John Sarbanes

Mulvaney Backlash May Drive Political Money Changes
Even lobbyists distanced their industry from remarks by the White House budget chief

Watchdog groups characterized Mick Mulvaney’s remarks as “brazen.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Advocates for tougher campaign finance regulations say comments from Mick Mulvaney seeming to describe a pay-to-play style of politics on Capitol Hill will boost their long-term effort to overhaul the rules and could benefit like-minded candidates in the midterm elections.

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. Mulvaney, a Republican, represented a South Carolina district from January 2011 to February 2017, when he became director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Facebook’s Lobbying Team Faces Test With Zuckerberg on Hill
Zuckerberg intends to approach appearance in a contrite and humble manner, sources say

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, is leaning on an expanding roster of well-connected lobbyists and message-shapers at his company, as well as a team of outside consultants, to prepare for questions from members of Congress this week. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s highly anticipated debut as a congressional witness this week marks an unprecedented step in the company’s decade-long effort to wield influence in the nation’s capital.    

The social media titan is leaning on an expanding roster of well-connected lobbyists and message shapers at his company, as well as a team of outside consultants, to prepare for a host of questions from senators on Tuesday and House members Wednesday. Lawmakers plan to probe everything from a scandal involving Facebook users’ data to the secretive sources of campaign ads on the platform.

Controversy Swirls as Lawmakers Eye Campaign Finance Changes
Possible Johnson amendment repeal is among most-watched developments

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., concludes a news conference after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on March 20, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers continue to debate major changes to political money regulations as part of a year-end spending package, despite opposition from numerous congressional Democrats and campaign finance watchdog groups.

Even with congressional primaries already underway, the proposals could play out in the November midterm elections if enacted, campaign finance experts on both sides of the debate say.

Sweeping Changes Proposed for Foreign Lobbying Law
Critics: Proposal overreacts to Mueller indictments

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley in response to indictments in the special counsel’s Russia probe would have far-reaching consequences for U.S. representatives of foreign governments, foreign companies and other international interests.

The Iowa Republican put forward the measure last week after Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III announced indictments in his investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana introduced an identical bill in his chamber.

House Democrats Want to Use Minibus to Target Trump Ethics
Rules Committee likely to nix attempts to force issue

Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes says Democrats will use the tools at their disposal to force action on President Donald Trump's ethics. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats this week are trying to hitch a slate of amendments to the appropriations minibus, all targeting the business, family members and scandals of President Donald Trump.

The amendments, offered in the Rules Committee, are part of the minority party’s larger effort to tie their Republican colleagues to Trump’s possible conflicts of interest stemming from his business holdings and the government’s probe of alleged collusion by Trump campaign officials with Russia to influence the 2016 elections.

House Democrats Focus on Ethics, Political Money
Effort is aimed at highlighting president’s ethics woes

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi House Minority says Democrats were developing a series of legislative proposals that would include updates to the nation’s ethics and elections systems. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid the collapse of a signature piece of Republican health care legislation and continued revelations about the Trump team’s ties to Russia, House Democrats have turned their spotlight on proposals to revamp ethics, campaign finance and voting rights laws.

“We’re fighting back against the lack of accountability that we see in the Trump administration and from special interests,” said Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, who chairs his party’s Democracy Reform Task Force.

Supreme Court Affirms Ban on ‘Soft Money’ in Campaigns
Opponents of ban say they will take concerns to Congress

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., applauded the high court's decision to let a lower court's ruling on the case stand. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

Although proponents of political money limits cheered the decision, they said that new Justice Neil Gorsuch’s position on the case confirmed their fears about his campaign finance views.

Word on the Hill: Calm Before the Recess
Your social calendar for the week

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, center, GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks, left, and other officials review production of the fiscal 2018 budget at the Government Publishing Office's plant on North Capitol Street on Friday. The budget will be released this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s the last week before the Memorial Day recess.

There are a few things going on to get you through until the long weekend and four-day break.

Pileup of Ethical Issues Gives Democrats Powerful Weapon Against Trump
Fog of suspicion continues to dog president on all sides

President Donald Trump faces a motivated Democratic opposition aiming to weaken his power and thwart his administration’s policy agenda at every turn. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A small, previously obscure federal ethics office has catalogued a burst of inquiries and complaints from the public — more than 30,000 — since Donald Trump’s election as president, compared to a few hundred in all of fiscal 2015.

The huge increase in public outreach to the Office of Government Ethics reflects an administration with unprecedented corporate entanglements and an outwardly blase approach to ethics statutes and the truth, as well as a flair for scandal and drama.

Group Strives to ‘Make Congress Great Again’
Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group has a bipartisan following

Lee Drutman, left, and Kevin Kosar are the founders of the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group, which is focused on bringing together congressional staff from all sides to brainstorm ways to improve Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Its name is a mouthful, but the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group has gained a following for its mission to strengthen a polarized and unpopular Congress.

The founders come from think tanks in different positions on the political spectrum. Kevin Kosar spent 11 years at the Congressional Research Service before leaving for the “free market” R Street Institute. Lee Drutman is a senior fellow at the more liberal New America.