The expected return

It’s not that I haven’t expected Rich Douglas to jump into the Maryland U.S. Senate race. But after a steady diet of discussing foreign policy, Rich made the leap with a populist appeal:

Today, millions of American workers — hourly, salaried, union, non-union, or jobless — face an unprecedented crisis: Congress has become their adversary rather than their defender. A Congress too compromised or indifferent to restore the American workforce to a place of honor on our nation’s priority list undermines the liberty, livelihood, and security of us all.

In Congress, sheltered Maryland incumbents have thrown American workers to the wolves. Some of these Maryland career politicians even applauded in April when U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said that Marylanders who are worried about uninvited foreign workers are ‘enemies of the community.’ Americans deserve better. They deserve unswerving loyalty from Congress. I am announcing for the Senate because too many Maryland incumbents are disloyal to voters.

Larry Hogan’s 2014 victory set the stage for improvements in Maryland to American worker conditions. To move ahead, Maryland requires a new team on Capitol Hill. I am convinced that Maryland has the wherewithal to overtake Texas in job creation, unless the political machine which brought Maryland rats, riots, and the rain tax smothers urgently-needed reform.

In 2016, voters have the power to challenge that machine. Maryland can send a seasoned, common-sense Republican veteran to the Senate who is eager to challenge career politicians making American workers outcasts in their own country.

So instead of dwelling on the numerous foreign policy failures of the Senate and Obama administration, Douglas is going with a blue-collar persona. Among the items on his issues page is a statement, “Marylanders losing their homes at tax auctions aren’t thinking about ISIS.” It seems to me he’s learned from his 2012 run, but again he’s probably going to face a younger, more dynamic opponent in Chrys Kefalas. Douglas is 58, Kefalas is 35.

Kefalas is also counting on a populist appeal, stressing his work for the National Association of Manufacturers over his work in government for the Justice Department and Ehrlich administration. Obviously more will enter the race, but most of them will be the common rabble who fill out the ballot every two years. It’s not uncommon for GOP voters to see ten or more names on the ballot, but the burning question is just how many of them will be elected officials running from cover.

Like last time, the key for the top two contenders will be how they deal in their opponent’s arena. Douglas takes the advantage in foreign policy, so how the candidates deal with pocketbook issues will be the subject of scrutiny.

Sleeping on the job?

Over the last few months Richard Douglas has quietly been exploring a run for the U.S Senate. In an e-mail he sent out to supporters, though, he took aim at those he may be working with as well as Barack Obama.

In two paragraphs he expertly dissected the problem:

The President wished to avoid congressional review altogether. But the Corker-Cardin concession of the Senate’s treaty prerogatives was seen in the White House as a palatable alternative. Why? Because Corker-Cardin puts the success or failure of congressional action into the hands of Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, and other reliable Obama yes-men in the House and Senate. By passing Corker-Cardin instead of demanding Senate treaty review, the Republican-led Congress marginalized itself.

How could any of this happen? Because the Republican-led Congress – the Senate in particular – allowed it to happen by not using its powers, during the seven months it had the chance, to defend its equities and change the President’s behavior. Beginning in January, the Republican-led Congress should have brought action on the President’s legislative priorities to a screeching halt until he wised up. Instead, Congress enacted those priorities.

Running against Congress seems to be the norm today for both parties, as the current leaders seem to be the gang who can’t shoot straight. Unfortunately, we have one side who is afraid of a government shutdown they would be blamed for and the other side takes advantage of their fears. So you have the group of spineless jellyfish who pass for majority leadership in Congress.

Douglas doesn’t have the bluster of Donald Trump, but he has foreign policy expertise in spades based on years of working in that area. It’s no wonder John Bolton is willing to put his name and reputation on the line for Douglas.

At this time, foreign policy is not the key issue on the table for 2016. But it lies at the heart of a number of peripheral issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and accusations of currency manipulation by China, the continuing saga of illegal immigration at our southern border, and the Keystone XL pipeline, to name a few. We may not be in an overt war in Iraq, Ukraine, or Syria, but there is pressure to stand by our allies, including Israel, instead of making overtures to old enemies Iran or Cuba.

The tone of his entire e-mail makes it clear that he’s expecting Chris Van Hollen to be the Democratic Senate opponent, which is probably the conventional wisdom. Van Hollen has been a reliable party man and helped to raise a lot of money, but can you name any singular House achievements of his? With this message, Richard makes clear he can be a leading voice on the Senate’s traditional role in guiding foreign policy – and not a moment too soon.

Exploring a race again

Every so often the name of Richard Douglas pops up on my site or in my e-mail box. Of late it’s been because of his defense of the Bladensburg Peace Cross, but he was a much more frequent subject in those days when he ran a spirited race for the U.S. Senate nomination in 2012. While Dan Bongino eventually won, I was impressed as well with Douglas and would have happily backed him had he prevailed.

The latest item to come to my attention, though, is a clear indication that Douglas considers the 2012 effort as unfinished business, and he is again using the star power of Ambassador John Bolton to fund a Senate exploratory committee at a reception July 16 in Washington, D.C.

Would-be backers should be cautioned, though, that exploring without committing has occurred before with Douglas. In late 2013 Republicans were delighted to see his interest in running for Attorney General only to back away in January of 2014. It may have been a missed opportunity for the Maryland GOP, but honestly the Senate seat would likely be a better fit for Douglas anyway based on his background.

If you believe that knowledge of foreign policy is the starting point in creating a good Senator, then Douglas would be a good choice and the backing of Bolton emphasizes that point. While both he and previously announced candidate Chrys Kefalas share a legal background, Kefalas has worked mainly on domestic and social issues.

I would have to assume that the question of whether Douglas makes his campaign formal will depend greatly on how much he raises with Bolton. Certainly there are some donors out there who backed him before but Richard basically financed his own effort last time, and that’s not going to cut it for an open seat where the leading Democratic contender had over a million dollars on hand back in March. Douglas has the advantage of experience in running statewide – and that’s a modest plus – but a guy like Chris Van Hollen will simply run a Congressional front porch campaign and just carpetbomb the media markets with 30-second ads running against the Confederate flag and those racist, homophobe hayseed hicks who will scream “Second Amendment!” until it is pulled from their cold, dead hands in front of their tax-shirking church.

In short, the exploration needs to be smiling and dialing. Of course, if all hell breaks out around the world because of events those like Douglas and Bolton have warned us about we have a fighting chance. I figure we will know all we need to know by summer’s end.

The Corker bill: another major sellout by our GOP elites

April 21, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

The repetitive nature of our GOP leadership is wearing thin. Once again they are setting up a situation where they will pretend to try very hard to stop the very thing that they are in fact enabling.

The president is pushing hard for a terrible agreement with Iran. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues published an open letter to Iran explaining that the president could not bind the USA to an agreement with the consent of Congress.

Andy McCarthy presents the situation:

Thus, the Constitution mandates that no international agreement can be binding unless it achieves either of two forms of congressional endorsement: a) super-majority approval by two-thirds of the Senate (i.e., 67 aye votes), or b) enactment through the normal legislative process, meaning passage by both chambers under their burdensome rules, then signature by the president.

This put the GOP leadership in a bind. They do not want to constrain the president for unknown reasons, but they do want to appear to their constituents back home like they are trying.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Robert Menendez (a Democrat) and fellow Republican Lindsay Graham submitted a bill that will solve this impasse for the GOP elites.

The fact that the Democrats, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin, are jumping on board with the Corker bill is evidence that something is very wrong. As Politico notes:

The low-key Cardin engaged in a furious round of negotiations with gregarious Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, prompting something that was once viewed as almost unthinkable: a bipartisan deal for Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

This bill looks tough because it forces the president to submit his Iran agreement to the senate, but as McCarthy adds:

Once the deal is submitted, Congress would have 60 days (or perhaps as few as 30 days) to act. If within that period both houses of Congress failed to enact a resolution of disapproval, the agreement would be deemed legally binding — meaning that the sanctions the Iranian regime is chafing under would be lifted. As Corker, other Republican leaders, and the president well know, passage of a resolution of disapproval — even if assured in the House with its commanding Republican majority — could be blocked by the familiar, lockstep parliamentary maneuvering of just 40 Senate Democrats. More significantly, even if enacted in the Senate, the resolution would be vetoed by Obama. As with the resolutions of disapproval on debt increases, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama’s veto would be overridden.

Instead of the president needing 67 senators to approve his Iran deal, now the Senate will need 67 votes to block the deal.

What? Why would the senators subvert the Constitution, turn the process upside down, and virtually ensure that they cannot block whatever the president presents?

This is the same old story of the leadership voting yes to let the bill out of committee so that they can futilely vote no on the floor. What they could kill in committee, they willfully let advance and then make a big show of voting no to their constituents back home. The details are different, but the story is the same.

Do not be taken in by this craven show of weakness by the GOP leadership hidden by a pose of strength. We have been sold down the river once again.

Maryland’s top prize

I have to admit I was shocked as anyone else to hear Barbara Mikulski was not seeking re-election. Although I figured she was closer to the end of her tenure than the beginning, I would have thought she would privately anoint a successor. In that respect it would have been a good landing spot for Martin O’Malley if Anthony Brown won the governorship, giving O’Malley a leg up on the 2016 Senate race once it became clear his Presidential bid was going nowhere fast. Sadly for the former governor, Larry Hogan won.

But among the blizzard of reaction from mainstream state news outlets and other political commentators, there are several things to keep in mind. First of all, this opening in a statewide race would favor those with plenty of money and a team in place. It doesn’t have to be a person who has run statewide, and because this election allows members of the Maryland General Assembly to “run from cover” because their seats aren’t involved in the election, it’s very possible a few may take a shot.

Secondly – and perhaps more importantly from a “bench” standpoint – if you assume that at least three or four sitting Congressmen decide to make a run for the seat, the same rules apply. Consider, if you will, an Andy Harris run on the Republican side – how many local elected officials would be interested in that seat as it suddenly opens? You could imagine Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio taking a shot, along with politicians from the other side of the Bay in Harris’s district. Multiply that by three or four Congressional districts and the prospect for several changes in the General Assembly for the second half of Larry Hogan’s term is significantly higher.

Yet in any of these cases, the decisions will have to be made early, probably no later than June. And that’s not just for the Senate seat, but those who may see themselves on the lower rung of the ladder in the House. Once those dominoes begin to fall, there’s no telling how far the stack could reach because it will all depend on who wins the respective primaries.

But just as the 2014 election proved to create a tremendous shakeup in the House of Delegates, the 2016 election may be cataclysmic for the state’s Congressional delegation. Even if just three or four run for office, the effect would be huge given that no more than two seats of the ten have changed hands in any recent election. The effect may be similar to 1986, when Mikulski first won office and several other Congressional seats picked up new faces (however, that was also a state election year, unlike 2016.)

So rather than try and predict the parlor game of who will run, the point of this piece is to remind people of the importance of a strong political bench. You have one seat that is a six-year term with no term limits and (quite honestly) not a lot of responsibility when you compare it to the governor’s chair. The last time this opportunity came up was 2006, but that was a year when state office holders had to weigh the odds of emerging from a crowded field against the certainty of re-election – not so a decade later.

The question isn’t so much who, but how many. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 2006 total of 28 aspirants isn’t surpassed in 2016. Most of them will be no-names or perennial candidates with no shot, but there will be some turnover in our Congressional delegation because of this sudden opening.

The monkey wrench in the system

February 11, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Senator Watch · Comments Off 

In writing a future post, I got kind of curious about the field for the 2016 U.S. Senate race Maryland will have. It’s presumed Barb Mikulski, the 30-year incumbent who will be a new octogenarian by the time the election is decided, will run for yet another term but there’s this former governor who might be looking for a new gig once his quixotic attempt at the Oval Office peters out.

In either case, there’s been very little talk on the Republican side about trying for a Hogan-style upset in another statewide race. But there is a candidate who’s already filed with an interesting approach; one which has a slim potential of upsetting the apple cart like Rob Sobhani did in 2012.

I say it’s a slim potential because Greg Dorsey, the candidate in question, is fresh off a write-in campaign for Delegate where he gathered 128 votes in District 43 – a scant 0.2% of the vote that placed him 139 votes behind the aggregate total of all the other write-ins. His candidacy was the minor speed bump on the highway to victory for the three Democrats who were on the ballot.

Dorsey, however, is an avowed and unapologetic unaffiliated candidate, one who has created what he calls The Unaffiliated Movement of America. In decrying “the system” Greg postulates that:

Our two party system seems to be played out like a sporting event.  There is a red team and there is a blue team, and each time they collectively step onto the playing field (ie., voting on and creating legislation), their team goal is to win at all cost, to take the victory and retain league dominance.  They sometimes win fairly and by the rules, and sometimes they cheat.  A quick rib strike here, a calf/achilles stomp there, aggressive trash talking, jersey holding, you name it, and all behind the referee’s line of vision even though the spectators have a clear view.  And sometimes, with impulsive and subjective emotions on the line, a player will blatantly cheat with such malicious intent that they are penalized and removed from the game.

I’m sort of guessing Dorsey is a soccer player based on the analogy, but this is an increasingly widespread view. I’ll grant that promoting a book by Jesse Ventura on his site isn’t going to win Dorsey a ton of converts on this side of the fence, but if nothing else Ventura stands as a blueprint for an unaffiliated candidate to be elected.

I used Sobhani as an example because, for Dorsey to get on the ballot he would have to use the same petition approach and solicit the signatures of 1% of Maryland’s registered voters – that would be roughly 40,000 signatures required. In essence, Sobhani self-financed that part of his campaign which presumably Dorsey cannot do – otherwise he probably would have been on the District 43 ballot (and may have stood a slim chance of winning with no Republicans on the ballot given his conservative-leaning platform.)

It may take time on the GOP side, but considering the 2016 ballot will be just like the 2012 ballot (primarily federal races, including a Senate seat) we may see one or two ambitious members of the Maryland General Assembly try a statewide run from the cover of a legislative seat. Recent examples of this are State Senator C. Anthony Muse running against Ben Cardin in the 2012 Democratic primary and former State Senator E.J. Pipkin getting the GOP nomination in 2004 but losing to Mikulski in November. I could see at least one General Assembly Republican giving it a go, and maybe there will be a Democrat who sticks his or her neck out - on that front all bets are off if Mikulski decides to retire.

So it may be later this spring before the race begins to take shape, but there’s not a lot of time to waste as the primary will be April 5, 2016. Dorsey may be first to file but I suspect he will have a lot of company by the filing deadline next January.

Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

A deceptive practice?

To be a well-informed voter, sometimes you need context. Take this example I received from Bill Murphy of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was plugging a website called electionharmony.com on Valentine’s Day.

The targeted six.

If you go to that URL, you’re redirected here, which is the NRSC’s blog.

All this is well and good, but I wanted more. So I wrote back and asked Murphy about context: did have have the data for all 100 Senators, for my thought was that – just based on the sheer number of near-unanimous votes the Senate takes – a lot of Republicans would fall into the 75% to 85% range themselves. Murphy’s pithy reply: “We’re running against the Democrats below. Our priority is to highlight their voting record to their constituents and defeat them in November.”

Okay, I get it. But you probably picked a bad week to do this after a number of Republican senators sold out and voted to pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill (a.k.a. blank check) without extracting any concessions whatsoever from the Democrats. It was even more gutless for some Republican senators to vote for cloture only to turn around and vote against the final bill when they knew the Democrats would have the votes to pass it. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn were two of those who, as far as I’m concerned, voted with Obama 100% of the time last week and I find that unacceptable.

Here’s my problem with this approach. Sure, it would be nice to pick up the six seats in the Senate, maintain control of the House, and give Barack Obama a completely Republican Congress to deal with come next year. But will they have the cajones to keep him in check when he uses his pen and his phone to rewrite laws without their consent, as he has done time and time again with Obamacare?

The NRSC supports Republicans in the Senate and tries to find candidates to defeat Democrats. But there are degrees to being Republican. I understand that winning a Senate seat in Maine or Oregon may take a somewhat different candidate than one who can prevail in Texas or South Carolina, but they should all adhere to at least some conservative principles and must have the intestinal fortitude to stand up against overreach of the executive branch, up to and including impeachment. (Yes, I said the i-word.) So what if it’s the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency and so what if we would have to survive Joe Biden. (Delaware can get a President before it gets a national park, since they are shut out of both at the moment.) We didn’t elect an emperor.

Yet the NRSC will likely try to protect its incumbents, regardless of their merits. Listen, I’m a registered Republican, but sometimes my party gets it wrong. A hokey URL and noting some Democrats vote with their president over 90 percent of the time is one thing, but we also need to present a principled conservative alternative along with a plan to keep the executive branch in check. I haven’t seen that come across my e-mail box yet.

A new job for Newt?

September 29, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Delmarva items, Politics, Senator Watch, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It was a little scary when I glanced at the subject line of the e-mail: wasn’t Newt Gingrich a flop as a Presidential candidate? And isn’t a little soon to be discussing 2016, really?

Upon further inspection, though, I found that Republicans can be carpetbaggers, too:

As a former senior staffer on Newt’s 2012 presidential campaign, I am leading the effort to convince Newt Gingrich to run for U.S. Senate and building a winning grassroots campaign for when he does.

So far, the initial push has been a resounding success. We’ve had tens of thousands of grassroots activists across the country sign the petition to Draft NEWT.

In fact, the campaign has been so successful that we’ve generated significant positive press attention from the Washington Times and many national political papers. Now, we are looking for our second wave as we continue to drum up support for the Draft NEWT movement and build a winning ground game.

The gentleman who’s on the sending end of this is named Andrew Hemingway. It sounds like he’s pining for a job in the nascent Newt campaign:

If we generate enough signatures and enough financial support, we will be able to get Newt into the race with an overwhelming grassroots base of support.

If we are successful, Newt will go to the Senate and work with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to restore and uphold our Second and Tenth Amendment rights, balance the budget, abolish Obamacare, and put a stop to Barack Obama’s liberal second term agenda.

With Republicans on the edge of retaking power in the US Senate, a Newt victory could be the win that puts Republicans over the edge. How great would it be to know that your efforts helped Draft Newt, elect Newt, and retake the U.S. Senate?

I suppose the reason I thought this was a 2016 effort was because awhile back I told you about a bid to get Judge Andrew Napolitano off the sidelines and into the 2016 presidential race. Obviously Maryland had its recent movement to draft Charles Lollar into the gubernatorial race bear fruit as well. But would the commonwealth of Virginia take kindly to an outsider running for Senate?

Because Newt didn’t qualify for the Virginia presidential primary last year, it’s hard to gauge what sort of support he would have had in the state. But judging by the fact the Draft Newt Facebook page has 17 likes and the Twitter page has but 7 followers, I don’t imagine the petition is too far along – meanwhile, time is wasting. Granted, things are a little different in Virginia because they conduct state elections in odd-numbered years so they’re in the midst of a heated gubernatorial campaign as we speak, but once the holidays are over you would hope Newt would be ready to go. So far, though, Gingrich seems more interested in life off the campaign trail.

But if Crossfire gets cancelled, I suppose Newt will have some free time on his hands. I think Virginia Republicans are on their own with this one.

Is it truly ‘My Maryland’?

Billing itself as “Democracy’s First Online Town Hall”, the website MyMaryland.net recently went live with backing from the Sunlight Foundation, a group which advocates for governmental transparency.

The website is a pilot project where users can sign up and learn about and contact their elected officials. So I decided to make myself a guinea pig and sign up.

From the homepage, I selected “Join” and was taken to a landing page where they asked the basics: e-mail, password (for your use), name, and postal code. They also needed date of birth, why I wasn’t sure – perhaps it matches voter registration information.

After that, I was advised to check my email for a link. Sure enough, a few seconds later I had my e-mail and clicked the link.

(continued at Watchdog Wire…)

Divided parties

Over the last few weeks the media has reveled in the divisions which became apparent in the Maryland Republican Party, first in the party chairman race which was only decided on the second ballot and later with an upheaval in House of Delegates leadership which I’m told succeeded by a two-vote margin – Nic Kipke actually only won a plurality of the 43 House members (but a slim majority of those present.)

But there is new leadership in both entities and folks seem satisfied with the final result, at least insofar as the Maryland GOP leadership is concerned because the runner-up in the race for Chair won the consolation prize of 1st Vice-Chair. Incidentally, for the first time in my memory, both Diana Waterman and Collins Bailey will be sworn in at an event outside the convention setting as they will jointly be sworn in May 13 in Annapolis. (Key question: will bloggers be invited to the “media appreciation lunch” afterward? I guess my invite was lost in the mail.)

So the GOP is more or less united and ready to do battle. But what of the Democrats? Well, they seem to have hit a little snag, which was mentioned in more detail at my Politics in Stereo counterpart on the left, Maryland Juice.

On Friday the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee hosts their annual Spring Ball, which, like a Lincoln or Reagan Day Dinner for local Republicans, serves as a key fundraiser and a chance for party faithful to hear from a number of local elected officials and a keynote speaker. But their event is threatened as a fundraiser because a number of prominent Democrats are boycotting the event. Why?

I’ll pass along the explanation from the Washington DC Metro Council of the AFL-CIO:

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Montgomery County Young Democrats are among those who have announced that they’re honoring a boycott of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s May 11 Spring Ball. The metro Washington-area labor movement is boycotting – and picketing – the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s Spring Ball because the Committee took a position in favor of the 2012 Question B referendum, which took away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.

But I nearly spit up my drink when I read this line, from UFCW 1994 president Gino Renne:

Labor will not tolerate being treated as an ATM and foot soldiers for a party which is often indifferent – and sometimes openly hostile – to working families in Montgomery County.

As the Republicans often seem to ask the pro-liberty movement, where else are you guys going to go? Trust me, they will have this ironed out in plenty of time to give extorted union dues and “representation fees” to those Democrats in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state. The point will be made at this event, but like any other “family business” they’ll come to an understanding and things will be quietly made whole at a later time when the heat is off.

I find it quite amusing, though, that members and candidates from the party which regularly chastises Republicans for signing an Americans for Tax Reform pledge to not raise taxes or kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on gun issues scurry like cockroaches once it’s learned they would have to cross a picket line to attend a party event. It would be interesting to see how many people brave the picket line (if one occurs; perhaps the threat was enough to make the point) and attend the Spring Ball. I’ve seen Big Labor when it feels slighted, so the question might be whether there will be more people inside the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel or picketing outside.

Odds and ends number 70

More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.

I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:

Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)

So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.

Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:

Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.

The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)

If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.

There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:

  • Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
  • Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
  • Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.

So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.

For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:

This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.

“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.

Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:

Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.

By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.

This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.

The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.

Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:

There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.

In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.

This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)

Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.

Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:

The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!

SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)

If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.

Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.

That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.

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