Tom O'Halleran Introduces Accountability and Ethics Plan

Throughout my career as a public servant – both as a police officer and an elected official – I have tried to hold myself to the highest ethical standards. While it is reasonable for legislators to have the resources to conduct the people’s business, winning an election isn’t supposed to be a ticket to easy street. Stronger ethical guidelines lead to better government, and legislators more focused on governing.

Increased Oversight:

In its current state, the Office Of Congressional Ethics is toothless.  To enforce strict ethical standards for members of Congress, the Office needs to be fully funded, have subpoena powers, and given unfettered authority to investigate members of Congress in accordance with practices of inspectors general. Congress should vote for increased penalties and to make the results of all ethics investigations public. 

Do Your Job:

No Budget, No Pay

The constant brinksmanship over the federal budget has repeatedly led to workers being sent home without paychecks, businesses out thousands of dollars when they cannot get permits on time, and wasted taxpayer dollars as projects are started, stopped, and started again. When that happens, legislators should share the burden. No member of Congress should draw a salary if the government is shut down.

After a budget is approved, the salary lost should not be reinstated.

Five-Day Work Week

As a state legislator I worked hard to stay in touch with my constituents and I will as a member of Congress, as well. But the legislative calendar includes plenty of breaks, and technology allows us better communication with our districts better than ever before. American families work a minimum of a five-day work week, and Congress should too.  And that work is on actual legislation, hearings, and the like.  The time spent fundraising should not be considered part of the minimum 40-hour work week.

No Special Perks:

Freeze Congressional Pay

At a time when so many Americans have seen their wages stagnate, I believe Congressional pay is high enough, and I’ll vote to freeze it.  This can be reviewed at a later time after Congress has shown it can function and pending an improvement in the U.S. economy.

Freeze Congressional Office Budgets

While in the Arizona legislature, I refused to take new furniture for my office because I thought buying new desks for legislators when we couldn’t buy them for school children was wrong. I support freezing Congressional office budgets so that we spend less time worrying about paint colors and more time working to fix the challenges facing our country.

Reform campaign finance

 There is a need to pass campaign finance reform that limits the influence of lobbyists and special interests in the election process. They should play by the same rules as the rest of the public—with limits and disclosure. There is just too much money involved in the election process. The voice of the middle class and those in poverty is being pushed aside by the influence of a few who hide behind current campaign finance laws. We need to find ways to limit the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Registered lobbyists should not be allowed to be part of campaign organizations and finance committees.

Extend the lobbying ban

The two-year ban on legislators returning to the Capitol as lobbyists is the right idea, but it isn’t enough. I support extending the ban to five years, and including staff in the ban. We must also eliminate the public relations (PR) loophole that allows former members to work in PR at lobbying firms.

Ban luxury trips

Luxury trips paid for by special interests happen under the guise of keeping members of Congress informed. Their real purpose is to give lobbyists special access and to reward legislators for voting a certain way. Those free trips for legislators should be banned.

No first class travel

No official travel that is to be reimbursed should include a first-class ticket.  If a member of Congress wants to fly first class, he or she can pay for the fare using his or her own money (not money from a PAC or campaign-related fund).

Electronic disclosure

Within five working days, members of Congress should be required to disclose their official work schedule publicly in an electronic format. They should also be required to list any meetings with lobbyists and provide an electronic copy of all materials exchanged during these meetings.

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Tom O'Halleran for Congress