of losing access to corporate coffers and foreign paychecks. 

The U.S. government exists to serve the American people, and elected officials are public servants tasked with advancing the common good. It’s time to restore that sense of responsibility. You can learn more about my plan here at https://golden.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/golden.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/Golden%20-%20Government%20Integrity%20&%20Anti-Corruption.pdf.

Golden of Lewiston represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.