Rep. Holt Announces "Honest Leadership, Open Government" Reform Package to Protect Public Trust
January 18, 2006
Washington, D.C. - Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) returned to Washington today to join House and Senate Democrats in unveiling their "Honest Leadership, Open Government" Act, an aggressive reform package to reverse Republican excesses and protect the public trust.
"The Abramoff debacle has joined Teapot Dome and the Keating Five in the lexicon of Congressional corruption scandals," said Rep. Holt. "As long as Congressional rules allow this kind of corruption to go on unabated, public cynicism about government will only grow. Our action today is designed to deal with this problem head on."
Rep. Holt joined his House and Senate Democratic colleagues in unveiling the "Honest Leadership, Open Government" Act in the historic Great Hall at the Library of Congress, where Members of Congress were joined by an audience of groups working to protect the public trust and force Congress to focus on the priorities of the American people.
The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act will focus reforms on four key areas.
* It will close the revolving door between government and lobbying firms by strengthening the ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress and senior government officials after they leave to work in the private sector, and require lawmakers to disclose when they are negotiating private-sector jobs to reveal potential conflicts of interest.
* It will fix the gift and travel rules that allowed the Jack Abramoffs of the world to buy Republican influence in Congress, ensuring that legislation will never again be written in back rooms by industry lobbyists.
* It will put an end to the so-called " K Street project," in which Republicans have limited political access to corporations and lobbying firms who hire Republicans and contribute heavily to Republican campaigns.
* It will increase openness and accountability in government, and allow the public to see exactly what their elected representatives are doing in Washington.
"Public service is a public trust," said Holt. "Our government must not be for sale to the highest bidder. What all Americans need to understand is that the scandals involving the Republican leadership are part of an abuse of power whose scope is unprecedented. When Republican leaders are leaning on trade associations to hire only Republicans or be shut out of the legislative process, those are corrupt acts. When Republican leaders are passing out campaign contributions from special interests on the floor of the House, those are corrupt acts. This kind of institutionalized corruption must be stamped out, period.
"As Senator Obama observed today, Democrats do not have a monopoly on integrity," Holt continued. "The reality, though, is that the Republican leadership has institutionalized a culture of corruption that has directly and negatively affected the lives of Americans. The cost to Americans from legislation written to satisfy the special interests can be seen in recent bills involving Medicare, energy policy, bankruptcy laws, and others. While seniors struggle with a confusing and poorly implemented prescription drug program and middle-class families desperately try to pay higher fuel bills with lower wages, special interests reap rewards and giveaways. By creating laws that provide billions to Big Oil and allow friends like Halliburton to receive no-bid contracts, Republicans in Washington have made it clear that corruption has costs for all Americans dearly. I hope that our initiative today leads to a larger debate about replacing the current pay-to-play system with reforms, such as publicly-funded campaigns. Enacting these reforms is an important first step in restoring voters' trust and ensuring that Congress puts their interests first."