Smart reforms to deter congressional conflicts


I wish I’d notice this earlier: Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Law and Policy Center sent a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for better personal financial disclosure.

The whole letter is worth reading — it serves almost as a primer on recent congressional scandals — and all the recommendations are excellent, but if I had to pick just one, it would be this one:

2. Better Disclosure of Business Partners and Joint Investors: While current rules call for disclosure of assets of the lawmaker, there is no requirement that co-ownership of closely held investments be disclosed. There have been numerous examples in which special interests have curried improper favors with elected officials by including the official in a purported investment. In these cases, the officeholder typically receives an extraordinary return on investment with little or no risk.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WI) was recently discovered to have had millions of dollars in financial partnerships with three individuals associated with groups that collectively received more than $100 million in federal funds through Mollohan’s assistance. While there were numerous omissions and misrepresentations of Mollohan’s assets in his FDR, he was never required to disclose the names of his business partners. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) along with many other lawmakers – have had financial partners and co-investors who never were required to be disclosed.