The Elected Official Accountability Act

I feel like we are seeing the need for our elected officials to be accountable. How do we make that happen?

They swear an oath, but I have yet to see elected officials be held accountable to the oath they swear.  I get that Nixon was held accountable, but that is how rare it is, to see that happen. Nixon is notorious, not because he was President, but because he was a President who was held accountable.

If elected officials were consistently held accountable, I would think Senator McConnell would no longer be in office.  He publicly stated that his top priority was to make President Obama a one term President. He publicly stated that his agenda was to make sure the President was not successful in anything, good bad or otherwise.  That is not what he was elected to do.  We don’t elect people to just obstruct progress, just because it comes from the other side of the aisle (or because you’re racist).  He has perverted the laws of Congress, to be spiteful, and prevent our country from moving forward.

I say no more. I say, people should run for office, and there should be better requirements for those who choose to run.  I say, if you are an elected official, you should be held to a standard.  We have previously held elected officials to a higher standard, and they self-policed. They held themselves to that standard.  In the past 10-15 years, this has eroded, as despots have learned they can funnel money and influence through campaign contributions. They can propose and stall legislation, not for the benefit of the people they serve, but the lobbying firms they will eventually retire to.  It’s fraught with conflict and impropriety, and it is on us citizens to demand it be corrected.

I am certain that political scholars can come up with a better, and more comprehensive list, but I want to get something down on “paper”. I want us to look at what should be passed, as laws, for those running and elected to public office. If you choose to serve in our government, you should be held to legal accountability, not just an intangible “should”. Breaking those laws should involve a thorough investigation, and if found guilty, jail and/or fines. Fines must include cost to taxpayers, including the investigation costs. There must be tangible repercussions, or our government will be filled with kleptocrats.

Candidates’ Requirements

  • All candidates are required to disclose the previous 10 years of tax returns
    • This includes all personal, business and charitable organizations
  • Complete a government competency exam
    • A basic application, with questions to the level of government office they are seeking
    • Nothing too hard, maybe 50 questions
    • Competency and basic knowledge should be a requirement for seeking public office
  • Clean record
    • Any criminal record should be reviewed by a bipartisan elected body, who decides whether the crimes deem them unfit for public office
      • DWI’s?
      • Domestic Abuse?
      • Fraud?
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may favor or disfavor by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)

Elected Officials (All)

  • Expand the oath to include (to the effect) “I will not knowingly lie or mislead the American public; my constituents”
  • Legislative representatives are prohibited from approving raises or setting their own salaries
    • It should be a co-equal branch of government
    • It should never be more than 2x the average salary in America
    • If the legislative body does not submit a timely budget or adds to deficit, this should preclude them from getting a raise
  • Legislative representatives are to be compensated during elected term, not after
    • Life-long pensions create an incentive to abuse public office
    • In no private employment, do spouses get life-long benefits of an employee. It’s insane that our government would use precious tax dollars to give unearned pensions to the spouses of elected officials. That money could go to veterans and the homeless population
  • No law may be passed that excludes representatives from following the laws of ordinary citizens
    • This includes actions like passing health care laws, with provisions that exclude representatives from being bound to it
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for office costs (remodels, furniture)
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for travel
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may influence by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)
  • Upon leaving public office, representatives may not seek employment with lobbying firms or any entity that contributed to their elected office, for 5 years (non-compete)

I would love a legislator to propose an actual bill to this effect. I want elected officials to be what our founding fathers envisioned they be.  I always thought they wanted elected officials to be us.  It was meant to be one of our patriotic duties.  Represent the people, and then return to private life.  It was never meant to be a career, although I don’t have a problem with that. If you want to spend your life representing people, I don’t think that is a problem, but I do think we need accountability, transparency and an assurance that our representatives aren’t conflicted with kickbacks and quid pro quo improprieties.

One of the critical aspects to ensuring our democracy can thrive and survive, must be that our elected representatives be legally bound to the service they are elected to hold. This is not a private job, at a private company, where they can set their own standard.  Our government must have a standard, and it should be one that the public can know and trust in. It should be one of transparency and one of a responsibility to the people, as opposed to their own benefit from holding office.

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