- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sen. Michael Bennet on Thursday rolled out a plan designed to curb the influence of money in politics and bolster voting rights, among other priorities, saying that making headway on issues like climate change and taxes will require big changes to the political system itself.

“I think we’ve got an incredible opportunity to use this moment to elect a president who can lead us into an era of new politics, to fix our democracy, reform the way that Washington works, and build confidence in our exercise in self-government,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said on a conference call with reporters.

He said President Trump has failed to live up to his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

“He has not drained one ounce of the swamp since he’s been here. All he’s done is amass[ed] a Cabinet of billionaires who wrote a bunch of policies to cut their own taxes,” he said.

Mr. Bennet is seeking a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision on political contributions.

In a bid to neuter the effect of wealthy political donors, he also wants to set up a voluntary “small-donor” matching system for federal elections that would be paid for with a “surcharge” on penalties for corporate and white-collar crime.

Mr. Bennet’s plan would impose new disclosure requirements for political groups, and trim the membership of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from six commissioners to five in an effort to head off 3-3 deadlocks.

He would also require social media companies to disclose “the source and scope of all political ads” on their platforms.

The Colorado Democrat said the vast majority of Americans blame money in politics and wealthy political donors when they get asked about the ongoing dysfunction in the nation’s capital.

“I think one of the reasons why the American people put a reality TV star in charge of this government is they had so little faith in the system,” he said.

Mr. Bennet would also ban members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists, or representing foreign governments or foreign political parties.

Part of his plan also includes reforms to the voting process, including automatic voter registration, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and an expansion of early voting.

He wants to support “ranked choice” voting, where voters rank their candidates by preference. The votes are re-tabulated based on those rankings if a candidate doesn’t win a majority of votes.

“I think it takes a president to push this stuff,” he said. “A lot of this will take Congress’s participation, but I think that if we were putting this on the floor for a vote today - if you could do it in a world where you didn’t have Mitch McConnell in your way - you could pass it.”

He would also require the president, vice president, and candidates for both offices to release 10 years of tax returns and “disclose and divest” any potential conflicts of interest.

Mr. Trump has resisted releasing his own tax returns despite a congressional subpoena, and the Justice Department has said the IRS would be breaking the law if it handed them over without the president’s consent.

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