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Public Statements

State Ethics Law Protection Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. QUIGLEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce my reintroduction of the State Ethics Law Protection Act. At a time when indictments and allegations of ethics violations of our elected leaders have become all too common, now more than ever we must use every tool at our disposal to fight corruption.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government is currently preventing numerous States from using one of the most important tools we have to fight cronyism, corruption, and waste. My home State of Illinois, which is no stranger to these issues, along with several other States around the country, has taken a stand against corruption by passing laws to eliminate shady pay-to-play contracting.

Pay-to-play politics is the practice of trading campaign contributions for lucrative government contracts. Pay-to-play practices erode the integrity of our public works projects and allow individuals to profit at the expense of American taxpayers. It is the most common example of government corruption.

Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest to solve. Anti-pay-to-play laws are designed to ensure that the competitive bidding process for government contracts is open and fair, not rigged or otherwise biased by lining the campaign pockets of those responsible for awarding the contracts.

Amazingly, a loophole created in a previous administration in the Federal Highway Administration's contracting requirements is making it difficult, if not impossible, for States to implement these anticorruption laws. The Federal Government has threatened to cut off highway funds to any State that passes an anti-pay-to-play law. The Highway Administration's competitive bidding requirements have been interpreted to mean that States can't weed out corrupt contractors.

Clearly, this was not the intent of Congress when it passed these requirements. That is why I'm reintroducing the State Ethics Law Protection Act. This important measure simply amends the Federal Highway Administration's contracting requirements to allow States to pass these important laws. It ensures States that do pass anticorruption laws do not face financial penalties for doing so.

It is time for us to make it clear that Congress supports the right of States to fight corruption as they see fit. States have the right to ensure their contracting conforms to the highest ethical standards and offers the best value to taxpayers. It is not the Federal Highway Administration's place to second-guess a State on how to best ethically award contracts. States like Connecticut, New Jersey, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have all passed laws like Illinois to root out this kind of blatant corruption.

These States should be applauded, not punished, for doing the right thing. By amending the Federal Highway Administration's contracting requirements, we can ensure that States have every tool at their disposal to encourage transparency and accountability. Our States have shown they are ready to reform. It is now our duty to ensure they have the ability to implement these reforms.

I am often asked what the true cost of corruption is. I will tell you, in my view, coming from Illinois, it is the loss of the public's trust. We cannot lead without this trust. And at this critical juncture, we must do all we can to restore trust and inspire the confidence of people across this country.

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