Cleaning Up Corruption in Washington – For the People

March 11, 2020

Dear Friend,

One year ago this week, the U.S. House of Representatives made history by passing H.R. 1, the For the People Act – a transformative anti-corruption and clean elections bill that would rebalance power in Washington, uproot entrenched special interests and put the American people back in charge of our democracy.

The public has grown tired of the status quo in Washington, where wealthy donors and corporate special interests write the checks and call the shots. H.R. 1 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite the rules in our nation’s capital and put everyday Americans back in charge.

But over in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have blocked this historic reform effort for more than a year, in a cynical attempt to maintain the corrupt status quo in Washington and to keep power in the hands of wealthy donors and corporate special interests. It’s time for Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to end their stonewalling and bring H.R. 1 up for a vote.

For a deep dive into the bill’s key provisions, see below.

  • Ensuring clean and fair elections.
    • Improving Access – H.R. 1 expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting. Patchwork and cumbersome registration systems, disenfranchisement and limited voting hours are roadblocks to a more participatory democracy. H.R. 1 will create automatic voter registration across the country; ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored; expand early voting and simplify absentee voting; and modernize the U.S. voting system.
    • Promoting Integrity – H.R. 1 commits Congress to build the record necessary to restore the Voting Rights Act as embodied by House passed H.R. 4; commits Congress to delivering full congressional voting rights and self-government for the residents of the District of Columbia, which only statehood can provide; prohibits voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere; and ends partisan gerrymandering so that voters pick their politicians instead of the other way around.
    • Strengthening Security – H.R. 1 protects the integrity of our elections by enhancing federal support for voting system security, particularly paper ballots, increasing oversight over election vendors, and requiring the development of a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions.
  • Ending the dominance of big money in our politics.
    • Guaranteeing Disclosure – H.R. 1 shines a light on dark money in politics by upgrading online political ad disclosure and requiring all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors. H.R. 1 also breaks the so-called ‘nesting-doll’ sham that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide the true funding source of their political spending. 
    • Empowering Citizens – H.R. 1 creates a multiple matching system for small donations, which is paid for by corporate lawbreakers and high-end tax cheats. This new 21st-century system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people. H.R. 1 also reaffirms that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics, pushing back on the wrong-headed Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.
    • Strengthening Oversight – H.R. 1 ensures that there are cops on the campaign finance beat that will enforce the laws on the books. H.R. 1 tightens rules on super PACs and restructures the Federal Election Commission to break the gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms. It also repeals Mitch McConnell’s riders that prevent government agencies from requiring commonsense disclosure of political spending.
  • Ensuring public servants work for the public interest.
    • Fortifying Ethics Law – H.R. 1 breaks the influence economy in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slowing the revolving door, preventing Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidents to disclose their tax returns.
    • Imposing Greater Ethics Enforcement – H.R. 1 gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, closing loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, ensuring watchdogs have sufficient resources to enforce the law and creating a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

The American people want real change – not talking points, not gimmicks, not false promises. Democrats get it. That’s why we’re determined to do whatever it takes to restore our democracy and give Americans their voice and their power back.

It’s time for Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans to get out of the way and let the people reclaim their democracy.


Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District