Jobs That Need To Get Done: Theresa Greenfield’s Plan to End Political Corruption

Theresa Greenfield
5 min readFeb 20, 2020

From the first day businesswoman Theresa Greenfield launched her campaign for Senate, she committed to fighting the culture of corruption in Washington and restoring trust in our democracy. She’s pledged not to accept corporate PAC money and support sweeping reforms that ensure Washington politicians put the needs of Iowa first.

Theresa understands that too many families in Iowa can’t catch a break. They’re worried about struggling to pay their health care bills, threats to Social Security, wages that don’t support families and rural farm communities that have been left behind. But instead of working together to fix these challenges, Washington seems to only look out for whoever can cut the biggest check.

That’s why we must make big changes in the way politicians conduct business and pass tough new anti-corruption measures to get big money out of politics and make sure that Washington is working for Iowans, not ultra-wealthy donors and giant corporate special interests.

This is especially important in Iowa as a recent Associated Press investigation revealed that Senator Joni Ernst unlawfully coordinated with the dark money group Iowa Values to benefit her re-election campaign. Documents obtained by the AP, including the group’s internal emails and strategy memo, make clear that Senator Ernst’s top political aides set up the dark money group for the sole purpose of supporting her re-election in 2020 — pointing to an illegal arrangement at the center of the group’s founding. Multiple election watchdog groups, including a major nonpartisan group, have filed complaints for campaign finance violations.

To hide the group’s donors, Senator Ernst’s aides structured Iowa Values as a 501(c)(4) political nonprofit. These dark money groups that do not disclose their donors are legally prohibited from having their primary purpose be political activities or electing a candidate to office. Publicly, Iowa Values claimed to be a think tank focused on policy issues affecting Iowans — but it’s clear that the group’s sole purpose was actually to re-elect Ernst.

This isn’t the first time Senator Ernst has been caught breaking the rules. Previously, Senator Ernst’s campaign “knowingly” took excessive and prohibited money and paid the largest-ever federal election civil penalty against an Iowa politician.

Senator Ernst’s dark money scandal and pattern of campaign finance violations cement her as part of the problem in Washington and a politician corrupted by big money. No wonder she’s declined to support campaign finance reform that would fix this broken system.

Theresa’s plan to root out political corruption and crack down on the kind of illegal coordination that Senator Ernst was caught orchestrating is below:

Overturn Citizens United, Ban Dark Money

Theresa believes it’s long past time to end the corrupt practices brought about by the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and will work tirelessly to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling. The Supreme Court’s decision has allowed dark money groups and super PACs to flood elections in Iowa and across the country with unlimited sums of money, including over $30 million in outside spending and dark money on Ernst’s behalf in 2014.

Theresa supports stemming the flood of dark money in our elections. Current law prohibits the Internal Revenue Service from stopping the abuse of social welfare organizations by mega-donors who use these organizations to hide their political contributions. She would support repealing this prohibition to allow the IRS to investigate the abuse of social welfare organizations and revoke their tax-free status or require the disclosure of their donors.

She also supports passing the DISCLOSE Act to end the secrecy that shields donors behind unregulated dark money contributions. The bill requires dark money groups and other organizations to promptly disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. It also helps guard against foreign interference in our elections by cracking down on the use of shell corporations used to hide the identity of donors. It requires companies spending money in elections to disclose their true owners so it’s clear who is behind the spending. These are all solutions that Senator Ernst refused to support during her five years in Washington.

Ban Corporate PACs

Corporate special interests have too much influence in Washington — and it’s hurting everyday Iowans. As an example, Senator Ernst has received massive amounts of donations from corporate PAC donations, while voting for massive new tax breaks for giant corporations and making the problem worse by refusing to support campaign finance reform. It’s time to clean up our politics by passing new legislation that permanently bans corporate PAC donations.

Stop Campaign Coordination with Outside Groups

Candidate coordination with outside dark money groups like Iowa Values and Super PACs is illegal — and we must stop campaigns like Senator Ernst’s who try to break the law. We need to enact legislation to ensure that these outside groups truly act independently, and not as an arm of any campaign, by banning internal firewalls and preventing overlap between candidates and their agents.

Close the Government-to-Lobbying Revolving Door

There’s already too much corruption, insider deals and powerful special interests in Washington. This is made even worse when politicians use their office to get a job as a wealthy and well-connected lobbyist. We need to enact a lifetime ban on lobbying for all members of Congress. This will help remove conflicts of interest and take power away from special interests.

We should also pass legislation that bans current members of Congress from sitting on the board of directors for corporations.

People should run for office to represent their constituents — not join the ranks on K Street.

Overhaul the Federal Election Commission

To root out corruption and hold bad actors accountable, we must break the partisan gridlock at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) so it can enforce campaign finance laws in federal elections. The FEC requires four members for a quorum but is down to just three, leaving it unable to determine whether laws have been broken or to impose fines for violations.

Critical reforms, advocated by experts who served as FEC commissioners, include reducing the number of commissioners from six to five to eliminate stalemate decisions. At least one of those members should be a nonpartisan — someone who has not been affiliated with or worked with either political party for several years — to increase the FEC’s independence. Congress should also establish a bipartisan process to vet potential nominees.

The refusal of Senator Ernst and other Washington politicians to confirm new commissioners has crippled the nation’s federal election watchdog, even as the 2020 elections fast approach. A gridlocked FEC makes it more difficult for candidates who are trying to follow the law and easier for Washington politicians like Senator Ernst to break it and avoid the consequences. The Senate must end the gridlock by appointing new commissioners and restoring the FEC’s oversight and enforcement capabilities.

Strengthen Congressional Ethics Watchdogs

Too often politicians in Washington look away from what’s wrong when it’s their own political party. Congress shouldn’t be trusted to police itself. We need to strengthen nonpartisan oversight by codifying the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics into law and creating a similar ethics watchdog for the U.S. Senate.

Theresa Greenfield

Farm kid, mom, Des Moines business leader, and candidate for U.S. Senate. Join our team at