In The News
House Democrats are pushing the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to take more aggressive action in curbing foreign influence in U.S. elections.... Eighteen members of Congress led by Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) urged the FEC in a letter on Thursday to treat political advertisements on social media platforms in the same way that it treats TV or radio ads.... Sarbanes and company argued that with such measures in place, foreign manipulation of social media platforms during the 2016 U.S. election would not have happened.... “There is reason to believe that if we had a more effective disclaimer regime for political internet advertisements during the 2016 election cycle, a portion of the illicit foreign campaign spending might have been prevented,” the lawmakers wrote.
“With the 2018 midterm elections just around the corner, Congress must come together and advance bipartisan reforms to prevent foreign agents from undermining our electoral process,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, who chairs the Democracy Reform Task Force.
“We’re still kind of digesting what’s being proposed by these recent companies,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told the Washington Examiner. “My expectation is that in addition to whatever ad disclosures happen at a granular level, in terms of what hits the user on Facebook or Twitter and their ability to see ads that are running at them, there also needs to be a centralized platform easily accessed by the public that rolls up the ad-buys in a variety of ways that allow people to determine what kind of activity is actually happening.” ... And Sarbanes said the Honest Ads Act sets a good standard for lawmakers as they examine the new policies Internet companies roll out.... “We can use that as a benchmark for judging some of the voluntary proposals that are being put forward by these various companies,” he said. “I think it is important that as legislators, we kind of have our radar up that these companies aren’t trying to end-run this conversation and preempt appropriate legislative action that will protect the public’s interest to provide the disclosure and transparency that ought to be in place.” ... Lawmakers may have to work through disagreements with Internet companies over proposed regulations and legislation, but for Sarbanes, there is an element of haste for both parties.... “It doesn’t help us much if we design and propose the perfect centralized database or if these companies themselves come up with the absolute Cadillac model of what disclosure looks like if it’s not ready and available until two years from now or even right before the election,” he said of the 2018 midterm elections. “They need to move quickly, and Congress needs to move quickly to make sure the remedy we’re looking for here is in place earlier rather than later with respect to this election year, so that by the time people are focusing on getting information and making decisions about candidates and campaigns and the election, they have plenty of information at their fingertips to do that in a responsible way.”
It seems that most Americans can agree that they are feeling ignored. For years politicians have overlooked the majority of their constituents’ actual concerns about finances, the environment, and health. Instead, they listen to the small group of wealthy people who funnel millions of dollars to their campaigns.... In the past I’ve written about both Maryland groups and local candidates who are working to change this corrupt, oligarchic system. However, what if there was someone on the inside who desired change as well? What if a U.S. Congressman was on our side? ... Be it karma, or ethics, John Sarbanes is just that. Our own local District 3 Representative is proposing solutions to this problem at the federal level! ... Knowing the Congressman’s interest in campaign finance reform, I reached out to him for more information on this bill and his reasoning for sponsoring it.
“The indictments handed down yesterday have ratcheted up concerns about Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral process,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, said in a statement. “This is an-all-hands-on-deck situation that demands immediate action from Congress.”
A national state of emergency designation — rather than the public health emergency Trump announced — would have given the White House and the administration more power to free up treatment funding…. “It’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly adequate to the challenge,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat who has been a leading voice on the issue, of Thursday’s announcement. “It’s a big missed opportunity on the part of the president to show that our response as a nation is going to be one that is up to and meets the challenge.” … Trump also promised to support efforts at the National Institutes of Health to pursue research into non-addictive painkillers…. Sarbanes and public health experts said those ideas sounded fine, but they questioned the administration’s commitment given other changes the White House has proposed. The Trump administration has sought major cuts to both traditional Medicaid and the expanded Medicaid program approved in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year the administration called for a $5.8 billion cut to NIH funding.
“If we’re going to be ready ... we’ve got to anticipate what comes next,” noted Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat who has long sought to tighten federal campaign finance laws. Earlier this year, he urged the Federal Elections Commission to take a closer look at online ads in particular.
Congressional Democrats from Maryland are seeking help from Republican lawmakers in trying to obtain records they requested two months ago from Jared Kushner’s real estate company to assess its rental practices at apartment complexes in the Baltimore region.... In a letter Friday, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings asked his Republican colleagues on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to join him “in sending a bipartisan letter to the Kushner Companies” requesting the records and the meeting the Maryland Democrats originally asked for on Aug. 18.... The original letter sent in August was signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Anthony Brown.
"Time is of the essence here with the revelation that there is foreign interference from the Russians, and there could be from others as well, on these online ad platforms like Facebook," Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told the Washington Examiner. "We have to make sure there's guidelines in place, best practices that the industry understands they need to deploy quickly so foreign interference can be caught before the next election cycle." ... Sarbanes was one of the 20 Democrats who sent the letter to the FEC asking the agency to develop guidelines for online advertising platforms.... The Maryland Democrat believes the FEC has been slow to respond to the spending that's occurring with campaigns, which he attributed to gridlock among the commissioners and an unwillingness to engage.... But the conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and the growing role that companies such as Twitter and Facebook played with providing Russian actors with a platform to spread political ads and fake news, could spur action from the commission, Sarbanes said.... "Here's the opportunity for the FEC to have its moment of glory, to come together, address in a neutral, nonpartisan way the threat that's coming from outside the country," he said. "Nothing could be more patriotic than that. This could be the FEC's finest hour, and that's what we're encouraging them to do, is stand up and say this isn't about Republicans or Democrats or Independents. This is about our election process, the bedrock of our democracy, and making sure that is protected."
Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the policy could actually hurt the nation’s security by diminishing its standing around the world.... “No matter how the Trump Administration dresses up its travel ban policy, the core of this proposal cuts against our nation’s values,” he said in a statement.