Turning Trump’s band of thieves into an anti-corruption rallying cry

Rep. Collins and former Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price offer another great example. Although Collins didn’t necessarily exploit his office but rather his position on Innate’s board, there’s a great argument to be made about why Congressional lawmakers shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the boards of publicly traded companies and why they also shouldn’t be allowed to trade stocks either (see Tom Price). 

I’m not going to run through every “corruption card,” so to speak, but let’s just say there’s plenty of material for Democrats to mine depending on the laws they aim to write. And Democrats don’t have to claim Trump associates are criminals in order to use the behavior they’ve engaged in to demonstrate the system isn’t working nor should it be allowed to work this way. Talking about corruption generically also has the advantage of telegraphing the Russia probe without specifically naming it, which Democrats appear loath to do. Good news then, there’s plenty of corruption to go around:

  • On trial: Paul Manafort
  • Pleaded guilty: Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos
  • Indicted: Rep. Chris Collins
  • Officially under investigation: Michael Cohen
  • Reportedly under scrutiny: Roger Stone, Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Carter Page
  • Reportedly corrupt: Wilbur Ross, Ryan Zinke 
  • Resigned due to corruption: Scott Pruitt, Tom Price

And that’s the short list! Not to mention the swirl of laws that could target Trump himself, perhaps starting with the requirement that all presidential candidates disclose their tax returns.

Anyway, the corruption cards could be sticky, I think. They match real life people with real world corruption to offer real legislative solutions. Plus, they would automatically reinforce how extraordinarily corrupt Trump’s closest allies are. Every time a Democrat touted a law, they could discuss, for instance, how Trump fixer Michael Cohen profited from his proximity to power and how that leads to bad public policy or how HHS Sec. Tom Price bilked money from other investors by leveraging his position to make informed stock trades. The examples are ripe for the picking and the polling suggests it’s a home run. 

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in June found that voters were more likely to support a Congressional candidate who pledges to put a check on Trump by a whopping 25-point margin, 48-23 percent. In addition, a July poll from the progressive Center for American Progress showed that voters in 48 GOP-held swing districts are predisposed to believing Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats. 

54 percent of voters in these “light red” districts believe the Republican Party is “more corrupt” than the Democratic one, while 46 percent say the opposite. Among independent voters, 60 percent said the GOP was more corrupt.

And that sentiment appears to be translating into shifting partisan preferences: In past midterms, Republicans won these districts by an average of 14 percentage points; this new poll gives Democrats a 4-point generic ballot advantage.

Just imagine how resonant the anti-corruption message could be if Democrats outlined a series of reforms they planned to pass immediately should they win the majority. It’s kind of a no-brainer in some ways and would provide House Democrats, if they flip the chamber, with the perfect path forward heading into the next legislative session. Even if Republicans retain control of the Senate, House Democrats could say, “This is the agenda we ran on and this is the agenda we’re passing” and then dare Senate Republicans to vote down their voter-endorsed anti-corruption package. Or, what if it cleared miraculously both chambers and actually reached Trump’s desk? Isn’t that a pretty picture.

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