About that Friend Request

As readers of my newsletter, many of you have probably visited my Facebook page too (and if you haven’t, what’s stopping you?!?!) It’s a great way to share where I’ve been in our region and what I’m working on as your representative in Washington D.C. I say this not as a shameless plug for my page (but really, you should visit) but to note that increasingly, folks are getting a majority of their news and information from social media.

Social media networks like Facebook are now a public square where people come to debate, trade stories, and of course, share cat pictures. But unlike more traditional sources (think TV news when you hear the ‘paid for by…’), up to this point when you see advertisements pop up in your social media feed it can be hard – if not impossible – to tell just where they came from or who has paid for them.

That has consequences.

In 2016, millions of Americans were talking about – and learning about – the election on Facebook. So, like many of you, I was very troubled to hear the company recently reveal that Russians bought more than 3,000 online political advertisements in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.

This made it clear that our federal election laws are not equipped to monitor when and how foreign actors are funneling dark money into online advertisements and attempting to influence our elections.

It got me so concerned that I joined a number of colleagues from both the House and Senate in sending a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with watching over our elections, urging them to ensure that foreign governments will not be able to use social media advertisements in future elections.

You can read the questions that we want answered here.

As always, there is plenty more … so read on!

Working Together on a Global Problem  

I’ve always said that Congress is a fixer-upper, but I’m motivated to make progress for the folks I represent. It’s also critical to me that my daughters grow up in a country where they can breathe the air and drink the water. We can’t deny the facts on the ground – climate change exists and this Congress needs to come together to do something about it. Not only are there clear environmental concerns (represented by more violent storms, rising sea levels, and dry seasons leading to more damaging forest fires). There are also economic concerns. For example, there are thousands of people in our region whose livelihoods are tied to shellfish growing and fisheries. Those jobs are at risk from changing ocean chemistry caused by climate change.   

Thankfully, the urgency of this issue is breaking through to folks on BOTH sides of the aisle. The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is a growing group of Democrats and Republicans that come together to work on solutions to the challenges of changing climate, warming oceans, and an increase in severe weather patterns. There are an equal number of members from the Democratic and Republican side. This isn’t just a small working group either. I joined this summer and we now have more than 50 members.

Since my last newsletter, I participated in the caucus’s meeting with a group of representatives from the tourism industry who discussed the impacts of climate change on jobs. In addition to hearing from the head of a ski resort company, we heard from Gretchen Bleiler, an Olympic snowboarder. She mentioned that skiing and snowboarding supports nearly 700,000 jobs. She commented that more and more winter sports are being cancelled due to lack of snow, saying “Climate change is threatening the future of that economic engine. Snow pack is being confined to the higher elevations, winters are getting shorter, and what should be falling as snow is actually falling as rain.”

We heard from a fly fishing guide from Montana and Mike Leonard of the American Sportfishing Association. He discussed how warming water temperatures are impacting fish species and coral reefs – also harming the guide businesses, hotels, and local restaurants that are supported by fishing.

This group understands that we won’t solve this challenge overnight. But we are committed to keeping the dialogue going to figure out the best ways to come together and protect our planet. I look forward to continuing this important work. 

A Spotlight on Good Policy 

In my last newsletter I noted the passing of a great Washington state leader, Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg. I also referenced a bill that I introduced in his honor – The Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg National Guard Cyber Defenders Act. For a quick refresher, the legislation would create Cyber Civil Support Teams (Cyber CSTs) through the National Guard to coordinate responses to significant cyber-attacks in their state. Oftentimes bills like this, bipartisan solutions to challenges facing our country, don’t get much media attention.

That’s why I was pleased to see a national publication take note of how we are pushing to provide more protection for states. I was glad to talk to the reporter about this challenge and see the legislation in a regular feature about good policy proposals that have bipartisan support but don’t always get headlines. The article includes conversations with local National Guard officers about why this works. Check it out here.

Vote Explainer AKA #DerekVotes

One of the most important parts of my job is remaining accountable and accessible to you. It’s why I hold town halls, answer questions on Twitter (watch out for another Twitter Town Hall soon!) and why we have a cool dashboard on my home page that shows everything my office is doing to assist you.

With that in mind, I’ve begun to share quick explanations of some of my votes on my website and social media platforms. I want to make sure that folks have a sense of why I vote the way I do. So I’m linking these quick explanations to my Facebook page and I hope you’ll take the time to read them! We even have a hashtag - #DerekVotes

Here are some recent examples. I hope you take some time to read them and please, keep the questions coming in!

A National Security Work Trip  

Normally I end my reports with some pictures from my work around the region. While I did have some great events in our district, I want to share with you the details of a brief work trip that I made last week.

Together with a few of my colleagues, I travelled to Japan to meet firsthand with government officials and to tour U.S. Naval facilities in the area. As Washington state is the gateway to the Pacific, it was important to me to learn more about the issues impacting one of our closest allies.

This is especially true as you take a look at the news lately. Increasingly, the isolated regime of North Korea is making threats to our homeland and to our allies in Japan and South Korea. In my view, this is an important time to work with allies like Japan to contain the North Korean regime and make sure they don’t provoke a conflict in the region. With that in mind, as part of our trip, we had meetings with members of the Japanese House of Representatives and House of Councillors, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Defense Minister to discuss the situation.

We met with Ambassador William Hagerty, the US Ambassador to Japan, to discuss our national security challenges as well as American economic interests in the region. We also had a discussion of shared economic issues with representatives from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In addition, we visited Yokosuka and toured the U.S. Navy base. While there, we got a chance to look at the damage the USS Fitzgerald sustained after colliding with a cargo ship. It was a reminder of the situations that the men and women serving in the Navy face on any given day and the risks they take on our behalf. A group of divers told us what it was like to be the first in the waters to look for the missing and to recover those that perished. It was humbling to hear about their experiences to try and bring everyone home. 

While at Yokosuka, we got a chance to sit down with civilian workers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on assignment overseas. These folks spend months away from home, making sure that our fleet is ready for any situation. I thanked them for their work, got a tour of the area in which they work, and even took some questions (making this my first overseas town hall!).

Here are some photos from the trip.

OK. That’s it for this time. Thanks for reading. And, as always, thanks for the opportunity to represent you!

Derek Kilmer