How might Trump ‘drain the swamp’?

Donald Trump has unveiled a plan to fix “broken” Washington, a move that he has likened to draining a swamp. What’s his plan?

The businessman-turned-politician has long cast himself as an outsider who can bring much-needed change to a dysfunctional and corrupt federal government.

Here are Mr Trump’s proposals, with the commentary of people who work towards greater transparency in government.

Trump’s plan: Currently, anyone spending less than 20% of their time engaged in lobbying can call themselves an “adviser” or “consultant”. Trump says this a loophole that must be closed.

Expert view: This is a big issue and would be a step in the right direction, says Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause, an organisation which works to promote honest and accountable government. Lobbyists that call themselves something else avoid being subject to disclosure laws that require them to file reports on what they have been doing.

It’s great to see a push to redefine a lobbyist, says Scott Amey, general counsel at Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent watchdog that champions good government reforms.

Trump’s plan: The Republican candidate wants a five-year ban preventing government officials who have recently departed the government from immediately joining lobbying firms. And he wants a lifetime lobbying ban on any former administration officials who have previously worked on behalf of foreign governments.

Expert view: “Trump’s plan is a step in the right direction to end legal influence peddling around government and congressional halls,” says Mr Amey. “But I would like to see him go further to restrict others who have a financial stake in government policies, whether they are coming into public service or heading out the door.”

Extending “cooling off” periods is good too, he adds. “It’s about time that we get serious about ethics and avoid actual and apparent conflicts.”

Trump’s plan: He has called on Congress to change campaign finance laws to stop anyone who lobbies for foreign governments from raising funds for US elections. He has claimed to be “self-funding” his campaign but has long sought public donations, and employed former hedge fund managers to solicit campaign funds from deep-pocket donors.

Expert view: This is not the clarion call campaigners keen to reform election funding have been sounding, says Mr Scherb. What’s more pressing is the “secret” hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into elections through 501(c) organisations, as well as through so-called super PACs.

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling, known as Citizens United, allowed corporations, labour organisations and wealthy donors to donate unlimited funds through groups known as super PACs.
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Trump’s plan: “If I’m elected president, I will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress,” Mr Trump said, without specifying how long the new limits should be.

Expert view: Not needed, says Mr Scherb, because voters get the chance every two years or six years to decide how long their representatives should remain in Congress. A far bigger issue that needs tackling is the manipulation of district boundaries – gerrymandering, he says.

overturn Citizen’s United to end “right of billionaires to buy elections”
sign executive order to require federal contractors to disclose political spending
establish a small-donor matching system so small donors have voice “amplified”