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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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Reforming Washington & Restoring Our Faith in Congress

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 2:00 pm

Today, I'm extremely pleased that President Obama has signed the STOCK Act into law to make it expressly illegal for members of Congress, their families and staff to trade on non-public information for their own financial gain. This is an important law that ensures members of Congress play by the same exact rules as everyone else and is a strong first step toward ensuring more accountability in Congress.

With poll after poll showing the American people's disapproval of Congress at a record high, it's my hope that the signing of this bill into law will help to begin to restore the trust the American people have in their elected leaders and in government as an institution. But that shouldn't be the end of our fight to reform Washington. There is much more we can do to make Congress more transparent and accountable to the American people to really restore people's trust in Congress again.

For example, we need to pass the Political Intelligence reforms that House Republicans stripped from the Senate's STOCK Act legislation. Additionally, we must end the corrosive influence of big money in our politics. Citizens United was an egregious decision and I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of Senator Udall's bill to overturn the decision through a constitutional amendment. But in the meantime, I'm working to pass legislation that would regulate the amount of money that can be raised and spent on our federal elections. This would include independent expenditures as well as super PACs, and it would allow individual states to set their own standards. I believe deeply that the size of ones bank account should never determine the size of one's voice.

In addition, I'm an original sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, to require any person or organization that pays for an ad to put his, her or its name on it. We should bring the billionaires bankrolling the secretive political super PACs out of the shadows.

I'd also like to see members of Congress make more information easily accessible to the public online -- including our personal financial disclosures, official schedules and earmark requests. When I joined the House, I became the first member ever to put all three of these online in my Sunlight Report and I continue to do so as senator. And let's bring Congress into the 21st Century by posting all public documents online in searchable format. How better to make us truly accountable to those we work for -- our constituents back home.

Finally, I'd like to shine a light on the highest court in the land by televising all open sessions of the Supreme Court. I was extremely disappointed the court decided not to open last week's sessions on health care reform to cameras. I believe strongly that the American people would've benefitted from seeing that debate and that the decisions made by this court, which can fundamentally change the course of our country and affect the most deeply personal aspects of our lives, should not be made behind closed doors.

If we are going to restore the trust the American people have in Congress and rebuild their faith in government, I believe increasing transparency and accountability in many aspects of how Washington does business is imperative. These measures are just a start, but they represent an important step forward toward opening up our government, holding ourselves more accountable, and empowering everyday Americans with the information they need to make their voices heard.

 

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