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I believe ethics is something that must be woven into the very fabric of our government. Ethics goes to the heart of our American democracy - to the public trust and respect that is essential to the health of our Constitutional system. When I arrived in the Senate in 2007, scandals in Washington had seriously eroded the public's confidence in government and cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the laws and policies coming out of Congress. Our elected leaders should be focused on public service, not paid perks and privileges.
Minnesotans expect and deserve the highest ethical standards from their elected officials. As I have traveled across our state, Minnesotans have joined me in emphasizing the need for strong ethics rules to restore both integrity and common sense to our nation's capital.
In the last few years, we've made important progress in strengthening the ethics laws and standards for members of Congress and their staffs, including passing the first meaningful ethics reform legislation since Watergate. But I believe there is much more we can do to restore the public's trust in our government.
As Minnesota's senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Setting a higher ethical standard in Washington. I came to Washington determined to restore responsibility and accountability to the way business is done in our nation's capital. I will continue to work to strengthen the ethical standards in Washington to make sure that government lives up to the values and expectations of the American people.
- Making clear Congress plays by the same rules as the rest of the nation. Americans have always believed in the principles of hard work, fair play, and personal responsibility. Those of us who have the privilege of writing the rules have a responsibility to play by them. In these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever for members of Congress to make clear that no one is above the law in this country, least of all lawmakers.
- Reforming outdated rules to allow the Senate to function more effectively. Too often gamesmanship and gridlock have prevented elected officials from doing their jobs. While we've instituted important reforms in recent years, I will keep fighting for additional changes that would increase accountability and transparency in how the Senate conducts its business.
- Strengthening vigilance at our federal safety agencies. In this complex economy, consumers need advocates in Washington, people who will fight to make sure that there is a "cop on the beat" to police the safety and integrity of consumer goods and services. Americans should be able to trust that the products they buy or use are safe - products that have been tested and that meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe and financially secure are being vigilant in doing their job to protect all American consumers. Americans deserve to know that government regulators are working for them - not for the industries they are supposed to supervise.
- Eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending - both at home and overseas. As we continue to work to move our economy forward and reduce our nation's debt in a balanced way, it is critical that Congress exercise fiscal restraint and strong oversight of government spending. I strongly believe that we need transparency and other safeguards to protect American taxpayers' money.
- Restoring reasonable campaign finance rules and increasing transparency of campaign spending by special interests. In 2010 the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that struck down reasonable limits on outside spending in political campaigns and opened the door for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on federal election activity. Special interests have had too much influence in our political process for too long. The only way to address the problems created by this ruling is through the constitutional amendment process that can restore the right of individual Americans to have their voices heard. In the meantime, I believe we must also increase the transparency of outside spending that is seeking to influence the outcome of our elections.
As Minnesota's senator, I have fought for stronger ethics laws and standards in Washington:
- Enacting meaningful ethics reform. I used my first floor speech in the Senate to emphasize the importance of ethics in elective office and the public's trust in government, and in my very first month in office, I joined with my fellow Senate freshmen to push for meaningful ethics reform. With broad bipartisan support, we succeeded in passing the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which was signed into law in September 2007. This new ethics law makes our government more accountable to the American people by:
- Banning gifts from lobbyists. Lobbyists, as well as the corporations and organizations that employ them, are now prohibited from giving gifts (including free meals and tickets) to members of Congress.
- Restricting corporate-sponsored jet travel. Under past rules, members of Congress were able to travel on corporate jets at significantly reduced rates. This practice allowed undue influence by the lobbyists and corporations who arranged for members of Congress to travel in this privileged manner. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act requires members of Congress to pay fair market value when flying on these planes.
- Stopping the "revolving door" in Washington. The 2007 ethics law includes new restrictions on both former members of Congress and senior Congressional staff to limit their ability to profit from their public service and gain lobbying access to their former colleagues. The law also revokes floor privileges and the use of exercise and parking facilities for former members of Congress.
- Requiring disclosure of political contributions and "bundled" contributions by lobbyists. The American people deserve to know who has contributed to the campaigns of their elected representatives. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act requires registered lobbyists to regularly disclose their campaign contributions and to disclose all contributions to campaign committees, charities, inaugural committees, and events to honor or educate elected officials.
- Ensuring greater transparency in the legislative process. The American people deserve to know what their elected representatives are doing in Congress. The 2007 ethics law contains a number of provisions to open the legislative process to greater public scrutiny and understanding - including reforming the practice of "secret holds" in the Senate, requiring that the financial disclosure forms of every member of Congress be posted on a searchable database, and limiting "dead of night" additions to conference reports (when the new matter was not approved by either chamber) unless 60 Senators vote in favor of keeping the matter in the conference report.
- Ending "secret holds" in the Senate. In 2011 I helped lead an effort to make further changes to the Senate's outdated rules, including eliminating the use of "secret holds" that allowed a single senator to anonymously block a bill or nomination from coming to the Senate floor. The bipartisan agreement also reduced the number of executive nominations subject to the Senate confirmation process and eliminated the delaying tactic of forcing the reading of an amendment that is publicly available and has been submitted for 72 hours. These changes will allow senators to better serve the American people.
- Banning insider trading by members of Congress. I was an original cosponsor of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act to prohibit members of Congress or their staffs from profiting from information gained through their Congressional work or service. This legislation was signed into law in March 2012. Prior to this legislation, insider trading by members of Congress and their staffs was not prohibited by the Securities Exchange Act or Congressional rules. This common-sense law will strengthen our democracy and help restore public confidence in our government.
- Increasing transparency and accountability in the Congressional earmark process. I have pushed for strong earmark reforms, including requiring each Congressional appropriations bill to include a list of all projects and the corresponding member who requested each project. In addition, every member of Congress is required to post online for public scrutiny a summary and explanation for every spending project they requested.
- Banning industry-paid travel by staff and members of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Working with Senator Menendez of New Jersey, I introduced an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act of 2008 to ban industry-paid travel, after it came to light that commission members and staff had taken dozens of trips paid for by the very industries they regulate. Our amendment was accepted as part of the CPSC Reform Act and was signed into law in August 2008 as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. As a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee to produce final CPSC legislation, I fought for the tough reforms we adopted in the Senate.
- Pushing for reasonable reforms to campaign spending laws. I've cosponsored a Senate resolution to advance a constitutional amendment that would address the problems created by the Citizens United ruling by restoring the authority of Congress and the states to establish reasonable limits on campaign spending. I've also cosponsored the DISCLOSE Act to require organizations spending money in federal elections to disclose major donors and appear on camera to stand by their advertisements. This legislation would bring greater transparency to campaign spending by outside organizations.
- Combating fraud and abuse. I chair the Judiciary subcommittee which has oversight of efforts to eliminate government waste, fraud, and abuse. I was a cosponsor of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, signed into law in May 2009, to give law enforcement greater resources to root out and prosecute financial crimes like mortgage fraud and ponzi schemes. To help deter health care fraud, I cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help save billions of dollars each year and put an end to waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. The IMPROVE Act, which was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires direct depositing of all Medicare and Medicaid payments made to providers to prevent fraudulent billing practices.
- Investigating wartime contracting waste, fraud, and abuse. During my first year in the Senate my fellow freshman senators and I introduced legislation, included in the 2008 Defense Authorization bill, to create a bipartisan panel to investigate wartime contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This Commission has provided important oversight of wartime contracting, helping us separate the abuse from the good work. In 2011 I cosponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that to put a maximum limit on the taxpayer-funded salaries of defense contractors.
- Strengthening aviation safety standards. In 2009 I chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee to investigate reports that showed that Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were not exercising rigorous oversight of the airline industry. I also introduced the bipartisan Aviation Safety Enhancement Act with Senator Snowe of Maine to toughen airline safety rules and bring an end to the cozy relationship that has developed between airlines and some federal regulators. A number of the important provisions from this bill were included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which was signed into law in February 2012.
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690