Porter, McGovern Announce New Disclosure Requirements for Congressional Witnesses
For first time, House Rules will require witnesses to disclose grants from foreign governments, whether they have fiduciary obligations to any organizations connected to their testimony
Washington, January 4, 2021
Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) and Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (MA-02) today announced reforms to House rules to strengthen the “Truth-in-Testimony” disclosures that congressional witnesses submit to Congress about potential conflicts of interest. These changes will be voted on in the House on Monday as part of the rules package for the 117th Congress.
“Hearings are opportunities to get answers for the American people—we need to know about foreign influence or any risk of self dealing with the witnesses called before Congress,” Porter said. “We use hearings to help craft policy and conduct oversight on everything from pharmaceuticals, to fossil fuels, to nuclear weapons. These common sense reforms will make our hearings more effective, and I am grateful for Chairman McGovern’s leadership on this issue.”
“Congresswoman Porter was instrumental in these reforms to give the American people and all Members new and timely information about those who testify before Congress. Her tireless work, together with her dedicated staff, helped us craft these important updates. This rules package is stronger because of these new ideas,” McGovern said.
The new “Truth-in-Testimony” rule strengthens the existing disclosure requirements by: (1) adding grants to the reporting requirement for foreign payments; (2) expanding the lookback period for reporting to 36 months; (3) requiring witnesses to disclose whether they are the fiduciary of any organization or entity with an interest in the subject matter of the hearing; and (4) requiring, to the extent practicable, the disclosures be made publicly available 24-hours prior to the witness’s appearance at a hearing.
The “Truth-in-Testimony” rule was last amended in 2015 to cover payments and contracts from foreign governments. The new language updates the House rules to make clear that grants from foreign governments need to be disclosed, so Congress and the public can know when witnesses have competing interests.
By encouraging committees to make these disclosures public prior to the hearing, the new rules will also give members of Congress the opportunity to raise questions about special interests in the course of hearings. For the first time, this will now include any fiduciary responsibilities a witness has to organizations with an interest in the subject of the hearing.