Elizabeth Warren Unveils Bill to Make Former Lawmakers Close Campaign Accounts

On Thursday, Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) introduced a bill targeting so-called “zombie” campaign accounts, with the aim of reducing corruption in Washington.

The Zeroing out Money for Influence After Elections Act would require lawmakers to close campaign accounts and leadership PACs after six months if they don’t plan on running for the same office in the next applicable election cycle before registering as a lobbyist or foreign agent. Those funds could then be returned to donors, given to the Treasury Department or distributed to a charity that doesn’t employ the lawmaker or members of their family.

Currently, unused funds from lost campaigns or retired lawmakers “are ripe for abuse,” Bennet and Warren wrote in a fact sheet on the bill. The Federal Election Commission bans both candidates and lawmakers. using those funds for personal use, they can be donated to advance the individuals’ or their allies’ personal interests. Many times, lawmakers stated that those funds are donated directly to campaign funds. This creates a vicious cycle of influence.

“When a politician is no longer running for office or registers as a lobbyist, they shouldn’t have millions in the bank leftover from their old campaigns,” Bennet said. “These zombie accounts help fuel the pay-to-play culture in Washington that is corroding the American people’s faith in our government.”

There are many ways to make money. well-documented revolving doorThere is a strong connection between public officials and jobs in the private or public sector that can have a significant influence on federal officials and members. When politicians retire, they often take jobs as lobbyists — jobs that may have been dangled in front of them as lucrative opportunities when they left office. Although there are numerous opportunities, some restrictionsThese restrictions are on the revolving-door. often subject toPolitical WhimsYou can still chip away at the problem.

Due to lax rules regarding leftover campaign funds, candidates and former lawmakers have many options when it comes time to use the money. A former lawmaker could set up a foundation in their honor; or, because the fund remains open, consultants and loved ones can still receive paychecks after the politician’s death.

As the Daily BeastIn 2019, lawmakers often take advantage the remaining fund options that are available to them, as was evident in 2019. In 2018, former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia), then a lobbyist angling to put pressure on Saudi Arabia, suggested edits for a letter advancing his own efforts that would be written under Rep. Charlie Crist’s (D-Florida) letterhead. Crist, who is still in office, obliged — and soon after, his reelection campaign received $1,000, taken from Moran’s “zombie” campaign coffer.

The Daily BeastTogether with the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), we found at least 16 more former members of Congress who used campaign funds even after they retired to work as foreign agents. At least nine of these former members used campaign funds directly to support lawmakers they were lobbying.

The ZOMBIE Act “highlights an egregious abuse, as politicians leaving office have the freedom to use leftover money in their campaign accounts to ensure stronger access for their new employer to Congress or to glorify their legacy,” said Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Public Citizen. “This money was donated for a single purpose, electing a candidate, and should not be misappropriated.”

This isn’t the first time Warren has targeted corruption in Washington. Last month, she A letter was sent to major accounting firmsWe are requesting documentation about the revolving doors between top positions at accounting firms and influential positions at agencies like IRS and Treasury Department. PwC staff and executives will often work at government agencies to help shape policies and then return home to their private sector jobs where they are rewarded and rewarded with bonuses and other incentives.