Fact Sheet

Protecting Our Democracy

(Illustration: Leslie Garvey / POGO)

The Problem

The American people deserve a functioning federal government that works in their best interests. However, both Democratic and Republican administrations have slowly but surely weakened our system of checks and balances to further their own political agendas, resulting in a federal government that concentrates too much power in the executive branch and hobbles congressional authorities. This lopsided system of checks and balances imperils Congress’ ability to conduct meaningful oversight of abuses of power, wasteful spending, and executive overreach. We’ve seen how presidents — left unchecked — can take advantage of a rigged system to enrich themselves, target political opponents, or misdirect hard-earned taxpayer dollars. It is critically important that Congress take immediate action to respond to historically low levels of public confidence with legislation to ensure that the federal government is worthy of the people’s trust.

The Solution

It is time for Congress to establish better guardrails for our democratic institutions. We need to recalibrate our system of checks and balances to catch and address corruption and abuse of power within the executive branch. The Protecting Our Democracy Act (PODA) is the first step to better serving the American people.

PODA takes bold action to restore the checks and balances necessary to root out corruption, promote transparency, and hold government officials accountable for wrongdoing.

  • PODA empowers Congress to conduct rigorous oversight of the executive branch by requiring courts to expedite challenges to congressional subpoenas and allowing courts to issue fines for noncompliance.
  • PODA makes it safe for whistleblowers to come forward and disclose instances of waste or wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. Their disclosures lay the groundwork for more brave individuals to blow the whistle when they witness misconduct or abuses of power, which in turn increases government accountability overall.
  • PODA shines a light on how the government spends taxpayer money. To reassert Congress’ power of the purse, PODA requires additional transparency to Congress about how the White House directs executive branch spending. This means the legislative branch will be able to adequately ensure that executive spending is consistent with the expressed will of Congress.
  • PODA strengthens the independence of inspectors general (IGs), the watchdogs responsible for detecting and preventing instances of fraud, waste, and abuse, by ensuring that a president can only fire an IG if there is a documented and legitimate reason to do so. Without their independence, IGs are vulnerable to political interference which renders them unable to do their jobs effectively.
  • PODA ensures that federal vacancies for Senate-confirmed positions may only be filled by qualified professionals who have undergone thorough vetting. This provision also incentivizes the president to fill vacancies so that the federal government is functioning at full personnel capacity.
  • PODA ensures that political appointees are playing by the rules and not using their platforms in the administration to further campaign work on taxpayers’ time. To do this, PODA strengthens enforcement mechanisms and penalties for violations of the Hatch Act.
  • PODA requires additional reporting to Congress on any contact between the White House and Department of Justice in order to equip Congress to ensure that criminal and civil matters are fairly and impartially enforced by the Justice Department, not tainted by political interference.
  • PODA contains other provisions to strengthen our elections against foreign interference and cabin the president’s ability to abuse the office.

Additional Resources