Oregon Congressman Greg Walden is pushing federal agencies to disclose examples of waste and fraud, while Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is introducing legislation that would require President Trump to disclose his financial interests in foreign countries before negotiating new trade deals.
Walden’s request carries the weight of new his position as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Even though he is a member of the minority in the US Senate, Wyden’s bill can’t be dismissed because he is the ranking Democrat on Senate Finance that oversees trade relations.
Walden based his request on a previous Pentagon study that unearthed millions of dollars of wasteful spending. Walden believes similar findings in other federal agencies could be a way to trim federal spending without affecting government services in programs under the committee; jurisdiction.
Walden isn't waiting for a response as he pushes two bills through his committee to “modernize America’s health care laws by making what’s best for patients our top priority.” Walden says his bills “go after bad actors…who shield their income and deprive people the services they need."
While few may argue with the premise that government should run more cost effectively, there is likely to be less partisan agreement with Wyden’s bill.
“Americans have a right to know if the President is looking out for the good of the country or just his own bottom line when he negotiates a trade deal, decides whether or not to enforce our trade laws or decides whether to cut tariffs on imports from a developing country,” Wyden said in a statement. “Trump has business interests around the world, but he continues to keep the full nature of those ties secret.”
Wyden’s GOP Senate colleagues may not be eager to open up another battle front with Trump, whom they are already battling over his administration’s and his own ties to Russia. The revelations involving private conversations with a senior Russian official that led to the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn poured gasoline on an already simmering fire.
However, conflict of interest questions keep bobbing up and exploding, too. Kellyanne Conway has been hit with an ethics allegation when she pitched Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. Trump’s two sons are attending the opening of a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was hosted at Trump’s Florida resort.
USA Today’s story about Wyden’s legislation included other examples that highlight the awkward tangle of Trump’s businesses with his public duties as president – Trump’s tweets about his daughter’s apparel business; Melanie Trump’s libel lawsuit that claims false allegations about her could jeopardize her ability to strike profitable business relationships; and Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay that cost the government $100,000 to pay for hotel expenses for his Secret Service and Embassy entourage.
Trump’s team has argued his business empire is too vast and branded for him to abandon totally. He said he has turned over the reins of his business to his two sons, with assistance from an internal compliance counsel and an outside ethics adviser. That hasn’t been enough to quell skeptics such as Wyden.
There is stirring outside Congress as well to force financial disclosures by Trump. A group of leading attorneys is exploring different ways to show Trump is violating the “emoluments” clause in the US Constitution, which prohibits a president from accepting gifts or money from foreign governments. A short-term goal is to force disclosure of Trump’s federal income tax returns, which Trump has declined to release, citing an ongoing IRS audit.
The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 60 legal actions have been filed against Trump since he took office. One, McNair vs. Trump et al, was filed by an Oregon inmate, alleging Trump was elected illegally and is violating the emoluments clause. Most of the lawsuits pertain to the now suspended Trump travel ban executive order.