As GOP Votes Down Transparency Rule at Another Committee, Leading Dems Highlight Need to Expose Trump-Style Conflicts of Interest

Note: The headline of this press release has been slightly changed from its original version to reduce confusion. The qutoe from Rep. Bennie Thompson was added to the online version and was not included in the initial release.

Washington, D.C. – The Republican majority on the House Committee on Natural Resources just voted down a Democratic proposal to require that hearing witnesses working for the Trump administration disclose financial conflicts of interest before appearing to testify, continuing a trend that has now repeated itself in four other House committees that offered similar language. Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said the votes, taken together, betray a Republican desire to hide the Trump-style conflicts of interest that may compromise many of their preferred spokespeople.

“Republicans are desperate to cover up the financial relationships of the people they’re asking to help shape policy,” Grijalva said. “The American people deserve to know what it is they’re so afraid of us learning. When the Trump cabinet is already worth billions of dollars and drowning in financial conflicts of interest, the least the majority could do to maintain public trust is set a reasonable standard for hearing witnesses. But hey, if conflicts of interest aren’t important, let’s just ask the witnesses to write the laws too.”

Formally, the Republican majority voted on a party-line basis to reject a Democratic amendment to the Committee’s rules for the 115th Congress that would have mandated that witnesses who are political appointees in the Trump administration disclose potential conflicts of interest related to the subject of the hearing, unless the Chairman and Ranking Member determine there is good cause for noncompliance. The amendment closely mirrored those Democrats previously offered in the House Foreign Affairs, House Energy and Commerce, House Financial Services, and House Homeland Security committees – each of which the Republican majority rejected.

“Republicans talk about draining the swamp, but they consistently vote against transparency. The American people deserve full transparency from the Trump Administration and ought to be aware of any conflicts of interest. It’s deeply disappointing that for the fifth time, House Republicans have voted to keep Americans in the dark.” – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

“Sunlight remains to be the best disinfectant. Politically appointed officials - from any administration - should be made to disclose their financial conflicts of interests and entanglements when testifying, so the American public is absolutely sure that testimony is in the best interests of the country. Ironically, the Republican majority on the Committee on Natural Resources demands that all non–government witnesses testifying before it include a list of all federal grants and foreign payments they have received so that Congress and the American people will know of any potential conflicts or biases. Today, these same Republicans refuse to hold the Trump Administration to this same standard.” – Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.)

“The American people deserve to know if people testifying before Congress are speaking for themselves, or if they’re speaking for deep-pocketed special interests that use academics and think tanks as front groups to push a deregulatory agenda.” – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services

“The sheer number of President Trump’s conflicts of interest will make your head spin. The same is true for many of President Trump’s political appointees, and at a minimum, we should require these appointees to disclose their conflicts before testifying in Congress on critical matters of public policy. It is regrettable the Republican majority does not agree. Our government must operate transparently and our elected officials must be held accountable to the American people. But too often, our Republican colleagues continue to obfuscate the policymaking process in an attempt to mask the underlying forces that shape the GOP’s special-interest agenda.” – Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force

"Democrats have tried to pass transparency rules to ensure government officials who testify before Congress disclose their financial interests.  Not one Republican had the courage to stand with Democrats to require these common sense basic disclosures.  Given that there is an ethical cloud hanging over the new President and many of his nominees, it is disappointing that Republicans refuse to take simple steps to ensure that government officials put the interest of the nation ahead of their own financial interests." - Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security

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