Protecting the Public Interest and Defending Our Democracy
Like you and millions of other Americans across the country, I believe that government must defend the public interest, not cater to special interests. But despite repeated promises to “drain the swamp,” President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are doing the opposite – pursuing an agenda that benefits wealthy donors and Washington insiders, while testing the long-established norms and laws that prevent public corruption.
In just his first month as President, Donald Trump has issued several executive orders that will harm hardworking Americans. One order will undo the safeguards we have in place to prevent another financial crisis. Another will roll back consumer protections that help people save for a comfortable retirement. And yet another will make it harder for many Americans to access high-quality health care. The President has also nominated – and the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed – several cabinet appointees who are poised to undermine the very agencies and institutions they are charged to run. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has advocated for privatizing public education; EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt sued the EPA as Attorney General of Oklahoma; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said he would completely eliminate the Department of Energy when he ran for President; and many of President Trump’s national security and foreign policy appointees have uncomfortably deep ties with Russia. Everything from clean water and breathable air, to education, health care and consumer protection – even our national security – is at stake. At the same time, Republicans in the House and Senate are quietly working at the behest of their big donors and corporate lobbyists to let coal companies pollute our waterways; to make it harder for American workers to enroll in good retirement plans; and to deny unemployment benefits for people who lost their job through no fault of their own.
The Trump Administration also continues to undermine the laws and norms that have long been in place to combat public corruption. Despite repeated calls from ethics lawyers, Members of Congress and the public, President Trump has refused to divest himself from his business interests or put his assets into a blind trust. Combined with the fact that he still refuses to release his tax returns and disclose his business dealings, the President’s failure to truly separate himself from his business interests will cloud nearly every domestic and foreign policy decision he makes while in office. In fact, many policies put forward by the Republican majority – such as cutting taxes for top earners and loosening longstanding consumer protections – have the potential to personally enrich President Trump and his family.
In the House of Representatives, I am at the forefront of efforts to expose these conflicts and fight back. I have taken on the role as chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, which will confront the Trump Administration’s conflicts of interest and special-interest policies, while advancing positive reforms to improve accountability and transparency in government.
Specifically, the Democracy Reform Task Force will:
- Conduct Oversight of Ethical Violations – Bring together Congressional resources to ensure President Trump and his Administration abide by our nation’s ethics laws and the U.S. Constitution.
- Challenge Special-Interest Policy – Fight back against egregious special-interest giveaways that benefit the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of everyday Americans.
- Advance Positive Democracy Reforms – Champion critical reforms to improve our ethics laws, campaign finance system and accountability in government.
Our Republic’s strength is built on the people’s trust in our institutions of democracy. That trust is earned through fair elections, responsive governance and a robust system of checks and balances. The Democracy Reform Task Force will be a key vehicle in the House of Representatives in its efforts to restore the public’s trust in our great Republic.
John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District