A Pared Down Voting Rights Bill

The following writeup came from Walter Shaub, Senior Ethics Fellow at Project On Government Oversight and former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

The Joe Manchin voting rights bill HAS TO PASS because voting rights are under attack. For that reason, I’ll support it. But let’s be clear about the flimflam the Senate Dems behind this watered down just pulled.

They took out ALL of HR1’s ethics provisions. EVERY LAST ONE! Here are SOME of the provisions they felt were deal-breakers and had to be removed. These are provisions that the House of Representatives passed. But the Senate? No, this was a bridge too far for these Senators. Somebody should ask them why!


  • Require POTUS/VPOTUS + CANDIDATES for POTUS/VPOTUS to disclose 10 years of tax returns
  • Require the Supreme Court to FINALLY adopt an ethics code
  • Void federal contracts with POTUS/VPOTUS & impose penalties for holding such contracts
  • Bar spending federal funds on a business owned by POTUS/VPOTUS, cabinet officials or their spouses/children
  • Authorize Office of Govt Ethics to conduct investigations & issue subpoenas, which can be enforced by a district court
  • Authorize OGE to impose disciplinary action
  • Authorize OGE to require agencies to seek OGE’s approval when resolving conflicts of interest, issuing waivers, or handling other ethics matters
  • Require OGE to create a public online database for any records it approves
  • Require agency ethics officials to provide OGE with a broad array of ethics records and require OGE to post them online
  • Make POTUS/VPOTUS either divest conflicting financial interests or engage in disclose information about the businesses they own
  • Require a presidential appointee to recuse from any particular matter involving a party who is: the POTUS who appointed him/her, the spouse or child of that POTUS, or an entity in which any of these individuals has a substantial interest
  • Clarify that POTUS/VPOTUS must file an annual financial disclosure report in their first year in office
  • Impose limits on nepotists who try to skirt the anti-nepotism law by foregoing a salary
  • Bar top officials for two years from working on any “particular matter” in which the official “knows or reasonably should know” a former employer or former client has a financial interest
  • Extend a 1-year restriction on senior employees trying to influence their former agencies to 2 years after leaving govt
  • Close a loophole that lets outside sources skirt a law against supplementing an appointee’s salary by timing a payment before they start in govt
  • Expand a ban on procurement officers involved in contracts worth >$10M from going to work for contractors they oversaw for 1 year by
    (a) extending it to 2 years +
    (b) also applying it to subcontractors, attorneys, lobbyists and consultants of the contractors
  • Ban former contractor employees who come into government from awarding federal contracts to their former employers for two years
  • Set requirements, limits and procedures for establishing legal defense funds to pay the legal bills of executive branch officials
  • Require OGE to post ethics waivers on its website
  • Reauthorize the existence of the Office of Government Ethics, which lapsed in 2007
  • Authorize OGE’s director to carry over in the position for up to a year after the 5-year term ends if a replacement hasn’t been confirmed
  • Authorizes OGE to communicate directly with Congress to sound the alarm about ethics problems without having to obtain permission from OMB or the White House.
  • Eliminate the requirement that OGE must consult with OPM before submitting new draft ethics rules to OMB
  • Require ethics officials to get training- bar use of federal funds for unauthorized travel on govt aircraft- require DoD to report to Congress on the cost of presidential travel.
  • Require DoD to report to Congress on the cost to DoD of other senior officials’ travel
  • Require disclosures from presidential transition team members
  • Bar political appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists
  • Require political appointees to recuse from particular matters involving a former client or employee as a party or representative for 2 years
  • Bar lobbyists from working for agencies they lobbied in the last two years and bars them from working on the “specific issues” on which they lobbied at other agencies
  • Bar departing officials from lobbying other political appointees for the remainder of the administration
  • Bar senior officials from taking chartered flights.
  • Require members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for amounts paid as settlements and awards under in all cases of sexual harassment
  • Bar members of Congress serving on boards of for-profit entities
  • Require the public posting of all reports by agencies that Congress mandated
  • Require DOJ to maintain a strong Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) investigation unit (and provide funding)
  • Impose a $10,000 fine for failure to register as a foreign agent, $1,000 for failing to file supplemental registrations, bar foreign principal from paying the fine
  • Require FARA registrants to disclose anything of value given by their principal to a federal official
  • Require DOJ to make FARA filings available online in digitized format.
  • Require foreign agents to disclose when online postings come from their foreign principals
  • Require online platforms to remove noncompliant FARA material when notified by the government
  • Clarify that the FARA rules apply whether the agent is acting inside or outside the U.S.
  • Require the Attorney General to report to Congress on legal, policy, and procedural challenges to FARA enforcement
  • Bars lobbying for countries designated by POTUS as engaged in gross human rights violations
  • Require lobbyists to disclose their status as lobbyists at the time they make lobbying contacts and to specify if their clients are foreign entities
  • Require DOJ database for the public to access lobbyist and foreign agent filings
  • …. and more!!

So, please, tell us Senator Joe Manchin, what was so terrible about these ethics provisions that you couldn’t live with them? We’re all ears!

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