Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out dark money 'shaping' questions about reform bill

In a hearing about government ethics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned the spotlight on her colleagues in the room.

Can members of Congress finance their campaigns with the aid of corporate PACs representing industries like fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals, and then legislate according to the interests of those industries?

Yes, members of a panel convened by the House Oversight and Reform Committee confirmed.

And could the power of special interests be animating some of the questions being asked by members of the Oversight Committee? 

“We have these influences existing in this body, which means that these influences are here in this committee, shaping the questions that are being asked of you all right now,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Would you say that that’s correct?”

Yes, answered Walter M. Shaub Jr., former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama, a witness at the hearing. The hearing was dedicated to HR 1 — the "For the People Act of 2019" — a catch-all campaign finance, ethics, lobbying and voting overhaul introduced as a symbolic first piece of legislation after Democrats gained control of the House.


The moment stuck out to Delaney Marsco, an ethics expert and legal counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, a D.C. good government watchdog group, because it helped illustrate the obstacles to passing laws like HR 1.

“It’s a lot harder for folks to get behind get behind ethics reform when they implicate their own practices or hurt their ability to win elections,” Marsco said. “It’s kind of a fox guarding the henhouse situation.”

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