The third man

The U.S. Senate race in Maryland became a lot more complicated when businessman Rob Sobhani formally kicked off his campaign last week.

Sobhani, who petitioned his way onto the ballot by gathering over 77,000 signatures, announced his bid in a three-city tour last Tuesday. And while he’s slowly built his self-financed campaign over the spring and summer, he comes into the race with an issues page which reads as relatively conservative in some areas, more moderate in others.

Most of what he has spent of the $227,000 he’d loaned to his campaign through June 30 went to gathering the signatures for his petitions, so the signatures amassed at a cost of over $100,000 weren’t necessarily through a grassroots effort like those to place several issues on the November docket. Yet Rob got them and made it to the ballot, so apparently there is a group in Maryland who wants to think outside the two-party box. (It would be revealing to find out the overall political configuration of the signers, though.)

It’s also interesting to hear – admittedly, this is second-hand hearsay so you can assign whatever credibility you wish to it – that the Sobhani campaign was paying $4 per signature to out-of-state petition signature gatherers. He turned in 77,000 signatures when he needed 37,128, with roughly 1/8 of the required number coming from each Congressional district. If this $4 allegation is true, though, it will be very interesting reading when we see Sobhani’s next financial report since the current one is the June 30 filing and he needed to have signatures in to the state Board of Elections by the August 6 deadline he met.

There are also questions posed by blogger Jim Jamitis regarding Sobhani’s role in CNN’s “dubious journalistic practice of accepting ‘sponsorships’ from the very regimes they are supposedly investigating.” While Jamitis can be perceived as a biased observer because he has volunteered as a producer of online videos for opponent Dan Bongino, he still raises a valid set of queries.

Moreover, Rob is no stranger to politics, having made runs as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 2000, finishing fifth and second with 6% and 17% of the vote, respectively. So he’s not exactly an outsider, but he either decided he probably wasn’t going to win a Republican primary or that the GOP brand in Maryland was too tarnished.

To burnish his independent credentials, it’s worth noting that the two-time Republican candidate’s last political donation went to Democrat Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran in the Sixth District Congressional primary this spring. The $1000 donation was given last December, with a Potomac mailing address which matched the address given for Sobhani’s 2000 Senate campaign.

And it’s interesting what I’ve found about that 2000 campaign.

In October 1999, Sobhani was the beneficiary of a fundraiser put on by the Iranian-American Republican Council, San Francisco Chapter. Of course, it’s not terribly unusual for a candidate to attend an out-of-state fundraiser for a federal office, but some of what is attributed to Sobhani under “Issues of Interest to Americans of Iranian descent” is intriguing:

We asked Rob Sobhani (candidate for U.S. Senate from Maryland) to tell the Iranian-Americans about some of the issues that he will address if he is elected:

  • Taxation without representation.
  • Ending the demonizing and stereotyping of Iran and Iranians.
  • Streamlining non-immigrant visa requirements for Iranians applying to visit relatives and loved-ones in the United States.
  • Giving Iranians the choice of applying at any American embassy and consulate abroad for a non-immigrant visa.
  • Ending the harassment of Iranians entering and leaving the United States for the simple reason of being an Iranian.
  • Abolishing the current IRS codes and replacing it with a flat tax of 17% on personal income would help many Americans of Iranian descent who are self-employed or owners of a small business.

If all Americans of Iranian descent united . . .

Rob Sobhani added to the above that: Also, if elected, I will establish satellite offices in California under the umbrella of “Khan-e-Iran” to assist American-Iranians with their problems.

There’s more where that came from, although the latter article contains an interesting anecdote about how Rob went from campaign volunteer to staffer for former Congressman Connie Morella.

But isn’t the idea of America “E Pluribus Unum“? Making a protected class out of Iranian-Americans doesn’t make them any more American, just more protected. Imagine if an officeholder did the same for members of a particular religion or a more common ethnicity, such as Germans or Poles like myself.

It’s also interesting to see that Rob’s taxation stance hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last twelve years, although instead of 17% on everyone it’s now 15% on almost everyone, or as he now states:

I favor a simple, 15% flat rate for most working Americans.  Those who are making a lot more can pay a little more.

Why? I think we should all pay the same rate as a consumption tax – that’s the most fair solution.

I also fail to understand how a public-private partnership doesn’t use taxpayer money, since Sobhani is pledging to create over 100,000 jobs primarily through that vehicle. I suppose I need a little enlightenment on that point.

Of course, the real question is this: since Dan Bongino announced his candidacy long before Sobhani decided to jump back into the political arena – Rob started the campaign Facebook page April 25 and filed with the State Board of Elections on June 25 – coupled with the fact that his last political activity was a sizable donation to a Democratic candidate, is it possible that Sobhani is a stalking horse for Ben Cardin? With the success of Dan Bongino’s campaign becoming obvious after his April 3 primary win, perhaps our friend Ben needed a little insurance policy?

Granted, with his late start and limited funding Sobhani will be fortunate to crack double digits come November. But if those digits come out of the Bongino camp, Republicans may suffer a heartbreaking defeat in a race which was winnable.

4 thoughts on “The third man”

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sobhani, international businessman, has a very good working relationship with Cardin and his staff. Sobhani’s late entry into the race smacks of crony capitalism at work, trying to protect itself with the political class, and hints that Cardin is very nervous about Bongino.

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