American democracy is under enormous pressure with the unwritten norms central to our constitutional order threatened. Our politics has drifted toward polarization and brinkmanship over the years, but this condition has worsened exponentially since President Trump’s inauguration. Public officials have flouted loopholes in ethics rules, disregarded and even hidden government data and science, and attempted to interfere and influence law enforcement investigations. Systemic faults in American governance have been exposed.

In response, concrete implementable solutions are needed to restore trust in government, balance between the separate branches of government, and accountability to the people for whom public officials serve.

 
 
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Proposals for Reform 

This isn’t the first time our system has been tested. What we learned – and what we must do now, from the National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy

 

To develop this agenda, the Brennan Center launched in January the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy, a nonpartisan initiative led by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Over the past several months, the Task Force has started examining ways to:

  • Strengthen ethics and conflicts of interest laws

  • Protect the independence of law enforcement and the courts;

  • Respect a free and independent press

  • Ensure transparent and appropriate use of government research and data

  • Support the appointment of appropriate and qualified public officials

And now the Task Force is releasing its first in a series of bipartisan reform agendas, outlining a number of proposals intended to relieve the pressures currently threatening our democratic institutions. As the work proceeds, the Brennan Center will update this website with additional information and resources. Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates and donate here. For press requests, please reach out to Stephen Fee or Rebecca Autrey

TASK FORCE MEMBERS


 
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Preet Bharara, Co-Chair

Preet Bharara is an American lawyer who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017. His office prosecuted cases involving terrorism, narcotics and arms trafficking, financial and healthcare fraud, cybercrime, public corruption, gang violence, organized crime, and civil rights violations. In 2012, Bharara was featured on TIME's “100 Most Influential People in the World." On April 1, 2017, Mr. Bharara joined the NYU School of Law faculty as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence. He is Executive Vice President at Some Spider Studios where he hosts a CAFE podcast, Stay Tuned, focused on questions of justice and fairness.
 


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Christine Todd Whitman,  Co-Chair

Christine Todd Whitman is President of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm specializing in environmental and energy issues. She served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, and was the Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001. During her time in government, she gained bipartisan support and was widely praised for championing common-sense environmental improvements. Gov. Whitman is involved in numerous national nonprofit organizations focused on legal and environmental causes, including the American Security Project and the O’Connor Judicial Selection Advisory Committee at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
 


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Mike Castle

Mike Castle is a former two-term governor, nine-term member of Congress, lieutenant governor, deputy attorney general, and state senator of his home state of Delaware. Currently a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, Gov. Castle served on the Financial Services, Intelligence, and Education and Workforce Committees during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, and also led a number of Congressional caucuses. Since leaving office in January 2011, he has been honored by the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the University of Delaware, and politicians of both parties have heralded Gov. Castle as a bipartisan leader. At DLA Piper, he works on financial issues, international trade, legislative affairs, and healthcare. He is the Board Chair for Research!America. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his J.D. from Georgetown University.


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Christopher Edley, Jr.

Christopher Edley, Jr. is the Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law, after serving as dean from 2004 through 2013. Before Berkeley, he was a professor at Harvard Law for 23 years and co-founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project. Prof. Edley co-chaired the congressionally chartered National Commission on Education Equity and Excellence. He served in policy and budget positions under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, held senior positions in five presidential campaigns, and worked on two presidential transitions. He is a fellow or member of: the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; the National Academy of Public Administration; the Council on Foreign Relations; the American Law Institute; the Advisory Board of the Hamilton Project, the Brookings Institution; and the board of Inequality Media; and is a National Associate of the National Research Council.


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Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel served as the 24th Secretary of Defense from 2013 to 2015. He is the only Vietnam veteran and enlisted combat veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense.  He represented the state of Nebraska in the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 2009. In the Senate, Sec. Hagel was a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and Intelligence Committees. Previously, Sec. Hagel was Co-Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University, Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Chairman of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee, Co-Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Corporate Council, President and CEO of the USO, and Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration.  He currently serves on the RAND Board of Trustees, PBS Board, Corsair Capital Advisory Board, American Security Project Board, and is a Senior Advisor to Gallup. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


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David Iglesias

David Iglesias is Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics and Economics and is the Jean & E. Floyd Kvamme Associate Professor of Politics and Law at Wheaton College. Previously, Prof. Iglesias served as a prosecutor focusing on national security and terrorism cases. He was the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico from 2001 to 2007. Prof. Iglesias was recalled to active duty status between 2008 and 2014 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as a team leader, senior prosecutor and spokesman with the U.S. Military Commissions, handling war crimes and terrorism cases. He retired from the U.S. Navy as a Captain. He received his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and his J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.


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Amy Comstock Rick

Amy Comstock Rick is the President and CEO of the Food and Drug Law Institute and was previously the CEO of the Parkinson’s Action Network. Prior to becoming a nonprofit and health leader, Ms. Rick served as the Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (2000-2003) and as an Associate Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office (1998-2000). She also served as a career attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, including as the Department’s Assistant General Counsel for Ethics. Ms. Rick has also served as President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, and as a board member of Research!America, the National Health Council, and the American Brain Coalition. She received her bachelor’s degree from Bard College and J.D. from the University of Michigan.


 
 
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Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. is a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and the founder of its Washington, D.C., office. He served as Solicitor General of the United States from June 2011 to June 2016. During that time, he was responsible for representing the U.S. government in all appellate matters before the Supreme Court and in the courts of appeals, and was a legal adviser to President Barack Obama and the Attorney General. Earlier, he served as Deputy White House Counsel and as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and the Honorable J. Skelly Wright on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He received his B.A. from Yale University and J.D. from Columbia Law School.

 

In the News

 
 

Trump abuses show we must turn traditions into laws: Bharara and Whitman

It’s not enough to fret. We're launching a bipartisan project to mend the gaps in our system and make sure our government is competent and trustworthy.

Stay Tuned with Preet! Let's Save Democracy (with Christine Todd Whitman)

Christine Todd Whitman is the former governor of New Jersey and the EPA Administrator under George W. Bush. Now she's co-chairing the Democracy Taskforce with Preet. They discuss what it's like to disagree with the President while you're in cabinet and the struggle of being a moderate Republican in 2018.

Vox: Preet Bharara’s latest mission is to turn presidential norms into law

It’s taking the lessons and transgressions noted on the part of this administration and preventing those things from happening again in the future.

The Hill: Trump critics launch democracy task force

Task force to battle the erosion of American values in politics and government, and undo the tone of anger and hate of current administration.

NJ Spotlight: Former NJ Gov Whitman to Chair National Task Force to Fix U.S. Democracy

Task force to battle the erosion of American values in politics and government, and undo the tone of anger and hate of current administration.