U.S. Senator-elect Amy Klobuchar says ethics reform in Washington will be a key priority after she is sworn in next month and outlined the ethics policy that she will adopt as U.S. Senator.
Klobuchar's ethics policy goes well beyond what current Senate rules require and is modeled on Minnesota's decade-old law that essentially bans any gifts or free meals from lobbyists or their clients.
"This year's election clearly showed that Congress needs to regain the public's trust." said Klobuchar.
She pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry has given tens of millions of dollars to members of Congress in recent years. As a result, Americans have paid more for drugs because the government is banned from negotiating cheaper prices for Medicare and the safe re-importation of drugs from Canada is outlawed.
Likewise, the giant oil companies have curried favor with Congress. As a result, Americans have paid more at the gas pump because the government chose tax breaks to Big Oil over real investments in renewable fuels. Friends of the powerful in Washington have also been able to secure lucrative no-bid contracts with the federal government. As a result, Americans have footed the bill for billions of dollars in cost overruns in Iraq.
"These scandalous practices in Washington have generated bad public policy and wasteful spending," said Klobuchar.
Klobuchar noted that four members of Congress had to resign in 2006 because of criminal or unethical behavior, and several other members remain under a cloud of scandal.
"Our leaders should be focused on public service, not perks," said Klobuchar.
Klobuchar said that she will fight for a comprehensive ethics reform package in Congress, including Minnesota-style restrictions on gifts, travel and meals; greater transparency and limits on "earmark" spending; stronger investigation and enforcement of violations; greater disclosure of all dealings between lobbyists and members of Congress; and tighter controls on the revolving door between Congress and lobbying activities.
Klobuchar said that she expects ethics reform will be among the first issues to be taken up by the new Congress in January.