Chris Castig Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

How We Drain the Swamp in 2021: The Anti-Corruption Bill (H.R.1)

3 min read

HR1 Drain the Swamp

Both Republicans and Democrats can agree that there is way too much corruption in politics. The centerpiece of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was a promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, cronyism and complacency in D.C. While he may have popularized the phrase, he didn’t invent it.

From Ronald Reagan (R) to Nancy Pelosi (D), numerous politicians across the political spectrum have aligned themselves with a vow to “drain the swamp” [1][2]. In the 2000 presidential election, third-party candidate Pat Buchanan ran as an outsider from the dominant two parties and while at a Harvard University Reform Party rally he admonished that the swamp isn’t a partisan issue, because all of D.C., on both sides, is saturated [3]. Buchanan warned, “Neither Beltway party is going to drain this swamp: it’s a protected wetland; they breed in it, they spawn in it.”

Draining the swamp isn’t a new idea, but it sure is a persistent one.

Capitol Building

At first, the swamp, I believed, was the politicians in Washington. But now the swamp, as it is clearer to me now, isn’t the politicians, as much as it is the lobbyists. And they’ve only gotten more powerful in the past decade. Ever since the 2013 Citizens United decision, wealthy donors, corporations, and undisclosed organizations have been able to pour unlimited amounts of money into American political campaigns. Super PACs and dark money outspend individual contributions, thus acting as a megaphone for corporations, cancelling out the voice of the people. In the end, the swamp wins, and the American people lose.

Thankfully, there is light coming over the horizon: H.R.1 or the “Anti-Corruption Bill” outlines, for the first time ever, meaningful promises to drain the swamp. The bill reforms how campaigns are funded, makes voting more fair, and enforces transparency and ethics. The ultimate goal is to clean out muck, and plant seeds for a better future.

HR1 Bill Overview
H.R.1, For the People’s Act

What exactly does the H.R.1 bill propose?

The Anti-Corruption Bill (H.R.1) promises to do the following:

I. Remove Corrupt Money From Campaign Financing

  • Eliminate undisclosed “dark money” in our elections by banning shell companies which are often used to hide bribes and illegal activities, as well as requiring transparency in all political spending, including ads.
  • Ban the flow of foreign money into our elections
  • Prohibit coordination between candidates and Super PACs

II. Make Voting More Representative of the People

  • Create a national voter registration program to upgrade local ballot systems, and promote early voting
  • End partisan gerrymandering, and create a nonpartisan commission to draw electoral district lines
  • Toughen election security

III. Enforce Ethics, Integrity and Transparency in our Politicians

  • Stop Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
  • Require presidents and vice presidents to divest their assets once elected
  • Require the president and vice president to disclose 10 years of their tax returns, bringing greater transparency to politics

When will H.R.1 become a law?

H.R.1 passed in the House in 2019. Then, it hit a roadblock in the shape of Mitch McConnell. McConnell has refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote calling it a “power grab” [4]. Why? Republicans believe that higher voter turnout would reduce their power. Or to say that another way, they fear that a Senate that is more accurately representative of the American people may not include as many power-hungry swamp creatures the likes of McConnell. And so he, and his cronies, stand in the way.

If Democrats successfully win the Senate majority in 2020 they will have earned the right to bring The Anti-Corruption Bill for a vote. In addition, of the two presidential candidates, Joe Biden is the only one who has committed to supporting H.R.1, and signing it into law.

I feel cut off from my government. Our representatives in D.C. like have demonstrated that they represent their own self-interests over that of the people. As a result, the American people spend more on healthcare than any other developed country, but live shorter lives. The Climate Crisis is currently costing us billions of dollars, and we still haven’t passed meaningful environmental protections to address the issue.

Many of our representatives would much rather do what’s best for their own self-interest, even if it means shutting down the government, rather than working across party lines to do what’s best for the people. The system is corrupt.

In 2016, many of my family and friends cast votes for candidates like Trump and Sanders hoping to break Washington. Breaking the system felt like a safer bet than politics as usual. And yet, four years later, the swamp is as murky as ever.

We need to break the system, not with red hats or rhetoric, but with leadership, and legislation. I’m not promising that *everything* will suddenly be better in the world after H.R.1, but the level of corruption we’ve witnessed the past four years is vile. Nothing can be done inside a system that allows politicians to literally be bought off. It must come to an end. The Anti-Corruption Bill (HR. 1) is the legal vehicle we need to drain the swamp.

Learn to Code Comment Avatar
Chris Castig Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.