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Public Citizen

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people – not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country. We don't participate in partisan political activities or endorse any candidates for elected office. We take no government or corporate money, which enables us to remain fiercely independent and call out bad actors – no matter who they are or how much power and money they have.

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Congress
RepresentUs

RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.

Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez still discussing revolving door bill

Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?

To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."

The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.

The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.

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Government Ethics
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

GOP Rep. Chris Collins of New York at his August 2018 arraignment on insider trading charges.

Watchdogs want to extend limits on board service by House members

The prohibition on House members serving as directors of outside groups should include nonprofit and private company boards, not only publicly traded enterprises, three prominent watchdog groups say.

The House has barred its members from such corporate boards only since January. The new Democratic majority changed the rules largely in response to the case of Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York, charged a year ago with fraud, conspiracy and lying to the FBI in an alleged insider stock trading scheme involving Innate Immunotherapeutics, a biotech company where he was a board member. (Collins was re-elected last fall and is set to go on trial in February.)

The rules change resolution also set up a pair of House members to help the Ethics Committee recommend by the end of the year whether members and their aides should also be restricted from holding other outside positions.

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Open Government

Watchdog group wants D.C. to see what the states know about revolving doors

Iowa, Maryland and now North Dakota stand out as the states with the hardest brakes on the revolving door between their legislatures and their lobbyists.

That's the assessment of Public Citizen, whose new national study of the rules in all 50 states finds most are tougher or better enforced than what's on the books at the federal level.

The prominent watchdog group is among those hoping to change that — in part by shining new light on the places where it sees ethical governance promoted above special interests' influence.

The limited way that Washington restricts the flow of people from Capitol Hill and the executive agencies down to K Street (and oftentimes back again) is maddening to advocates for a more open and cleaner government — and was raised to new national consciousness by Donald Trump and his "drain the swamp" campaign mantra of 2016.

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Big Picture
True
Alex Wong/Getty Images News

Rep. John Lewis and his fellow Democrats unveiled HR 1 on Jan. 4, 2019. It has since been passed by the House on the party-line vote but isn't going anywhere in the Senate.

With the For the People Act, organizing is paying off

Weissman is president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.

One good thing came from the Supreme Court's horrendous Citizens United decision a decade ago: an ever-expanding grassroots movement to rescue our democracy from the iron grip of Big Money.

The organizing is paying off.

In 2014, it led to a Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It almost certainly would have led to that horrid decision being overturned by the Supreme Court – if Merrick Garland had been confirmed as a justice.

Now, thanks to that movement, the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives made the For the People Act – the top priority legislation considered by the House – a sweeping pro-democracy and anti-corruption package. The House passed the bill, known as HR 1, in March by a vote of 234-193. It is the most consequential pro-democracy legislation of the past 50 years.

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