WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and the Chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.) officially introduced the Coronavirus Oversight and Recovery Ethics (CORE) Act (S. 3855), legislation that would ensure stronger oversight, accountability, and transparency in the federal government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. Since unveiling draft legislation on May 12, 2020, wide support has grown for Congress to pass the CORE Act which now has endorsements from 57 organizations, 8 Senate original co-sponsors and 18 House co-sponsors.
"Every single penny of taxpayer money allocated by Congress for COVID-19 relief should go to families, communities and businesses in need, period," said Senator Coons. "We have to ensure that aid is going to workers and businesses who need it most, not just the businesses with the most political connections. This important legislation will ensure that inspectors general can do their jobs and provide real accountability for the trillions in taxpayer dollars we're investing to keep our economy afloat."
"The CORE Act would empower independent oversight, protect whistleblowers, and stop government-sanctioned corruption and profiteering to ensure the health and safety of Americans come first," said Senator Warren. "Congress must pass our bill in the next relief package to hold the Trump administration accountable as they hand out trillions of dollars in response to the COVID-19 crisis."
"President Trump's war on independent oversight and his purging of the ranks of Inspectors General is a crisis - a pernicious and ongoing attack on the building blocks of our democracy. Just days ago, Secretary Mnuchin called the recipients of taxpayer COVID-19 relief 'proprietary information' while refusing to disclose which giant corporations and Trump donors had accessed money meant for small businesses. Strong oversight isn't about political punishment, it's about making sure that the people who really need relief are the ones who receive it. Real accountability demands a watchdog, not a lapdog, to stop the waste, fraud and favoritism pervading this Administration," said Senator Blumenthal.
"As families and small businesses struggle to stay afloat during a historic mass unemployment crisis that has seen more than 40 million workers file for unemployment, President Trump and his administration have continued to do what they do best-spread corruption, enrich giant corporations, muzzle the truth and reward their megadonor allies," said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. "I'm proud that our CORE Act boldly responds to this corrupt behavior by ensuring the public knows which businesses are getting COVID-19 relief, shining a light on big-money corporate lobbying for these funds and allowing whistleblowers who see illegal, dangerous or wasteful behavior by corporations and the government to speak out without fear."
"COVID-19 relief must go to those who need it most. American families, small businesses, health care providers and state and local governments are hurting and we must do all we can to block special interests and corporate insiders from gaming the system," said Congressman Sarbanes. "The CORE Act will establish robust oversight and anti-corruption standards to prevent just that and ensure the Trump Administration does not waste taxpayer dollars with giveaways to their wealthy and well-connected political donors."
Joining the CORE Act as original cosponsors in the Senate are Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
"As our country continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that federal assistance is used for its intended purpose rather than line the pockets of corporate executives. Those who come forward to report misuse of funds or wrongdoing must be protected from retaliation or punishment. I am proud to lend my whistleblower protections to this broad package of reforms. Now more than ever, we must maintain the American people's faith that taxpayer dollars are not abused. This legislation will allow us to do that," said Senator Harris.
Joining the bill as co-sponsors in the House of Representatives are Representatives Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-Wash.), and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).
The CORE Act would:
CORE Act endorsements include Accountable.US; African American Ministers in Action; American Family Voices; Americans for Financial Reform; Campaign for Accountability; Center for Biological Diversity; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Clean Elections Texas; Coalition to Preserve, Protect & Defend; Common Cause; Daily Kos; DemCast USA; Democracy Initiative; Democracy 21; Earthworks; Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen, White House Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform. 2009-11; End Citizens United/ Let America Vote Action Fund; Equal Justice Society; Financial Accountability and Corporate; Transparency Coalition (FACT); Fix Democracy First; Free Speech for People; Global Witness Government Accountability Project; Government Information Watch; Greenpeace USA; Indivisible; International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR); League of Women Voters of the United States; Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN); Main Street Alliance; Mainers for Accountable Leadership; Mount Zion Community Outreach; MoveOn.org; National Association of Social Workers; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics; Oil Change International; Open the Government; Oxfam America; Norman J. Ornstein; Richard W. Painter; Patriotic Millionaires; Peace Action; People for the American Way; Progressive Democrats of America; Project on Government Oversight (POGO); Public Citizen; Publish What You Pay-US; Sierra Club; SMART Elections; Stand Up America; Transparency International U.S. Office; James A. Thurber; Union of Concerned Scientists; Voices for Progress; 20/20 Vision; and 350 Humboldt.
"The CORE Act offers commonsense oversight and transparency measures solely dedicated to ensuring that our taxpayer dollars are being awarded to those in need and spent according to the intent of the law," the 57 organizations wrote in their letter of support. "Experience has taught us that corruption and waste can diminish the impact and cost-effectiveness of emergency spending programs by the government. Experience has also taught us that oversight measures like those contained in the CORE Act can prevent that corruption and waste."
"The gravity of our current crisis demands a responsible allocation of bailout funds. The process must be free from conflicts that favor special interests, and that requires robust oversight. CARES Act implementation to-date has been fraught, with loopholes that have allowed large companies to get cash meant for smaller businesses. We must course-correct, and ensure that taxpayer dollars help the public, workers, and protect our health. Public Citizen strongly supports the reforms proposed by Senators Warren and Blumenthal and Representatives Jayapal and Sarbanes for the next relief package to make sure that this happens," said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Public Citizen.
"The funds provided in the CARES Act are critical to an effective pandemic response, which can mean the difference between life and death, but with such massive amounts of money involved, they will be a natural target for fraud and influence. So ensuring these funds go where Congress intended is equally critical. All members of Congress should want immediate and thorough oversight into whether taxpayer funds are being spent fairly and without fraud or influence; these provisions would be a crucial step toward that needed oversight," said Noah Bookbinder, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).