Adam Schiff on Government Reform

Democratic Representative (CA-29)


Need to pass historic voting rights protection legislation

First, we need to pass historic voting rights protection legislation--H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Second, we must pass my landmark reform package, The Protecting our Democracy Act. It's an ambitious set of reforms that would enshrine our democratic guardrails into law. No longer a suggestion. But law. We must ensure that no future president can do the kind of damage Trump has done--ever again.
Source: 2024 California Senate campaign website AdamSchiff.com , Apr 9, 2023

Trump's authoritarianism poses an existential danger

In the year and a half since [Trump's first impeachment], I have thought a lot about what I might have said differently to persuade the senators of what a danger the now former president posed then, and poses still. Whether there was any course we might have taken to prevent what was coming: a violent insurrection at the Capitol, a wave of antidemocratic efforts, and a full-out assault on the truth.

There is now a dangerous vein of autocratic thought running through one of America's two parties, and it poses an existential danger to the country. In this we are not alone. All around the world, there is a new competition between autocracy and democracy, and for more than a decade, the autocrats have been on the rise. This trend toward authoritarianism began before Donald Trump and will not have spent its force when he steps off the political stage for good. It will require constant vigilance on our part to ensure it does not gain another foothold in the highest office in our land.

Source: Midnight in Washington, p. xvi, (on impeaching Trump) , Oct 12, 2021

Congress responsible for allowing new authoritarianism

The actions of our government, like the broader sweep of history, are not taken on their own; they are not the product of impersonal forces operating without human actors and agency. We made Donald Trump possible. We the voters, yes, but we in Congress even more so. He would not have been able to batter and break so many of our democratic norms had we not let him, had we not been capable of endless rationalization, had we not forgotten why we came to office in the first place.

Midnight is the darkest moment of the day everywhere in the world. But it is also the most hopeful, because everything that comes after holds the promise of light. America has a genius for reinvention, and we must use it. From the same forces of bigotry that divided and nearly defeated us in the Civil War, yes, but from something new to the American landscape as well: a dangerous experimentation with a uniquely American brand of authoritarianism.

Source: Midnight in Washington,by Adam Schiff,p. xv-xvi, (on Jan. 6) , Oct 12, 2021

Can't guard democracy against those who won't uphold oath

[On the events of January 6th]: Donald Trump bore responsibility for the mayhem that took place at the Capitol that afternoon. And every day that he would remain in office, he represented a clear and present danger to our democracy. But what took place inside our chamber with the challenge to the electors [--where the Electoral College certification was challenged by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ); the Senate voted 93-6 against the objection, and the House voted 303-121 against the objection--], was every bit as much of an attack on our democracy. The assault on our constitutional order was inspired by people wearing suits and ties and cloaked in the genteel language of congressional debate, but their purpose was no less ominous. We can fortify the defenses of the capitol. We can reinforce the doors and put up fences. But we cannot guard our democracy against those who walk the halls of Congress, have taken an oath to uphold our Constitution, but refuse to do so.
Source: Midnight In Washington, by Adam Schiff, p.16-17 , Oct 12, 2021

Congressional Republicans refused to challenge Trump

With remarkable speed, Donald Trump had undermined the foundation of our democracy and projected his warped vision of America onto the world. He had also quickly remade one of America's biggest political parties in his own flawed image, and my Republican colleagues weren't outraged enough to try and stop him. So many of the principles they had claimed to hold dear had fallen away in service of this man, and an effort to preserve their places in office.

Our political system depends on Congress to hold the president accountable. When the founders established the three branches of government, they anticipated friction between them. By allowing each branch to restrain the others, they created a barrier to concentrated power. But in the age of Trump, the founders' check on the executive branch was failing, and Congress was subordinating itself to the president. Republicans in Congress would not challenge a president a president of their party even as he denigrated and demeaned them.

Source: Midnight In Washington, by Adam Schiff, p.161 , Oct 12, 2021

We came so close to losing our democracy

Looking back on these events, I am struck not only by the inevitability of the violent insurrection, but how perilously close Trump came to overthrowing the Government and remaining in office without being elected. The Texas Attorney General filed suit to overturn the election results in four other states, and more than a hundred members of the House filed an amicus brief in support. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. What if they hadn't? What if the Republican legislature in Pennsylvania had sent an alternate slate of electors to Congress to be counted? What if Georgia's [Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger had said yes? The brutal assault on the Capitol was never going to succeed in permanently stopping Congress from certifying the results, but only because the House was in Democratic hands. What if Kevin McCarthy had been speaker, and the majority of the House had voted to overturn the decision of the majority of Americans? We came so close to losing our Democracy, so very close.
Source: Midnight In Washington, by Adam Schiff, p.453 , Oct 12, 2021

The second impeachment was not a continuation of the first

[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi called me to tell me that she was picking a whole new team of managers to try the [second impeachment] case, led by Jamie Raskin. It was exactly the right decision. Had I played a prominent role, Trump and his allies would have made it about me, not him. The second impeachment was not a continuation of the first [impeachment trial, which Rep. Schiff led], even if the verdict in the first had led inexorably to the second. The new team, like the first, represented a beautiful cross section of the country and all its diversity. And Raskin was a beautiful choice to lead--a brilliant constitutional scholar, with a warm and affable air, and the ability to give the impeachment a non-partisan cast. Yet asking Raskin to take on the responsibility of the impeachment was no small task; he had just gone through the most terrible thing any parent could endure-he had lost his beloved son Tommy to suicide.
Source: Midnight In Washington, by Adam Schiff, p.455-456 , Oct 12, 2021

Under Trump, Congress saw its oversight powers emasculated

No institution suffered more under Trump presidency than the Congress, which saw its oversight powers emasculated , and its impeachment powers rendered obsolete. Shockingly, many of the injuries to the Congress were self-inflicted, when members of the president's party abdicated those powers to the executive. In the wake of Trump's many abuses of office, I introduced a broad set of reforms--the Protecting our Democracy Act--to strengthen the guardrails once again, by giving previous norms the force of law. Even so, they may not be enough when faced with an unscrupulous president who enjoys a zealously partisan majority. The founders warned that their carefully calibrated system of checks and balances might give way. Even our greatest capacity to constrain the administration, by cutting off its funding, has been willingly abdicated when the president demanded it -- [such] as when he diverted military funding to build a wall that Congress had rejected.
Source: Midnight In Washington, by Adam Schiff, p.465-466 , Oct 12, 2021

Congress must act to protect elections from Russians

You would not tell us the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form of money laundering, so we must do so.

The Russians massively intervened in 2016 and they are prepared to do so again in voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.

We must make all efforts to harden our elections infrastructure, to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it and to make them pay. Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country, unethical and wrong.

We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do and that this centuries-old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.

Source: Congressional Testimony on Mueller Report , Jul 24, 2019

Supports CIA report: Russia interfered with 2016 election

The House's Russia investigation [disagrees with key aspects of] the intelligence community's findings, enshrined in its January 2017 assessment that Russia and Putin "developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."

Some Republicans on the House panel agreed that the evidence failed to support the intel agencies' conclusions. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said that Democrats had hoped to at least find agreement with Republicans on the fundamentals of Russia's scheme to interfere in the 2016 election. But that hope evaporated, he said, with the GOP's decision to break from the intelligence community.

"It had been our hope for some time that even if there were areas of disagreement with the majority, that we could at least come together on a report that validated the findings of the intelligence community," he said. "This represents to me the completeness of the GOP's capitulation to the White House, and that leaves very little common ground."

Source: Politico.com on Russia investigation & impeachment of Trump , Mar 13, 2018

Voluntary public financing for all general elections.

Schiff adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Return Politics to the People
At a time when much of the world is emulating American values and institutions, too many Americans have lost confidence in their political system. They are turned off by a partisan debate that often seems to revolve not around opposing philosophies but around contending sets of interest groups. They believe that our current system for financing campaigns gives disproportionate power to wealthy individuals and groups and exerts too much influence over legislative and regulatory outcomes.

The time for piecemeal reform is past. As campaign costs soar at every level, we need to move toward voluntary public financing of all general elections and press broadcasters to donate television time to candidates.

The Internet holds tremendous potential for making campaigns less expensive and more edifying and for engaging Americans directly in electoral politics. We should promote the Internet as a new vehicle for political communication and champion online voting.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC9 on Aug 1, 2000

Supports Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform.

Schiff adopted the Blue Dog Coalition press release:

In a press conference today the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 32 moderate to conservative Democrats, announced their continued support for the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform bill (H.R. 2356), which is being debated on the House floor today. The Coalition was joined by the lead sponsors of the Senate Campaign Finance Reform bill. “I believe that we need to end the influence of ‘soft money’ generated from undisclosed sources. And I believe that we need to rein in illegal foreign contributions,” said Rep. Ken Lucas (KY), Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force Co-Chairman. “True campaign finance reform will restore to the American people their voice in the legislative process--a voice that has been drowned out in recent years by big-money donors.”

The Blue Dog Coalition endorsed the Shays-Meehan bill in March of this year. An official Blue Dog endorsement comes with the approval of no less than two-thirds of the Coalition’s 32 members. “My own campaign experience has demonstrated to me the need for strong campaign finance reform measures,” said freshman Blue Dog Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), whose victory last November was the most expensive House race to date – combined, both candidates spent $11 million. “In order to protect the integrity of our democratic electoral process, we must reduce the corrosive influence of unregulated soft money donations.”

“I have been a strong supporter of Shays-Meehan and urge my colleagues to join with us so we can restore the faith of the American people in our elections,” said Rep. Dennis Moore (KS), a member of the Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. “I’ve worked with Sen. McCain on reform legislation before and I know that by working in a bipartisan manner, we can get big money out of politics.”

Source: Blue Dog Coalition press release 01-BDC4 on Jul 12, 2001

Ban stock trading based on Congressional insider knowledge.

Schiff co-sponsored STOCK Act

Congressional Summary:Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act): Amends the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities or commodities by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action.

Bill explanation (ProCon.org, `Insider Trading by Congress`, Feb. 3, 2012):

Source: H1148/S1871 11-S1871 on Nov 15, 2011

Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

Schiff co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

Congressional Summary:

Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: