Democrats plan to hammer the corruption allegations swirling around the Trump administration in the run up to the midterms, hoping to tap into a successful strategy that delivered them control of Congress in 2006.
Democratic leaders will roll out the latest plank of their messaging platform Monday, focusing on a package of anti-corruption bills they say would directly target “pay-to-play” accusations linked to the White House — and some of the most controversial players in President Donald Trump’s orbit — if enacted.
“The corruption, the conflicts of interest in this administration are important, not only because it’s not the right way to do things, but because of what it means,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a recent POLITICO Playbook event.
The anti-corruption plank will focus on three key areas, according to a Democratic official who briefed POLITICO: overhauling campaign finance rules, tightening current ethics laws and strengthening voting laws by cracking down on discrimination at the polls and gerrymandering.
The anti-corruption plank is just one arm of Democrats’ broader messaging plan, “Better Deal.” The plan was first unveiled last summer but has largely focused on economic ideas since then. Pelosi will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several other Democrats for the messaging roll out, touted “A Better Deal for Our Democracy,” Monday afternoon.
Several current and former members of the Trump administration and the president’s broader universe have been embroiled in scandal, from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.
One proposal to be unveiled Monday afternoon would target Cohen directly by beefing up lobbying laws Democrats say the president’s lawyer was able to skirt as he privately solicited more than $2 million from companies for “insights” into the administration.
Homing in on Republican scandals proved to be a wildly successful messaging plan for Democrats in 2006, sweeping them back into power in both the House and Senate and making history as Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House.
Pelosi has hinted in recent weeks at returning to a similar messaging campaign.
“It’s not just about their personal and almost dishonest behavior; it’s about what it means in terms of policy, and they are their wholly owned subsidiaries of the special interests that sent them there,” she said at the POLITICO event. “That’s the contrast that we have to make and yes, we will be making that.”
In the months before the 2006 election, Republicans were reeling from a string of corruption crises, including the wide-ranging Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that led to multiple convictions and entangled many key Republican officials at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
And shortly before the election, GOP Rep. Mark Foley was forced to resign after it was revealed he had sexually pursued teenage boys who had worked as congressional pages through a string of lewd e-mails and online messages.
Democrats seized on the public mood at the time, promising to do away with the “culture of cronyism, incompetence, and corruption.”
Now Democrats are returning to a similar message aimed squarely at Trump world, promising to “clean up the chaos and corruption in Washington,” according to two Democratic aides briefed on the plan.