Elizabeth Warren uses Trump family to illustrate need for anti-corruption plan

By Zak Hudak

/ CBS News

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On the campaign trail, Elizabeth Warren often tells voters, "Whatever issue brought you here today, I guarantee if there is a decision to be made in Washington, it has been touched by money." Warren may feel that the nation's ethics laws needed work long before Donald Trump was elected president, but as far as she's concerned, he's the poster boy for the problem.

In a revamped version of her Senate anti-corruption plan published on Medium, Warren called Mr. Trump "a walking conflict of interest" and pointed out examples illustrating his and his family's conflicts and offered a corresponding solution to shut them down.

Warren wants, for instance, to end the practice of ending misconduct investigations into federal judges who step down. She cited an investigation into whether President Trump's older sister Maryanne Trump Barry had violated judicial conduct rules by taking part in potentially fraudulent tax schemes with her family, which came to an abrupt end this year when she resigned as a Third Circuit Appeals Court judge.

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The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has seen the value of one of his companies skyrocket since he took a job as one of Mr. Trump's top White House advisers. This strikes Warren as a prime example of why top government officials should be forced to divest from their privately-owned assets that could create conflicts.

"The goal of these measures is straightforward," Warren wrote in the post, which outlined nearly 100 ways she wants to take corporate power out of the government. "To take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people."

Warren's Senate office said she plans to reintroduce her 2018 bill, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in the coming months with updated provisions similar to those in the plan she released Monday morning.

The country's problems with climate change, gun safety, immigration and nearly every issue facing regular people, Warren says, are the result of corporate influence in Washington. She kicked off her campaign last year with a speech in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the 1912 Bread and Roses immigrant textile workers strike began.

Warren plans to discuss the plan Monday at the Washington Square Park speech, which the campaign said is significant because it is near the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where a 1911 fire sparked a labor movement led largely by immigrant women.

The event, held in deep-blue Manhattan, is likely to attract a massive audience, estimated to be 8,000 to 10,000, according to a spokesperson for NYC Parks. Warren has already drawn the largest crowd of the Democratic field so far, with 15,000 attending a town hall in Seattle last month, according to the campaign.

Last week at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention, Warren's crowded buses from throughout the state and from Massachusetts dwarfed the fan clubs of other candidates.

This is the fourth plan Warren has released aimed at tackling corruption, and it's the broadest, covering government from the White House to the Supreme Court. Although this proposal offers nearly 100 individual measures to fight corruption, many of them echo points Warren has made on the campaign trail.

Warren draws loud applause when she says she wants to "end lobbying as we know it." In this latest plan, she proposes banning lobbying for foreign entities and lobbyists from participating in fundraising events. It would additionally impose a tax on excessive lobbying, force lobbyists to disclose their meetings with officials and expand the definition of lobbyists to include everyone lawmakers.

Warren's plan also aims to "close and padlock the revolving door between government and industry." She would go as far as making it illegal for elected officials to become lobbyists at any point in their lives. Warren also proposes holding the Supreme Court to a code of conduct and establishing a new U.S. Office of Public Integrity to strengthen ethics enforcement.

She would also clarify the definition of "in-kind" campaign contributions to keep candidates from getting assistance from foreign countries or receiving hush money payments.

"I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington," Warren wrote. "I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I'm President, that's exactly what I'll do."

As promised, Warren's anti-corruption plans are more extensive than any other candidate's. But like many of her other plans, they would require not only a Warren victory in the presidential race, but also Democratic control of the House and Senate. House Democrats have passed their own anti-corruption bill, HR 1, in March, but it hasn't reached the Senate floor, and Republicans are unlikely to let it have a vote. Even so, several of the provisions would be likely to face legal challenges. But when Warren talks about changing campaign finance law, it's clear she's ready to go to war.

"Reforming the money game in Washington isn't enough," she wrote. "We also need to comprehensively clean up our campaign finance system. That's why I've also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United."

First published on September 16, 2019 / 4:17 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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