In The News
The FEC stalled on implementing disclosure rules for online political advertising back in 2014 after the three Republican commissioners voted against new rules.... While legislation has not yet been introduced in the House, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the head of House Democrats’ democracy taskforce, told HuffPost in a statement, “Congress should also get in the game by enacting appropriate legislative reforms to stop hostile actors from threatening the integrity of our elections.”
One of the lawmakers voting against Goodlatte’s bill to strip EPA of its power to enforce the bay pollution limits was Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland, a Democrat.... “This is the perfect instance in which you want to have the federal government as an important and robust partner in this effort of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay,” Sarbanes said. “And this idea that ‘states’ rights’ should prevail, and in a sense having all of the jurisdictions moving in different directions without any kind of collaboration, that is significantly undermining of the goal of cleaning up the bay.”
"What are the standards that can prevent this from happening in the future?" Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, who wrote the letter along with Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico…. It's illegal for foreign individuals, companies or governments to directly or indirectly spend funds in U.S. elections, but the letter's signatories think more protections are needed in the age of social media. The letter calls foreign political activity, "a direct assault on federal election law and the integrity of our elections." … Sarbanes said the rapidly-approaching 2018 midterm elections bring added urgency to the problem…. "We need to do this and we need to do it quickly, because even though we feel like we just came out of an election, there's another one bearing down on us," Sarbanes said. Sarbanes said Republicans were approached about signing the letter, and some expressed interest, but that interest didn't materialize into signatures…. "But I think the message went out from leadership on the Republican side, because the word Russia is in the mix here some place that they should stay away from it.”
A group of House and Senate Democrats are calling on the U.S. government to issue new “guidance” to stop foreign advertisers from spending money on Facebook, Google and other web platforms in a bid to influence American elections…. Federal law already bars that sort of political spending, but lawmakers — including Rep. John Sarbanes and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — stress in a letter to the Federal Elections Commission that countries like Russia “have routinely deployed sophisticated tactics in making political expenditures to evade detection.” … “I have confidence the Googles and Facebooks and Twitters of the world have the capacity — they certainly have the resources — to put systems in place that can get behind these issues,” said Sarbanes, who spearheaded the missive. “[We want to] figure out: Where is the money coming from? Who’s responsible for it?” … Perhaps tellingly, Sarbanes and his allies didn’t obtain even one signature on their letter from a Republican lawmaker…. “Unfortunately, I think that there’s been sort of an edict from on high within the leadership of the Republican party that anything that involves Russia in any way, if the word even appears, somehow that then creates this entanglement with the broader Russian investigations,” Sarbanes said. “They don’t want to touch that and so they prefer their members stay away.” … But Sarbanes hopes that will change — and soon — with the 2018 congressional elections fast approaching. “We have time to get it done but that window will close very quickly,” he said.
On Wednesday, a group of Democrats sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission saying more transparency is needed for Facebook and other social media networks when it comes to political spending…. "We must address the threat posed by foreign citizens, companies, or organizations who aim to interfere with our political process," Representative John Sarbanes of Maryland wrote in a letter. It was also signed by Elijah Cummings and John Conyers, the ranking Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees, and Democratic Senators Martin Heinrich and Ron Wyden, both members of the Intelligence Committee…. Sarbanes wants the FEC to follow up with new rules requiring disclosure for political ads on social media outlets, including Facebook and Twitter Inc., so they are as transparent as broadcast ads…. "It just raises the issue of who’s spending what in our elections and what negative impact it is having,” he said in an interview, noting Facebook’s Russia disclosures…. He said the FEC has existing authority to do this and can act without a new law, although the letter asks the FEC for guidance on whether new legislation would be appropriate…. "Their mission is to protect the integrity of our elections," he said, urging them to move quickly so rules are in place ahead of the 2018 elections, given the potential for additional attempts at foreign interference…. "There has to be teeth," he said. "But you can’t impose penalties without standards and guidelines. That’s the first piece."
Seventeen Democrats in the House and Senate filed a letter to the FEC on Wednesday urging the election commission to create new rules that would make Facebook and other social networks work to “prevent illicit foreign spending in U.S. elections.” … The move comes after a series of reports over the past several weeks showed Russian troll farms, posing as Americans, planned pro-Trump protests and rallies on U.S. soil during the 2016 election.... Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) said the goal is to “learn more about how Facebook focused in on” Russian interference in the 2016 election… “I’m going forward with the expectation that they’ll be cooperative and transparent so we get standards about making sure that won’t happen in the future. But the FEC’s gotta turn around and create a new set of standards for those industries to abide by,” Sarbanes told The Daily Beast…. “Then, if (social media networks) don’t abide by them, I think there should be real penalties involved.”
Rep. John Sarbanes, the chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, an initiative of House Democrats, told CNN the letter represented "an opportunity for the FEC to step up and show what it's made of, to show its mettle." … "This could be its finest hour to respond this threat to American democracy," Sarbanes said…. Sarbanes and his fellow signatories have asked for the FEC to respond to the letter by October 4. But with three Republicans, one Independent and one Democrat on the commission, it's unclear what steps the FEC will take.
On Tuesday, Congressman John Sarbanes announced the National Park Foundation (NFP) donated over $140,000 to Baltimore City fourth graders.... With the money, students can now go on field trips to visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Gwynn Falls in Baltimore National Heritage Area, and Hampton National Historic Site.... Funding comes from the NFP's Open OutDoors for Kids program, which aims to connect more kids to national parks and historical sites through educational activities.
Reps. Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen said they were disappointed by the Justice Department's decision, but added: "We are not surprised." … "In light of this reported decision, we are once again calling on DOJ to actively support -- not undermine -- the consent decree and to provide Baltimore with all federal resources available to improve our police force. Doing anything less would be unconscionable," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
Everyone knows that lobbyists and big-money donors have too much influence in Washington. As a result, economic policy is overly focused on boosting the stock market and maximizing corporate earnings, while the take home pay of most Americans continues to stagnate and retirement benefits are cut. In service to their deep-pocketed patrons, Republican leaders in Congress are now gearing up to give more tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations – even if that means jeopardizing support for afterschool initiatives and Pell Grants, or key programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.... Talk to everyday citizens. They want a better deal. They just don’t believe that a political system built on money and inside connections can ever deliver on that promise.... We agree.... That is why congressional Democrats, led by the Democracy Reform Task Force, have launched the By the People Project – to enlist everyday Americans in reforming our democracy to serve the many, not the money.