In The News
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.).
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."
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.
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.
"You've become the poster child for the abuse of public trust," said Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland.
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.
John Sarbanes of Maryland, Jerry Nadler of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland say Facebook's contribution of expertise to campaigns, to advise them on how best to use its platform, may create a too-cozy relationship between the company and lawmakers who might one day regulate it. The congressmen, in a letter Wednesday , ask Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a series of questions about how the company manages its so-called embed operation…. "Once the assistance they're offering or the support they're offering gets creative past a certain baseline of services, then you're wandering into dangerous territory," Sarbanes told POLITICO. Nadler and Cummings are ranking members of the Judiciary and Oversight committees, respectively…. Sarbanes said he wonders if Zuckerberg has a firm grasp of what his employees are doing out in the field in the final stretches of often heated campaigns. "You put some support person in a campaign office down South somewhere, and they're sitting next to a campaign operative, and you're getting into the last six weeks of a campaign, who knows what's going on?" he said. "So we're saying to them, 'Tell us what what's going on.'" … Sarbanes argues that Facebook has to be more transparent about the services it provides political campaigns. "If things are being offered that go beyond the standard opportunity presented in the marketplace broadly, then that's a cause for concern," Sarbanes said. "That's what we need to find out."
Mulvaney, the White House budget chief and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told a group of bankers Tuesday that when he served in Congress, his office refused meetings with lobbyists who did not provide political contributions.... Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, who chairs the Democrats' Democracy Reform Task Force, said Mulvaney's comments offered "a prime example of the warped and wicked effect that big money has on our democracy."
Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). Sarbanes asked Zuckerberg to explain how Facebook embeds its employees in political campaigns and what kind of help the social media giant provides to those campaigns. This is why he pursued those questions:
“It all goes to the broader issue of Facebook’s ability, because it is such an important commodity in the communications space, to offer up benefits to clients, including political clients ― including potentially sitting elected lawmakers, who are the very ones who are going to need to turn around, step back, look at arm’s length and decide whether there needs to be some regulation of this entity. So you’re right back to the issue of whether special interests or powerful interests out there are in a position to lean on the gears of the system in a way that can get them special treatment when it comes to public policy.”
What he hopes to find out:
“I’m very interested to know how does this work. Is an embedded Facebook employee sitting next to the chief information officer or the digital tech supervisor of the campaign ― sitting right next to them as they run into problems getting ads approved according to the Facebook requirements and so forth? Can the campaign person turn to that employee next to them and say, ‘Can you help me out? What do we do here?’ And did that result in this real imbalance ― huge imbalance ― in the number of Facebook ads placed for the Trump campaign on the Facebook platform compared with the Clinton campaign. That can obviously tie back to how much each campaign was willing to purchase on the platform. But the approval process for ads can take some turnaround time. And if you have an embedded employee sitting there next to you, you might be able to get that fast-tracked. We don’t know, but these are some of the questions that need to be asked.”