Tester to Congress: Full transparency necessary to earn trust

Senator says public officials must ‘take a hard look at themselves’

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on Congress to embrace major steps toward full transparency, saying the government must be “totally clean” to earn the public’s trust.

Tester spoke this week at a Senate hearing examining his bipartisan Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which prevents members of Congress and employees from using knowledge gained from their work and service for their personal financial benefit. 

Tester is the first U.S. Senator to post his public schedule online and to conduct regular ethics audits of his office. He said transparency helps guarantee that those in public office don’t abuse their public trust.

“It is critically important that we operate in a way that is totally clean,” Tester said. “If there’s any way we can do that, we should make those policies mandatory. As far as the forms we fill out, they ought to all be online, our schedules ought to be online. We should be letting people know everything that they should reasonably know in a way that they can access it.”

Tester’s STOCK Act will also require members of Congress to submit quarterly finance reports and requires certain “consultants” who contact congressional offices for information that may affect the stocks of their clients to register as lobbyists.

Melanie Sloan, the Executive Director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Tester at the hearing that she couldn’t think of any situation where transparency would be inappropriate.

“I believe in sunlight and I think we should do the maximum to let people know what we’re doing,” Tester responded. “We need to address it in a common sense way that really gets to the problem.”

Tester also asked the panel how Congress could track possible instances of members advocating for policies that benefit their personal real estate holdings.

Tester is a leading and outspoken advocate for transparency and accountability in government. He most recently introduced the Public Online Information Act to require virtually all public documents to be posted online in a free, searchable clearinghouse.

A record of bringing transparency and accountability to the Senate

  • Tester made history as first member of Congress to post daily public schedules on website
  • Only member of Congress to request regular, independent ethics reviews of office
  • Passed most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate
  • Helped kill automatic Congressional pay raises, introduced legislation to end them permanently
  • Went beyond Senate rules to ban all gifts, meals, travel from lobbyists for himself and staff
  • Closed revolving door, barred any staff who become lobbyists from ever lobbying him, being rehired
  • Backed legislation barring former members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists
  • Posts full text of all major bills and amendments, sponsored and cosponsored, to website

Text of Tester’s bipartisan STOCK Act is available online HERE. Tester expects the Senate Government Affairs Committee to take up the legislation later this month.

Video of Tester at the hearing is online HERE.