Commentary: Democrats’ H.R. 1 offers boost for accountability

The measure would make voting easier, end dark money and ensure integrity of public officials.

By Rick Larsen

For The Herald

This November, the American people went to the polls and resoundingly rejected the culture of corruption in Washington, D.C.

A new Democratic-controlled House began Jan. 3, with the promise to clean up corruption and ensure public officials work for the people.

To make good on this promise, Democrats introduced House Resolution 1, the For the People Act, focused on restoring accountability in government.

The comprehensive reforms in this bill will do three important things: make voting easier, end dark money and ensure integrity of public officials.

First, the reforms included in the bill will make it easier to vote and strengthen election integrity.

Unfortunately, across the nation, tactics designed to keep people from the ballot box are being deployed, like shortening early voting and voter ID laws. Barriers to casting a ballot often target minorities and are destructive to democracy in the United States.

H.R. 1 works to remove several of these obstacles to voting through national automatic voter registration including online voter registration, expanding access to early voting, strengthening election infrastructure against bad actors and renewing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

H.R. 1 also includes my legislation, the America Votes Act, to allow voters arriving at polls without the identification required by their state to submit a sworn, written statement affirming their identity, as we do here in Washington state. Laws requiring an ID to vote create major barriers for Latinx, African Americans, elderly and transgender individuals and college students.

Instead of looking for ways to keep people from voting, Congress should be looking for ways for people to fully participate in our democracy, which is why the reforms in H.R. 1 are so imperative.

Second, the legislation will end the dominance of dark money in politics.

Elections should give power to the people, not to money and corporations. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the door to unforeseen levels of corporate campaign spending and gave the wealthy an outsized influence on elections. My priority is to overturn Citizens United.

The success of U.S. democracy depends on people’s participation at the ballot box, not the size of their bank accounts.

H.R. 1 will weaken the impacts of the Citizens United decision by requiring all political organizations to disclose donors and increase the power of small donors through incentives and donation matching support.

H.R. 1 works to give the power of elections back to the hardworking men and women of this country.

Third, the legislation will ensure public officials work for the public interest.

This bill imposes stricter conflict-of-interest rules for all public servants, including members of Congress and the president.

For example, members of Congress would be barred from serving on corporate boards. The bill will also require the president and vice president to release their tax returns to guard against any conflicts of interest, making broken campaign promises to release tax returns irrelevant.

I started off the 116th Congress by cosponsoring H.R. 1 to end corruption, strengthen democracy and voting rights and remove dark money from politics. This long-overdue legislation will restore faith in government.

I look forward to passing this bill so Congress can turn its attention to other important issues affecting families across the 2nd District such as addressing Washington’s $190 billion in infrastructure needs, ensuring Northwest Washington continues to be a leader in renewable energy and helping Washington students better compete in a global economy.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat, represents the 2nd Congressional District.

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