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Congressman John Sarbanes

Representing the 3rd District of Maryland

In The News

May 21, 2018

Democrats are planning to make Washington corruption a central focus of their midterm messaging, reviving a successful theme from when they took control of Congress in 2006.... The anti-corruption push is the second part of Democrats’ “A Better Deal” platform. The first part, released last summer, focused on an economic agenda. The newest part is “A Better Deal for Our Democracy,” which puts forward proposals to increase access to the ballot box, fight special interests and combat big money through campaign finance reform.... Democrats unveiled their agenda Monday during a press conference on Capitol Hill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were joined by other lawmakers who have been working on these issues, including Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).


May 21, 2018

House and Senate Democrats rolled out their campaign platform Monday, taking aim at corruption and pay-to-play politics in Washington under the Trump administration. They’re betting this message will help them win voters in the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, when the party hopes to regain control of the House — and maybe even the Senate.... “We make voting in this country more complicated than it needs to be,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, which led the effort to write this agenda, told me.... “Way too many ethics lines are being crossed by the administration,” Sarbanes said. “That’s not an opinion. That’s an observation.” ... To counter it, Democrats plan to hit the campaign trail with policy proposals aimed at tightening lobbying rules.... Among these proposals would be legally requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. That’s a direct reaction to Trump, who has yet to release his financial records, bucking decades of political precedent and breaking his own promises of transparency.... Sarbanes also cited a proposal that would tighten lobbying rules and institute statutes against former lobbyists becoming Cabinet officials in agencies that have purview over industries that previously employed them.... 3) Democrats take a swing at campaign finance reform. This third pillar focuses on transparency in campaign donors. Sarbanes also cited a proposal that would create a 6-1 small-donor match program — a federal public financing system aimed at bolstering donations under $175.... “We will be talking about how the institutions are not as responsive as they need to be,” Sarbanes said. “We will talk about how the Trump administration and the GOP and Republicans in Congress are … aggravating the problem.”

May 21, 2018

Democrats are going to make prosecuting what they called a "culture of corruption" in President Donald Trump's administration a central theme of this year's midterm elections, the party's congressional leaders signaled Monday.... "The problem is that a lot of people hear that (economic) message, they agree with that message, but they're not convinced that we can actually get it done because they view Washington as captured by special interests," Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., who helped craft the new strategy, told NBC News.... "We realized that every other message we're putting out there needs to be accompanied by a democracy reform agenda," Sarbanes continued. "We think that that caffeinates every other message that we're delivering." ... He added at the news conference: "The people know what happens when a culture of corruption takes hold. Government works for somebody else and not for them."

May 21, 2018
The initial rollout of "A Better Deal," in 2017, was met with polite applause from progressive Democrats, who were pleased to see the party highlight an economic justice agenda. But the message -- overshadowed on the day by Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers -- has at turns been undermined, Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes told CNN, by a deep and growing public cynicism in American political institutions.... "A lot of this is structural and a lot of it has been around for a long time," Sarbanes said earlier Monday. "Everybody knows it. The question is what are we going to do about it?" ... Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, along with Sarbanes, who chairs the party's "Democracy Reform Task Force" on Capitol Hill and has introduced a comprehensive reform bill called the "Government by the People Act," are hoping this new effort will inspire more faith from voters who might doubt that the party's increasingly ambitious policy goals -- like a deepening commitment to universal health care -- will ever get a fair hearing in the swamp. "We think this (new rollout) caffeinates, makes stronger and reinforces, all the other messages that are part of 'The Better Deal,'" Sarbanes said. "'A Better Deal for our Democracy' is telling people that we want to find a way to give them their institutions back and make their voice count again."
May 21, 2018

Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections.... The first planks of the “A Better Deal” platform, released last year, focused on the party’s economic agenda. Now, with questions about pay-to-play politics swirling around President Trump and his current and former aides, Democrats are set to introduce anti-corruption proposals Monday billed as “A Better Deal for Our Democracy.” ... According to a senior Democratic official familiar with the announcement, the new agenda will include proposals that would eliminate loopholes that allow lobbyists and lawmakers to buy and sell influence without the public’s knowledge. The message: Elect Democrats in November to “clean up the chaos and corruption in Washington.”  ... The proposals are set to be rolled out Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several other congressional Democrats who have been engaged in anti-corruption issues, including Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).

May 16, 2018

President Donald Trump’s disclosure that he "reimbursed" his attorney Michael Cohen, reportedly for money that went to Trump's alleged former mistress Stormy Daniels, did little to settle questions over the arrangement among ethics watchdogs. The reimbursement to Cohen for "expenses" was listed as a footnote in Trump's required annual financial disclosure, which prompted the Office of Government Ethics to inform Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — an indication that the controversy over the payment to the adult film actress will likely continue. OGE released Trump's disclosure and its letter to Rosenstein on Wednesday.... "The release of President Trump's financial disclosure today raises many more questions than answers," said Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, his party's point person on ethics matters. "The American people deserve to know whether the president is putting his personal financial interests ahead of their interests and whether members of the president's inner circle are trading cash for access and influence with the president's knowledge." 

May 1, 2018

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said that he was concerned about the U.S.'s lack of tools for dealing with tech companies that fail to prevent the misuse of users' data.... "I think the U.S. is in a position of needing to catch up," Representative Sarbanes said in a phone interview. Sarbanes said he was unsure whether government bodies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "have the kind of dedicated expertise" to deal with data protection and privacy issues.... "I think that Europe's done that better, because there are governmental bodies that are dedicated to this kind of oversight and accountability and making sure they build that capacity and that expertise to be able to keep up," Sarbanes said. "I think that's something that the U.S. should look at potentially as well." ... Congressman Sarbanes said he was also concerned by fake news on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election and allegations that misinformation was driven by Russia.... He said that the likes of Google and Twitter were in a similar position to Facebook in terms of the amount of data that is collected from users.... Sarbanes was one of several lawmakers that confronted Facebook's Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg during a committee hearing last month.

Apr 27, 2018

Kudos to Baltimore for taking an important step toward citizen-owned elections (“Baltimore City Council to consider public financing of city elections,” April 23). This kind of system would put Baltimore among the vanguard of cities and states – including Maryland’s own Montgomery and Howard Counties – that are leading the fight against big money in politics.

Around the country, we’ve seen the positive effect of citizen-owned elections. In places like Seattle, Connecticut, Maine, Arizona and New York City, people are reducing the corrosive influence of wealthy special interests and taking charge of their democracy. Citizen-owned elections are empowering everyday voters, giving them a greater voice in government and encouraging them to engage in the political process. Citizen-owned elections are also diversifying and expanding the candidate pool by enabling more people — not only those with access to large sums of money — to run for office and win.

Importantly, the success of these small-donor systems is helping build momentum for federal reforms like The Government By the People Act, a bill I've authored to create a citizen-owned elections system for Congressional candidates. This bold reform proposal would diminish special-interest influence and make Congress more receptive to the issues that people care about like gun safety, protecting our environment and lowering prescription drug prices. By pointing to places across America where clean elections have made a meaningful and constructive impact, we can create more energy and enthusiasm for national reform.

The citizen-owned elections system proposed in the City Council presents Baltimore with an opportunity to join a growing national movement to reform our politics. If we can build a democracy of the many, not the money, we can return to a government of, by and for the people.

Apr 27, 2018

"You've become the poster child for the abuse of public trust," said Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland.

Apr 27, 2018

A D.C.-area lawmaker said Friday that he believes a combination of negative perceptions of federal employees and “attitudinal and cultural barriers” in the workforce could help account for recent cutbacks to some agencies’ telework programs, and he is working to combat that trend.... Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who crafted the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act along with Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said the changes at Agriculture particularly rankled him, given that Secretary Sonny Perdue touted telework as governor of Georgia and the White House has lauded the department as an example of governmental innovation.