In The News
In the special election to be decided next Tuesday between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, high-dollar donors and outside groups have pushed spending to just under $40 million, a House record…. In municipal elections now unfolding in Seattle, by contrast, housing activist Jon Grant is collecting campaign contributions from a very different source — the city’s homeless encampments. Homeless donors are helping power Grant’s campaign for city council thanks to a new public financing program that gives every Seattle voter four vouchers worth $25 each…. Such is the dichotomy between the federal campaign-finance system, where unrestricted money reigns supreme, and the experiments in publicly funded, citizen-powered elections that are popping up around the country in cities, states, and municipalities like Seattle, Maine, and Montgomery County, Maryland…. No one expects action any time soon, however, on the leading campaign-finance bill on Capitol Hill, authored by House Democrat John Sarbanes, of Maryland—though Sarbanes does have more than 150 co-sponsors.
Democrats continue to try and push President Trump and his administration to end the myriad conflicts of interest that are entangling the president and his family…. The hotel has become "the symbol of complete disregard for the lines of ethics, the boundaries of ethics, the conflicts of interest" in the Trump administration, says Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes. "I think it's something that resonates in people's minds, and frankly every day you see people trying to curry favor with the administration – booking receptions and other kinds of things at the hotel." … Unlike every other modern president, Trump has refused calls to put his assets in a blind trust. His son, Eric, has also said he plans to keep giving his father profit reports on the family's sprawling global business enterprise, which Democrats say is the very definition of a conflict of interest for a sitting president whose every tweet, proposed policy and speech can move global markets…. "It's breathtaking," Sarbanes says. The administration passes "an ethical policy that has so many waivers in place that it swallows it up and completely negates it. They say they're going to observe certain lines – but in the next breath almost, they demonstrate that they have no concept of what those lines and boundaries are."
Former Fulbright scholars are not the type to shy away from a fight. Their ranks include dozens of Nobel and Pulitzer prizewinners, geniuses recognized as MacArthur Foundation fellows, and almost 60 foreign Fulbrights who went on to become heads of state…. Now, the program’s funding is facing what its alumni association calls an existential threat from a 47 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration, one of many sharp reductions in the State Department budget. And over 100,000 former Fulbright scholars, among them several members of Congress, are being asked to lobby for not only full funding but also a small increase…. Among the more effective lobbyists for the Fulbrights are the three members of Congress who themselves are alumni…. “The symbolism of what the Fulbright program has meant over many years, decades now, is something we need to hold on to and preserve,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who studied law and politics in Greece on a Fulbright scholarship and signed a letter urging House appropriators to keep its funding strong…. “One of the important ways of exercising soft power is public diplomacy. Within the public diplomacy realm, you can’t find a program that is more critical, more successful or more respected than the Fulbright Program.”
Congressman John Sarbanes, Senator Chris Van Hollen and a host of other federal elected officials say they have a bone to pick with President Donald Trump…. Sarbanes, the chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force claims the new presidential administration is very good at avoiding information requests and he has outlined dozens if not hundreds of instances where the administration has simply ignored information requests…. “The Trump administration’s refusal to respond to basic information requests . . . is an assault on our Constitutional system of checks and balances,” Sarbanes said…. Sarbanes says there is a bit of partisan rancor to the administration’s inability to answer inquiries and at the same time believes the president is not only overwhelmed and understaffed, but inadequately staffed to boot…. “I’m still waiting for a plan in any traditional sense on any issue,” Sarbanes said Tuesday. “This entire administration is a series of giant head fakes.”
House Democrats pushed the Trump administration on Monday to acknowledge officially if it has instated a new policy not to respond to oversight requests from Congress unless they are signed by senior Republicans…. The office of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who chairs a Democracy Reform Task Force, has tracked about 275 unanswered Democratic request letters since President Trump’s inauguration in January…. Sarbanes's office tallied 118 unanswered oversight requests from three days after the inauguration to March 17 alone.
In Congress, I wrote and introduced the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20), a bipartisan bill with more than 150 co-sponsors and backed by more than 50 national membership organizations. H.R. 20 would help reduce the power of wealthy special interests in Washington and return power to the American people, where it belongs, by implementing a citizen-owned election system similar to the proposal in Howard County. In today’s political climate, the Government by the People Act faces several hurdles. But having examples to showcase, including the system being developed in Howard County, would send a powerful message to members of Congress that citizen-owned elections are a viable and potent antidote to the ills of big-money politics…. Across the country, Americans of all political stripes have vented their frustration with the corrosive nature of big money in politics and with the undue influence that wealthy and well-connected donors have over our government. Howard County has an opportunity to lead the charge for citizen-owned elections and become a model for state and local jurisdictions around the country that want a return to government of, by and for the people.
“I’m not yet seeing any significant willingness, readiness, to push on the administration to be more accountable,” says House Democrat John Sarbanes, of Maryland, of his GOP colleagues. “But I think there’s a kind of cumulative effect of things here. And there will come a tipping point where Republican members of Congress will no longer be able to defend the lack of accountability that this White House seems to operate with.”
President Donald Trump isn't draining the swamp in Washington. He's shrouding it in a veil of secrecy and pumping in more slime…. Congress needs to step in. The level of potential conflicts posed by Mr. Trump's business holdings and his utter lack of concern for the ethical standards presidents of both parties have honored are mind boggling. Eighteen House Democrats, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings and including Maryland's Jamie Raskin and John Sarbanes, sent a letter to Mr. Shaub last week supporting his effort and urging him to publicly post whatever documents he receives, but the Republicans who control Congress need to use their authority to ensure the administration complies with the requests.
Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, D-3rd, says the Trump presidency presents "a maximum stress test for the democracy," with numerous conflicts of interest and now a "draconian" federal budget that could be "cataclysmic to the core functions of government." Sarbanes, chair of the House Democrats' newly created Democracy Reform Task Force, says Trump, with his cabinet and other appointments, has "filled the swamp" with former lobbyists and industry lawyers. "There's a fox in charge of every hen house now," he says. "They're locking the doors, pulling down the shades and ransacking the place."
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the so-called soft money ban on state and local parties, prompting opponents of the restriction to turn their pleas for repeal to Congress. … “By rejecting the challenge to political party soft money bans, the Supreme Court has once again affirmed contribution limits as constitutional,” said Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, chairman of the House’s Democracy Reform Task Force. “Going forward, we must remain vigilant against efforts to further erode reasonable restrictions on big money in politics.” Sarbanes and outside advocates of new restrictions on political money said they were dismayed that Gorsuch, along with conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, went out of his way to say he wanted the court to hear oral arguments on the Louisiana case.