Today, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and co-sponsors introduced the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Enforcement Act, a bill that would codify the protections of both constitutional provisions. The Foreign Emoluments Clause prohibits federal officials from receiving benefits from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. The Domestic Emoluments Clause prohibits the president from receiving any personal benefit from the government of the United States or individual states. The Constitution does not specify how either clause is to be enforced. Recent lawsuits brought under these provisions have all failed on procedural grounds. The legislation introduced today would establish clear mechanisms for investigating and pursuing violations of each clause, and also clarify their scope.
Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“This bill is critical. The emoluments clauses are our nation’s oldest federal anti-corruption safeguards. But without legislation, their reach will remain limited, and dependent largely on the willingness of government officials to voluntarily comply. As we have seen in recent years, this is woefully inadequate to prevent abuse.
“The bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, co-chaired by Preet Bharara and Governor Christine Todd Whitman, identified the codification of the emoluments clauses as a critical priority. The task force, which was convened by the Brennan Center for Justice, issued recommendations that align closely with the provisions of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Enforcement Act.
“Congress must act to give these important protections real teeth, and safeguard the ideal of public service as a public trust that is at the heart of our democracy.”
Brennan Center Resources
- “It’s Time to Enact Reforms to Curb Executive Branch Abuses” (Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Preet Bharara, The Hill, Sept. 28, 2021)
- “After Four Years of Abuse, Tangible Fixes Abound for Restoring the Rule of Law” (Martha Kinsella and Daniel Weiner, The Fulcrum, March 17, 2021)
- Proposals for Reform: National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy (Brennan Center, Oct. 2018)