In-Depth: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to raise the profile of efforts to fight international corruption, make fighting international corruption an American national security priority, encourage greater transparency in U.S. foreign and security assistance and publicize anti-corruption efforts and their results worldwide:
“Corruption is a fundamental obstacle to peace, prosperity, and human rights all around the world. Where there are high levels of corruption we find fragile states, authoritarian states, or states suffering from internal or external conflict – in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria, and Sudan. Combating corruption should be elevated and prioritized across American foreign policy efforts. I thank my colleagues for their bipartisan support.”
Original cosponsor Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) adds:
“Global corruption is often at the root of conflict, humanitarian suffering, and political crises. In places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Venezuela, corruption has undermined the rule of law and stood in the way of humanitarian aid reaching those in need. I am proud of this bipartisan effort to combat corruption around the world by standing with the world’s most vulnerable and holding those in power responsible for their actions.”
When this bill was introduced last Congress, Buckley LLP wrote on its FCPA Scorecard Blog that it “would create substantial new law enforcement power to combat international corruption activities.” Transparency International, a global nonprofit with the mission of combating global corruption with civil societal anti-corruption measures and preventing criminal activities arising from corruption, also expressed its support for the bill. Its Director of Defense and Security, Katherine Dixon, said:
“The link between corruption and development is simple: corrupt leaders that siphon state funds and resources away from vulnerable populations bring about weak states and public unrest, creating fertile ground for terrorists and organised crime. The February repeal of Section 1504 was a step back for US anti-corruption efforts. But, with the Combating Global Corruption Act, we have the chance to make some big moves forward. In evaluating how seriously countries take corruption on their home turf, the US has raised the spectre of global corruption and elevated it on the foreign policy agenda.”
Writing in the Global Anticorruption Blog (GAB) when this bill was introduced in the 115th Congress, Harvard Law Professor Matthew Stephenson praised this bill as “a worthwhile proposal that deserves more attention”:
“[O]n the whole, it seems to me that this is the sort of bill that the U.S. anticorruption community ought to support… Why do I like it? A few main reasons: First, independent of the foreign assistance conditions, a statute like this will help in the anticorruption fight by raising the profile of the issue, both inside and outside the U.S. government, and requiring the regular compilation and presentation of information on what different countries are doing with respect to corruption. Those with the requisite knowledge and interest within the U.S. government will see their value rise, and the issuance of the annual reports will attract attention from Congress, the media, and the general public. Second, for all their problems and limitations (on which more in a moment), my impression is that the TVPA, on which the CGCA is so clearly and closely modeled, has had a meaningful impact, not only because of the foreign aid conditionality, but simply because of the prestige costs of being labeled a delinquent on the fight against human trafficking. I freely admit that I’m not terribly knowledgeable about this, and if I’m wrong in my conjecture that the TVPA has had an overall positive effect, I hope someone out there in reader-land will correct me. But in general, I think that “naming and shaming” strategies in this area can be helpful, though it probably goes without saying that they’re nowhere near enough. Third, I like the fact that the proposed evaluation system focuses less on the extent of the problem, and more on how much various governments are doing about it. I certainly hope that an assessment of how effectively the country is taking action to combat corruption is construed broadly to include, say, effective enforcement of anti-money laundering and know-your-customer laws, so that financial centers that turn a blind eye to the corrupt source of dirty money are scrutinized as well.”
However, Stephenson also noted a number of problems with this bill. He noted that the TVPA’s ranking system has proven controversial, opening the U.S. up to accusations that it “plays politics” with at least some of the report’s classifications — odds are that similar accusations would be levied against the report this bill requires. Similarly, Stephenson notes that the U.S. needs to be “acutely sensitive” to accusations of hypocrisy when accusing other countries of not meeting “minimum standards” on certain anti-corruption issues, such as responding quickly to foreign governments’ requests for assistance in corruption investigations. Third, Stephenson argues that “there’s a bit of a mismatch between the classification criteria and the special conditions for tier-3 countries.” However, despite these qualms, Stephenson nonetheless calls this bill “the kind of thing the U.S. anti-corruption community might want to champion.”
This bill has five bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and two Republicans, in the current session of Congress and has yet to receive a committee vote. This bill had eight bipartisan cosponsors, including five Democrats and three Republicans, in the 115th Congress and didn’t receive a committee vote.
Of Note: Sen. Cardin’s office notes that global corruption erodes trust and confidence in democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights protections. It also damages the United States’ competitiveness and creates barriers to economic growth in international markets. Globally, corruption endangers national and international security by fostering violent extremist, hampering the United States’ ability to combat terrorism, entrenching high poverty and weakening institutions seeking to govern and instil accountability.
According to Sen. Cardin’s office, global corruption can also have a “severe, negative impact on the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance.” Thus, the office argues, corruption risk assessment and analyses before, during and after the provision of foreign and security assistance is key to reducing and eliminating corruption and holding U.S. foreign assistance and security assistance programs accountable to U.S. taxpayers.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / P_Wei)