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Congressman Courtney Votes to Pass Comprehensive Bill to Protect American Democracy: H.R. 1, the For The People Act

March 4, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) joined the House of Representatives in voting to pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a package of pro-democracy and anti-corruption reforms that would protect clean and fair elections, promote election integrity and ensure election security, remove dark money from politics, impose a higher standard of ethics for elected officials, and more. Rep. Courtney is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Our American democracy has been buffeted for too long by big money, special interests, and by actors who are knowingly, malignantly seeking to undermine the faith and integrity of our electoral system,” said Congressman Courtney. “If a 2020 election season bloated with unaccounted for big money and rife with disinformation wasn’t the tipping point, then the gut-wrenching attack on our nation’s Capitol that sprang from it should have been—Americans deserve to have faith in their democracy, and it’s long past time to push back. The For the People Act would shine a light on dark money in politics and ban donations from foreign nationals and companies, tighten standards and accountability for elected officials, would finally mandate paper ballots nationwide, and would bring our election system into the 21st century with online registration and bolstered security. Voting to advance this legislation was a vote for the American people and for the future of our democracy.”

H.R.1, the For the People Act, is the House Majority’s transformative set of anti-corruption and pro-democracy reforms that seek to combat the dominance of big money in American politics, ensure fair elections, and put the American people—not special interests—first. Highlights of H.R. 1 include:

RESTORING FAITH IN DEMOCRACY: ENSURING CLEAN AND FAIR ELECTIONS 

  • Automatic voter registration – requires states to automatically register eligible voters, and would implement automatic voter registration and same-day registration nationwide.
  • Promotes online registration – requires states to make voter registration available online, and to enable voters to update their registration information online.
  • Early and Absentee Voting – implements nationwide early voting for federal elections, and establishes a national standard for voters to use an absentee ballot and vote by mail. Additionally, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill requires that all voters living in any region with an emergency declaration within five days of an election be provided a ballot to print out at home (for example, through email) but would be required to physically return the ballot. H.R. 1 requires that all mail-in ballots cast prior to election day be processed by election officials starting 14 days prior to the election, and if there is a signature mismatch, the bill requires the jurisdiction to contact the voter and provide an opportunity to “cure” the ballot.
  • Paper ballots – requires voting systems in every state to use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots that are counted by hand or with an optical recognition device, and are able to be preserved, recounted, and audited.
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering – requires states to adopt independent redistricting commissions for the purposes of drawing Congressional districts instead of allowing politicians to pick their voters.
  • Election security measures – requires the Department of Homeland Security to designate election infrastructure as critical and assess threats to the system at least 180 days prior to a federal election; the bill would also create a competitive grant for election infrastructure security—the University of Connecticut has a Center devoted to these issues.
  • False and Misleading Practices – prohibits intentionally communicating false and misleading information about elections, and other deceptive practices

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: ENDING THE DOMINANCE OF BIG MONEY IN POLITICS

  • Foreign money ban – prohibits political contributions from foreign companies or individuals.
  • Unmasks dark money – 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 up the so-called “nesting doll” sham that currently allows  big-money contributors and special interests to hide the true funding source of their political spending.
  • Honest ads – standardizes disclosure requirements for political contributions made by corporations, unions, and other groups and requires online political advertisements to include certain disclosures.
  • Supports ending Citizens United – affirms that the Constitution should be amended to clarify Congress and the States have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.
  •  Expands authorized campaign expenses – allows candidates to use campaign funds to pay for childcare, elder care, and health insurance premiums to make it possible for candidates with modest means to run for public office.

ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY: ENSURING PUBLIC OFFICIALS WORK FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST

  • Foreign agents – increases resources for the Foreign Agents Registration Act office within the Department of Justice, and creates a foreign agents investigation and enforcement unit.
  • Expands lobbying disclosure requirements – requires those that provide counseling in support of lobbying contracts to register as under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
  • Presidential appointees – requires all Presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any matter in which a party is the President, the President’s spouse, or any entity in which the President or the President’s spouse has a substantial interest. Also requires individuals nominated or appointed to Senate-confirmed positions and other senior-level positions to disclose contributions by, solicited by or made on behalf of an individual.
  • White House Ethics – requires all ethics waivers granted to those in the Executive Branch be disclosed to Congress and the public, and requires presidential transition team members to disclose positions they held outside the federal government for the previous year, including paid and unpaid positions. The bill would bar presidential transition team members who do not disclose this information from working on transition activities.
  • Taxes and the President – requires sitting Presidents and Vice Presidents, as well as candidates for President and Vice President, to disclose their tax returns to the FEC, and would require them to divest any financial interests that create a conflict of interest within 30 days of taking office.
  •  Slowing the special interest revolving door – prohibits Members of Congress from leaving government service and attempting to influence employees in their former agency or office for two years.
  • Congressional conflicts of interest – forbids Members of Congress from serving on for-profit, corporate boards and codifies rules prohibiting Members, their family and staff from using their official position to benefit their own financial interests.
  • Ends taxpayer-settled harassment lawsuits in Congress – prohibits Members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to settle any case of employment discrimination that the Member was personally involved in.

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