WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, signed onto his first piece of legislation this week for comprehensive ethics and campaign finance reform on Capitol Hill.
Delgado signed onto the For the People Act on Monday — his first order of business since taking office Jan. 4.
The bill is a comprehensive package of ethics reforms addressing voting rights, campaign finance and ethics issues.
“Corporate power is commanding way too much attention in Washington,” Delgado said. “It is time that our government be responsive to the will of the people rather than the interests of a wealthy few and big corporations. This historic bill will help strengthen everyday Americans’ power in our democracy and raise the bar for ethics in Washington.”
The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by the new Democratic leadership Jan. 3 and is supported by a number of Democrats, but lacks signatures from the minority Republican conference.
Democrats took control of the House in the Nov. 6 elections, winning key seats such the state’s 19th Congressional District, which was previously held by Republican John Faso, of Kinderhook. Delgado won the seat with just over 50 percent of the vote.
Throughout much of his campaign, Delgado called for chasing big money out of politics in Washington and suggested he did not take money from large corporate Political Action Committees.
Over the course of his two-year campaign, Delgado raised about $9.2 million. Roughly $3 million came from 68 separate donations of $2,000 or more, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. The freshman congressman’s campaign raised about $1.8 million in 6,303 donations of $200 or less.
“There is no question that these reforms are needed,” Columbia County Democratic Committee Chairman Keith Kanaga said. “This is Delgado doing what he said on the campaign trail and keeping his promises.”
Columbia County Republican Committee Chairman Greg Fingar opposes the legislation, he said.
“These ‘reforms’ actually give more power to Washington,” Fingar explained. “Mr. Delgado doesn’t seem to know that corporations have been barred since 1907 from donating to federal candidates. Voting is not difficult in the United States, as witnessed by a surge in participation both in 2016 and 2018.”
The bill would:
• Create automatic voter registration across the country and restore voting rights to individuals who have completed felony sentences as well as expand voting by mail and early voting.
• Reinstitute key parts of the Voting Rights Act — which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated in 2013 — and aims to end partisan gerrymandering of voting districts.
• Require any organization involved in political activity to disclose its large donors.
• Create a multiple matching system for small donations and reaffirm Congress’ authority to regulate money in politics.
• Designate cops on the campaign finance beat who will enforce laws on the books, tighten rules on super PACs and restructure the Federal Election Commission to break the gridlock and enhance its enforcement mechanisms.
• Expand conflict of interest laws and divestment requirements by preventing members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
• Overhaul the Office of Government Ethics, close registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, provide resources to watchdogs and create a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
“Having federal taxpayers pay for campaigns isn’t a good idea — most taxpayers don’t want their tax dollars to pay for campaign mail and negative ads,” Fingar said. “This legislation is a series of talking points clearly not intended as a serious legislative proposal.”