Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, S. 3357, which would strengthen government ethics and public disclosure rules to eliminate the appearance of, and opportunity for, conflicts of interest, and create a new independent anti-corruption agency. According to her bill summary, the legislation would:
- Padlock the Revolving Door and Increase Public Integrity by eliminating both the appearance and the potential for financial conflicts of interest; banning members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, federal judges, and other senior government officials from owning and trading individual stock; ending the government-to-lobbying revolving door; and eliminating “golden parachutes.”
- End Lobbying as We Know It by exposing all influence-peddling in Washington; banning foreign lobbying; banning lobbyists from donating to candidates and members of Congress; strengthening congressional independence from lobbyists; and instituting a lifetime ban on lobbying by former members of Congress, Presidents, and agency heads.
- End Corporate Capture of Public Interest Rules by requiring disclosure of funding or editorial conflicts of interest in rulemaking comments and studies; protecting agencies from corporate capture; and giving agencies the tools to implement strong rules that protect the public.
- Improve Judicial Integrity and Defend Access to Justice for All Americans by enhancing the integrity of the judicial branch and requiring the Supreme Court to follow the ethics rules for all other federal judges.
- Strengthen Enforcement of Anti-Corruption, Ethics, and Public Integrity Laws by creating a new, independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and by expanding an independent and empowered Congressional ethics office.
- Boost Transparency in Government and Fix Federal Open Records Laws by requiring elected officials and candidates for federal office to disclose more financial and tax information; increasing disclosure of corporate money behind Washington lobbying; closing loopholes in federal open records laws; making federal contractors comply with federal open records laws; and making Congress more transparent.
Of particular interest to our members is Section 316 of the bill which states that it is the sense of Congress that the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) has not been implemented as intended, resulting in federal employees having suffered years of no or below market pay increases, and that the President and Congress should allow the statutory pay laws to be implemented as intended. Under FEPCA the difference between private sector and government pay should not be greater than five percent. According to the President’s Pay Agent, the current gap is over 30 percent.
NTEU has raised concerns with Senator Warren’s office about the scope of the bill, which covers individuals employed in a position at the GS-14 level or higher, as well as those in positions in which the rate of basic pay is equal to or greater than the minimum rate of basic pay payable for GS-14 of the General Schedule. In general, as defined under the bill as senior government officials, these individuals:
- May not own or trade any individual stock, bonds, commodity, future or other form of security; maintain ownership in commercial real estate, unless necessary for a qualified small business; maintain a financial interest in any trust if it includes any asset that may present a conflict of interest or an individual stock, bonds, etc.; maintain ownership in a privately owned or closely held corporation unless it is a qualified small business.
- May sell the above-mentioned assets or securities and invest in a newly created Federal Employee Investment Account managed by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (TSP).
- May not be hired or compensated by a for-profit corporation for one year after leaving service if the corporation made a lobbying contact with the agency in the past two years. For giant banks or companies, the ban is extended to four years.
- Shall submit to the Director of the newly created Office of Public Integrity an annual disclosure that includes all sources of income for four years after departing federal service.
- Are covered by Section 502 of the Ethics in Government Act regarding outside employment.
- May not meet or communicate with, in the course of their official duty, any person to whom they owe more than $100,000 or receive a loan of more than $100,000. Exceptions are provided for commercial debt (residential mortgage, car loans, credit card debt, student loan debt, etc.).
We believe that many of these provisions are draconian and unnecessary, particularly given existing disclosure, employment, and financial restrictions and requirements. NTEU has been working closely with the senator’s office to flag concerns with the above provisions for impacted non-supervisory career employees, and her office has indicated they will continue to work with us as they seek to revise the bill for its introduction in the next Congress that is set to convene in 2019.
I will keep you updated on any developments.