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An outspoken champion for human rights, Ben Cardin has been a national leader on foreign policy while representing the people of Maryland in the U.S. Senate and, before that, in the House of Representatives. He has worked across party lines to further U.S. national security and to ensure that democracy, anti-corruption, transparency, good governance and respect for civil and human rights are integrated into American foreign policy. 

In addition to his role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin is Co-Chair of the bicameral Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) and, since 2015, he has served as the Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the 57-nation Organization Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. He previously served as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from April 2015 to February 2018. Cardin has served on the Foreign Relations Committee since arriving in the Senate in 2007. 

Cardin is the lead author of the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a law that imposes sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for the death of Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, as well as individuals who commit gross violations of human rights against rights defenders in Russia. Cardin also authored the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and Accountability Act with Senator John McCain, which became law in 2016, and was made permanent in 2022. The law gives the United States the power to deny travel and banking privileges and to seize property in the United States for individuals globally who are “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” against human rights defenders, and foreign government officials who commit acts of significant corruption. 

In early 2023, Cardin introduced the Combating Global Corruption Act to create a public report on how well foreign government are fulfilling commitments they have made to combat corruption. To ensure that U.S. government officials are also incentivized to adhere to the highest standards of integrity, Senator Cardin led the successful effort in the 117th Congress to require that Senate-confirmed officials in the State Department are, after their service, prohibited from working for governments or agents of adversary nations forever, and for a period of at least three years for any other foreign government. Cardin also led an initiative in the 117th Congress to create a Commission on the Modernization of the State Department to improve the operations of America’s oldest cabinet agency.

Among his other legislative accomplishments are the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation that strengthens the U.S. government’s infrastructure to prevent, mitigate, and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities wherever they may occur. He also is the author of the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act, which would establish a Syria-specific standard of reporting and accountability for crimes against humanity. He has repeatedly called for President Assad to be held accountable for his war crimes. Key enacted legislation includes the Cardin-Lugar transparency provision (1504) of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protect Act, which requires publicly traded companies to report payments to foreign governments for drilling and mining rights; and the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, a law which he was designed to ensure transparency in our foreign assistance so that civil society in the United States and in aid partner countries can hold their governments accountable. He also has been a leader on legislation to protect patients’ rights and strengthening the ability for Americans to save for retirement. 

Senator Cardin has been in the forefront of efforts in the U.S. Congress to develop and implement a national U.S. strategy against antisemitism and hate-based violence. He serves as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and has consistently worked to raise awareness of the escalation of global antisemitic violence, anti-Muslim laws and other forms of intolerance, while striving to promote peace, tolerance and equality. Cardin has chaired multiple hearings and events on combating antisemitism and led a bipartisan resolution that condemns antisemitism and calls upon world leaders to speak out against it. Cardin also was the primary sponsor of a Senate resolution supporting the goals and objectives of the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets. He continues to be a vocal advocate for more vigorous responses to acts of antisemitism and intolerance across the OSCE area.

A strident defender of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America, Cardin is a champion of protecting our clean air and water and cleaning up toxic waste in our communities. He is a leader in the fight for environmental justice and against the disproportionate impacts of pollution and climate change on underserved communities. Merging his interest and expertise in the environment and foreign affairs, Cardin has led major Senate delegations to the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He has taken the lead fighting for resources to fix our crumbling water infrastructure. His commitment to reduce pollution and protect our environment fuels his advocacy for federal investments in transportation infrastructure that reduce pollution and improve public transit options. Recent efforts on infrastructure have led to investments around his home state of Maryland, including projects to expand capacity and build resilience at the Port of Baltimore, an important hub for global commerce and economic growth. 

A proud Terp, he attended the University of Maryland School of Law, finishing first in his class. He currently sits on the Board of Visitors for the University of Maryland School of Law and the United States Naval Academy. From 1987-2006, Cardin represented Maryland’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for 17 years on the Ways & Means Committee. He was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967-1986. During his time as Speaker from 1979-1986, he reformed Maryland’s property tax system, the school financing formula and the ethical standards for elected officials.