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Challenging the candidates to support transparent elections

July 13,2016 20:12

Citizens deserve to know whether their elected officials support transparent elections and clean government. TI-USA urges candidates to put the public's interest first and commit to the principles outlined in our challenge. Transparency is the key to ...

This month, the national parties will gather for their nominating conventions. In addition to selecting their presidential nominees, Democrats and Republicans will debate and adopt their official party platforms. Transparency International – USA, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, believes that transparency and integrity should be defining principles of these platforms. Public trust in government has reached historic lows. Last year, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government to do what’s right. At the same time, campaign spending has reached historic highs -- with anonymous “dark money” accounting for a quickly growing proportion of that spending.More and more, citizens don’t know who is behind the millions of dollars spent on behalf of the candidates who are running to represent them. They also don’t know whether the candidates who are fighting for their votes are also willing to fight for a more transparent elections process and clean government.Our view is simple: Democracy is best served when elected officials are wholly committed to advancing the public interest. TI-USA is asking federal and state candidates and elected officials to stand for integrity and against corruption by accepting TI-USA’s transparency challenge. The challenge’s principles can be adopted immediately, giving candidates a simple and important way to demonstrate their commitment to the public interest. What is the challenge?A transparent campaign starts with the candidate providing full and timely disclosure of financial assets, outside income, and most recent tax returns. As recently evidenced by the corruption scandal involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, citizens care about integrity in government. By pledging to immediately disclose any personal gifts valued at $200 or more, received while running for office or serving in office -- including gifts given to candidate spouses, children, and other family members -- candidates and elected officials can set an honest and open tone with voters.Candidates and elected officials can also take steps beyond what is required by law to run more transparent campaigns. For example, candidates can voluntarily disclose within 48 hours every contribution over $1000 made to their campaign committees and leadership PACs. They can also pledge to support efforts requiring PACs, super PACs, 527s, politically active 501(c) groups, and anonymous companies to do the same.TI-USA’s one-page, transparency challenge also calls on candidates and elected officials to make this information publicly available and easily accessible on their campaign websites.Public servants are the stewards of the voters’ trust. Citizens deserve to know whether their elected officials support transparent elections and clean government. TI-USA urges candidates to put the public’s interest first and commit to the principles outlined in our challenge. Transparency is the key to restoring trust in government.Claudia Dumas is the President and CEO of Transparency International–USA. Marian Currinder is the Policy Director for the government accountability portfolio at Transparency International-USA. 

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