In his joint address to Congress last night, President Trump laid out a broad agenda, from jobs and health care, to taxes and national security, for change in Washington. However, it failed to address the real culprit behind gridlock in Washington: the undue influence moneyed interests have on decision-making by elected and appointed officials.
While the executive order on ethics issued in January is a first step, President Trump has yet to lay out the meaningful changes needed to sever the link between large campaign donations and policymaking, the real key to ‘draining the swamp’ in Washington. The order does little to rein in the power of K Street. It does not prevent lobbyists from entering the administration, does not include a hard two-year restriction after administrative officials’ end of service and contains exceptions that could ultimately weaken the prohibitions on executive branch officials who leave to lobby.
Here are just a handful of actions that President Trump could take immediately to begin restoring Americans’ faith in their government:
First, President Trump should promote transparency in government contracting. Just this week, the Supreme Court again dismissed a challenge to the disclosure of political expenditures. The opportunities for cronyism in the government contracting process in Washington are rampant. A new executive order should require government contractors to disclose their political giving.
Second, President Trump should announce that his cabinet secretaries will not attend political fundraising events during their time in office. The highest-ranking government officials should focus on the important and demanding jobs they were chosen to do, rather than being used as props to raise money for re-election campaigns and provide big donors valuable “face time.”
Third, President Trump should publicly disclose meetings between outside groups and individuals and White House officials. Americans have a right to know who is trying to influence the administration in power and its policymaking process.
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Implementing these important transparency policies would provide citizens with the appropriate information about who is trying to influence the administration in power.
President Trump spoke of implementing policies to fix the engine of the American economy. He also needs to begin fixing our broken political process and get to the heart of what’s stalling that engine: political dysfunction that saps innovation and economic vitality.