Some of Trump's actions are downright illegal, while others are just either disgusting or unethical by any measure (or both). To this point in time, much of Presidential or elected officials behavior is based on honor and "protocol" rather than law. Releasing tax returns and health records are not a matter of law; just something most candidates for office have done for many election cycles. Most Americans from all political persuasions would agree that making it a requirement for candidates for public office at the Federal level — this means President, House of Representatives or Senate — to release their income tax returns to the public as part of their disclosures is a must. Releasing a health exam should also be a requirement. We should be taking the health of a candidate into account (mental and physical) to ensure he or she can manage the stress, travel and exertions of the tasks before them.
The terrible things we see happening at the hands of Republicans in every part of the nation all seem to center around ethics — and what we are not seeing from Democrats is a "hard effort" to combat ethical violations with clear, concise and simple to understand ethics reform legislation. It is long overdue that the People must insist that our representatives should spell out some clear ethical reforms in order to give the public what it should have had all along — transparency.
Leaving it up to "good folks" who will "do the right thing" went out with the baby and the bath water the day Trump came down his escalator.
The most obvious of these reforms — the release of tax returns and general health information are just the beginning. A Congressional Representative is just as susceptible to corruption as a President. Christopher Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) just proved that. Is a Governor any less likely to have questionable business dealings? How about someone who serves as a County Executive?
In the simplest way I can say it Democratic candidates need to make it clear that they want to make significant, fundamental changes to the way elected officials run in an election, and legislate — through an ethical compass that always points to transparency and fair play! To have a fair, honest debate, we need to be sure the people we are talking to are honest, ethical people. Ethics and Integrity must obtain as the bedrock principal for a new American renaissance spearheaded by progressive, liberal, moderate Democrats, independents and any sensible Republicans that might still exist.
SOME EASILY IDENTIFIABLE REFORMS
Ethics reform must transcend political affiliation. History shows plenty of Democrats who have engaged in corrupt behavior. Today, it can and MUST be Democrats who sweep into office to present critically needed reforms. Starting with making it the law of the land for candidates to be honest about their own financial situation is a good start.
Why did Hillary Clinton even consider using a private email server? Because she could. While it has been proven that she did not violate the law, her choice to use private accounts brought into question transparency and security. Considering how seemingly easily Democrats were hacked in 2016, that is a legitimate and vital concern. Where she is right in her argument is that many others — including the likes of Jared Kushner — use private email to conduct government business.
So why not put this issue up for a vote in a Democratically controlled Congress? Make it fully illegal for elected officials, government officials and their staff to conduct government business using private email. Make it a clear violation to use a private email server. Go a step further and pass a law that requires all officials to use encrypted, secure communications devices. Be it a server or a smart phone, the enemies of this nation have sabotaged our democratic process because of a lack of security.
REFORMING THE LOBBYIST
Taking on the lobbyists is an very complicated ethical situation. When I call my Congresswoman and urge her to support something, that is lobbying. The difference is I am not being paid, nor am I promising to support her in any way in the future. When professional lobbyists work their Congressional contacts, it's on behalf of special interests. Environmental Groups, The Oil Industry, Professional Associations, the NRA and more. Often times lobbyists come directly from Congress — either the former elected official him/herself or high level aides.
We can start by making it illegal for someone to go from being an elected official directly into lobbying former colleagues. The same can be said for staffers. Military personnel should not be able to leave the military, and work for a lobbying firm the next day on issues that impact the military. That is far too much "insider trading."
That said, someone leaving the military does provide great insight into what the military may rightfully need. Therefore, closing that former soldier out of the process completely and forever would not only be unfair, but shortsighted. Like with so many things, balance is required. The same for someone leaving Congress to join a lobbying firm. There must be a period of time where a former congressperson, aide, soldier or officer is not permitted to become a lobbyist, but also a time when that probationary period ends so his/her expertise can be utilized to best serve the nation.
There are a number of other ethical reforms that should be addressed by Democratic candidates. Campaign Finance reform, election reform, redistricting oversight, and iron-clad House and Senate rules that cannot be subject to change with so-called "nuclear options." All of these instances represent ethical standards that are desperately needed in order for our government to function properly. Democrats can tailor an Ethics Reform package to every campaign this fall — and they should. It is something all citizens can agree is desperately needed.