January 30, 2019

Van Hollen, Democratic Colleagues Introduce Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has joined Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and House Ethics Committee Chair Ted Deutch (D-FL) in introducing the Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act of 2019. The bill would require Presidentially-appointed executive branch officials to disclose whether they have solicited donations for or contributed funds to political action committees (PACs), political non-profits, and industry trade associations. Such disclosure would close a glaring ethics loophole that allows executive branch appointees to avoid divulging their ties to shadowy political spending groups and other interests they may regulate as federal officials. 

“The American people have a right to know whether government officials nominated to protect the public interest have been previously engaged in protecting powerful special interests,” said Senator Van Hollen, who has been a leader in the effort to increase transparency in campaign finance. “This legislation will provide crucial transparency to the public on political donations – information they have a right to know. I urge the Congress to immediately take up this legislation, in addition to the other measures I have supported to increase disclosure and accountability.”

The bill would prevent potentially serious conflicts of interest for cabinet secretaries and other top executive branch officials who may be charged with regulating the very donors who propelled their political careers and was included in House Democrats’ sweeping government reform bill, the For the People Act (H.R. 1). 

President Donald Trump nominated and appointed several cabinet officials whose political fundraising activities raise potential conflicts of interest.  Before serving in the Administration and resigning under a cloud of controversy in July, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt drew criticism for his solicitation of funds from fossil fuel corporations for the Republican Attorneys General Association PAC and its affiliate, the Rule of Law Defense Fund. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family have given massive sums of money to influence politics at all levels of government, including pressing for school voucher programs.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, DeVos and her family have donated over $20 million to Republican candidates, party committees, PACs, and super PACs.  Much of DeVos’s political spending has been focused on education issues she now influences as Education Secretary.

Joining Van Hollen, Whitehouse, and Deutch to introduce the bill are Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), and Tom Carper (D-DE) and Representatives John P. Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).