Of all the states in the union, South Dakota is not one where I have a ton of readership – maybe one or two a month wander by here from the Mount Rushmore State. But I have somehow found my way to the mailing list of their Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland, and if his e-mails are any indication, the dreaded Koch brothers aren’t just the obsession of Harry Reid. Get a load of this:
“Americans for Prosperity,” a dark money front group for the Koch Brothers, have quietly set up shop in South Dakota in an effort to exert big money control of South Dakota’s United States Senate seat.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend, “Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said.”
“Big Money is becoming increasingly concerned that our town-to-town grassroots campaign to take our country back from groups like the Koch Brothers and other billionaires and big corporations is working. And, as a result, South Dakotans will be “subjected to a never-ending stream of negative television advertisements,” said Sioux Falls small businessman and US Senate candidate Rick Weiland.
Weiland challenged Republican nominee to work with him to keep so-called “Dark Money” groups out of South Dakota. “Mike, this is an opportunity for both of us to show we can be leaders. Let’s sign a pledge and agree to keep billionaires from buying these elections,” Weiland said. (Link added.)
I’m less than impressed, particularly since the South Dakota version of AFP really doesn’t have a full site and their Facebook page has 11 likes. Then again, they have a state chapter and Maryland doesn’t anymore. That’s a very, very quiet setting up of shop, though.
But it sounds to me like AFP is trying to do something the Republican Party doesn’t seem to be doing otherwise – trying to mobilize action on a local level. Something Weiland didn’t quote from the Post story:
Building AFP’s presence in new states, (AFP president Tim) Phillips said, is one of the lessons the group took away from the 2012 elections, when Democratic efforts to organize voters proved far better than the GOP’s turnout operations.
Sounds like the old “50 state strategy” to me, although for now AFP hasn’t returned to Maryland. Guess we have to do it ourselves.
My point is that Democrats seem to be desperate to attack anyone who has money and wishes to donate to conservative causes because they sure can’t run on their record. The seat Weiland is aiming for is one held by a retiring Democrat, Sen. Tim Johnson. Polling is still rather scarce, but Weiland – who’s threatening to move into the “perennial candidate” category with another loss – trails in the state’s polls by about 15 points, with former Gov. Mike Rounds, the Republican, leading, and a third candidate, former Sen. Larry Pressler, in the race as a centrist independent and behind Weiland by about 10 points. No wonder Weiland is blaming AFP, since he’s lost any prospect of running to the center. Moreover, there’s no question Democrats are fighting elsewhere to save seats.
But this tale also provides a good transition to something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile. How much “dark money” is in our local politics? And by that I mean how much do our candidates here on the Lower Shore get from elsewhere? Now that we have just two entrants in most races, it should be easier to see where the money came from pre-primary and can serve as a lead-in to the next report due August 26. Look for these updates in coming weeks.
If we would only be so lucky to get some conservative counterweight around these parts to all the special interests which seem to be funneling money toward the Democrats. But we will have to make do with what we have, which is the right position on most issues. Many of our folks have been out knocking on doors and engaging in the retail politics which will have to beat the 30-second commercials and expensive full-color mailers the other side will surely try to fool us with. Let’s keep those tricks from working this time.
Update: As if on cue, Michelle Malkin has this piece on a major-league lefty contributor. But you won’t hear anything from the rest of the media on the eeeeevil Democracy Alliance, nor will John Boehner begin screeching about them.
This article was actually going to be about one piece of information I received, but then I got another which I can tie in. I do that every now and then.
The TEA Party movement, depending on how you determine its beginning, is somewhere between five and seven years old now. Thousands upon thousands of activists have participated in it, but in reality conditions have generally become worse in terms of its main fiscal goals.
It’s a well-documented lack of success, and perhaps that lack of reward is frustrating those who want real positive change. Take this piece I received an e-mail the other day from an area TEA Party group lamenting the writer’s Independence Day plans.
This year for the July 4th Holiday I spent it doing laundry or something mundane like that. No family gathering, no special commemoration or meditation on my part to mark this critically important day. I cannot let this happen again.
When I think of the miracle of the founding of this nation and the sacrifice made by millions to preserve it I am ashamed that it passed like another day, a long weekend. I’m sure most of you reading this didn’t abuse this important day to the extent that I did – hopefully. I serve in a position of leadership in this organization; I know better. God forgive me but God help me to do better not just next year but every day from this point on.
This organization didn’t participate in (a local) event due to lack of interest from the membership. We didn’t walk in the July 4th Parade, also due to lack of interest. The Summer BBQ will most likely be pushed out again due to lack of interest. These are perhaps less important than what we do daily to mark the miracle that is this precious nation BUT they are outward expressions of our commitment to each other, to this nation, to our God in front of others. If we don’t stand up in front of an unschooled community every chance we have, how can we hope to shift this paradigm?
I know we are all tired, exhausted, hardly able to pay our bills and take care of our families. Perhaps we are in our senior years and feel that we have paid a hefty price already. Many of us are weary from trying to inform a willingly uninformed public, legislature, clergy, education system, healthcare system, etc. I get it; I’m part of that tired and huddled mass.
If you go back on my website you’ll find numerous references to TEA Party gatherings, local meetings of an Americans for Prosperity chapter, or the Wicomico Society of Patriots – these are all groups which flourished for a brief time but then died due to lack of interest, leadership issues, or both. Some of those organizers have moved into the mainstream of politics, but many others found that activism too difficult to keep up when their family’s financial survival was at stake.
But then we have the diehards, among them the purists who will accept no compromise. That’s one lament of Sara Marie Brenner, a conservative activist who announced on her Brenner Brief website yesterday that she was taking a hiatus from her news aggregation website and radio show.
I bring this up as I’ve interviewed her for my now-dormant TQT feature as well as talked about a venture she launched late last year. While I definitely haven’t agreed with her on everything and incurred her wrath by pointing out the lack of viability of her many past and present enterprises in the new media world, I think she makes some very good points in her lengthy piece.
For one, I nearly laughed out loud when she wrote about the Ohio PAC where $7,000 or the $7,400 raised went to the leader’s own company knowing that the Maryland Liberty PAC has a similar history – the majority ($14,826.03) of the nearly $26,000 MDLPAC spent last year went to Stable Revolution Consulting. It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but the same people who question the Larry Hogan connection with Change Maryland may want to ask about that arrangement as well.
As a whole it seems that some in the TEA Party movement can’t be happy unless they either amass power and wealth for themselves – making them little better than the big-government flunkies they decry – or refuse to compromise on one particular issue, forgetting that they may need their conservative opponent for some other pressing issue tomorrow. Brenner brings up two hot-button items of interest – Common Core and Glenn Beck’s charity effort to assist the unaccompanied minors streaming over our southern border from Central America. On these I only agree with her 50% but as I said she makes other good points.
I don’t blame Sara Marie for backing away from the fray; that’s her decision just as it was to get involved in the first place – and I wish her nothing but the best in her ventures as she follows her other passions. But we have to remember that the other side wins when we stop fighting.
It was a more hopeful tone from the other side of the TEA Party:
I hope that we will always remember that no matter what the political ideology, we must find commonalities if we are going to make any progress. I hope that we make a concerted effort to reach out in peace to at least one person over the summer that we have heretofore had disagreements. We know that the truth is on our side as long as we deliver it in peace and love.
Now if anyone would have sour grapes and wish to take their ball and go home, it might be me given recent election results. Believe it or not, though, after nearly two decades in the political game I am still learning and listening, so losing an election won’t crush or define me – it just means I retire with a .500 record. But I’m still going to participate because it’s important, if not necessarily lucrative.
The trick is getting new people into the fray to replace those who can’t go on for whatever reason. Because I have a talent for writing – or so I’ve been told – I have soldiered on with this website for going on nine years. It may not be the most useful or unique contribution, but it’s what I have.
So those who have departed will be missed. However, they are always invited back once they recharge and reload because we can always use the help.
It’s always fun to needle the opposition a little bit. So yesterday I got an e-mail from Americans for Prosperity which didn’t say anything particularly new, but made its point in a fairly familiar font. (The Obama campaign generally used a font called Gotham, which appears to the choice of AFP as well.)
To me, it’s little details like that which make a difference. Sure, we all know that Obamacare is a dog and the guy pretty much lied through his teeth to get it passed. Obviously this appeal is targeted to look a little like something from Obama, and although I have no idea how large and extensive the AFP mailing list is, it will invariably catch a few who still believe in “hope and change” among them. The appeal leads to a contact form from AFP which also reads:
The rollout of ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges only confirmed what many Americans knew all along: the President’s health care law is a monumental failure. Instead of bringing Americans peace of mind about the cost and quality of their health care plans, ObamaCare has wreaked havoc on the lives of people across the country by leading to cancelled plans, rising premiums, and lost access to trusted doctors.
The President and his allies in Congress have said that the health care debate is over, but millions of Americans continue to suffer from ObamaCare’s harmful impact.
I think it’s a bit dated, but I suppose it can still be effective.
In previous years I’ve told you about a number of bus tours – everything from national and regional tours sponsored by the TEA Party Express and Americans for Prosperity to the jaunts which opened two of the four gubernatorial campaigns.
But this time the tour will serve as the coda to a primary campaign that the sponsor hopes is a prelude to bigger things in November. Over 14 days Larry Hogan’s campaign will be bussing it around the state. Here’s the regional itinerary; individual stops will surely be made public in the 24 to 48 hours beforehand.
Sunday, June 8 – Edgewater, MD - Hogan-Rutherford Picnic, Camp Letts: 2PM-5PM, 4003 Camp Letts Rd Edgewater, MD
Monday, June 9 – Montgomery County
Tuesday, June 10 – Somerset, Worcester Counties
Wednesday, June 11 – Dorchester, Talbot, Queen Anne’s Counties
Thursday, June 12 – Anne Arundel County
Friday, June 13 – Harford County
Saturday, June 14 – St. Mary’s, Calvert Counties
Sunday, June 15 – Washington, Frederick Counties
Monday, June 16 – Howard, Carroll Counties
Tuesday, June 17 – Cecil, Kent, Caroline Counties
Wednesday, June 18 – Wicomico County
Thursday, June 19 – Baltimore City, Baltimore County
Friday, June 20 – Charles, Prince George’s County
Saturday, June 21 – Allegany County
Sunday, June 22 – Garrett County
Obviously we don’t know what the content of the individual stops will be, but it looks like June 18 will be our lucky day here. Most likely it will give Larry the opportunity to go through his well-rehearsed ideas about “jobs, the middle class, and restoring our economy.” In fact, that’s about what he said:
Boyd and I are excited to kick off our Change Maryland bus tour on June 8 at Camp Letts in my home town of Edgewater. Our grassroots campaign to bring fiscal restraint, roll back taxes and clean up Annapolis continues to gather momentum as we approach the June 24 Republican primary. The tour will enable us to revisit communities across our state and engage voters who have had little voice during seven years of one-party rule.
I did see an interesting note about the picnic I thought worth sharing:
Media: The Camp Letts picnic is open to credentialed media; to register contact Hannah Marr (at her contact info.)
The Hogan camp has a reputation of not being particularly enamored with bloggers, although Red Maryland may be an exception. It may be only perception, but that sort of statement might just reinforce the stereotype. It’s probable the Democratic campaigns are already sending someone out for “gotcha” moments at public Republican events like this bus tour, so critical bloggers may not make a difference anyway.
But if you want one last chance to judge Larry Hogan in person and not base your decision on thirty-second commercials, here you go. Just make sure the bus has a Maryland plate.
It should come as no surprise that a grassroots group which has over the years strongly backed our Congressman, Andy Harris, would give him high marks for his overall voting pattern. But Americans for Prosperity and their Federal Affairs Manager Chrissy Hanson wanted to make sure I got the word.
Now that the first year of the 113th Congress has come to an end, it seems like a good time to look back and take notice of how our Representatives and Senators voted. Americans for Prosperity ranks members of Congress based on their votes in favor of economic freedom, and thus, a better, brighter, more prosperous future.
Interestingly enough, though, while Andy’s 2013 score was solid, his rating for 2014 probably went down yesterday when he voted for the omibus spending bill which funds a large part of the government for the remainder of this fiscal year, through September 30. It did on the continuing Heritage Action scorecard, where Harris only rates an 83% score. In either case, though, Harris has tended to land on the edge of the top 50 rated members of Congress, both House and Senate.
In this day and age of instant gratification and accountability, it’s notable that many organizations take the time to track these Congressional votes and rate representatives. But these can be deceptive as well – for example, Harris actually has a worse rating than Sen. Marco Rubio (who’s best known for working with Democrats in trying to reform immigration into an amnesty program) and is only a few points ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been painted as an ineffective leader of the resistance and faces a strong primary challenge from Matt Bevin – so much so that McConnell has an attack website against his Republican opponent.
The point is that any scoring system can make for a flawed look at a politico, because sometimes actions are more important than votes and not every issue is of equal importance. To use Rubio as an example, he may be voting the correct way on economic issues but most have still not forgiven him for working with the pro-amnesty portion of the party on immigration.
In general I’m satisfied with how Andy Harris votes – when he served in the Maryland Senate he was one of only two legislators who have ever achieved a perfect monoblogue Accountability Project score of 100 in a particular session. I’m a very difficult taskmaster. So it goes without saying I was an early Harris Congressional supporter and remain so, given the lack of credible and better opposition in our district, at least until 2022. (This is because he set a 12-year term limit on himself.)
If I could wave a magic wand and get hundreds more members of Congress like Andy Harris, I’d take it in a second. We would be so much better off, regardless of the scores he’s assigned.
The e-mail was from Americans for Prosperity, and perhaps it came across as a little shrill. But interim Maryland AFP director Nick Loffer brought up a pretty good point:
Governor O’Malley is spending your tax dollars on professionally produced TV ads in a new PR stunt to mask Maryland’s dreadful business climate. Outrageous! These government TV ads promote handpicked businesses and their products to convince job creators to pick Maryland without your consent!
You shouldn’t be forced by your government to promote any company period! It’s wrong, unfair, and abandons America’s free market economy! (All emphasis in original.)
What struck me about this, though, were the immaculately politically correct companies selected for this round:
Jennifer and Andrew Buerger traveled to Iceland in 2009 to help raise funds for Jodi’s Climb for Hope, a nonprofit honoring Andrew’s sister. Their mountain climbing expedition, led by Maryland’s Earth Treks, was a life changing journey. Jennifer and Andrew also discovered a healthy, nutritious Icelandic yogurt and launched B’More Organic, a business built around a 100% organic, fat-free, gluten-free, low-lactose yogurt smoothie that packs 30 grams of protein. You can find B’more Organics delicious yogurt smoothies in other small Maryland businesses like Mom’s Markets, Roots Markets, Earth Treks Climbing Centers and Wegmans. Good for you, Good for Maryland, Good for the Planet!
People across Maryland are signing up for wind power with Clean Currents. Co-founded in 2005 by Gary Skulnik, Clean Currents has helped 10,000 homes and 3,000 businesses make the switch to wind power in the Maryland region. Clean Currents provides wind power to Maryland businesses like Honest Tea, Woodberry Kitchen and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. A certified B-Corporation, Clean Currents is also growing the next sustainable energy generation with community partners like Baltimore’s Midtown Academy. It’s easy to switch to Clean Currents clean energy, there are no added fees, no equipment to install, just good clean energy. Good for you, Good for Maryland, Good for the Planet.
Apples & Oranges Fresh Market
Meet new neighbor, Apples and Oranges Fresh Market – a fresh market for a fresh start towards healthy eating and a better quality of life. A full service grocery store committed to providing nutritious and delicious food options for the community of East Baltimore, Eric and Michele Speaks-March, opened Apples & Oranges in March 2013. Stocking their neighborhood market with garden-fresh produce, fresh meat and dairy products, and offering customers recipes, nutrition information and healthy eating tips, this local Maryland business is clearly invested in a future that is Good for You, Good for Maryland and Good for the Planet.
If so inclined I might just have to look at the political leanings of those in charge of the businesses, but for this purpose the fact that all of them are deemed “good for you, good for Maryland, good for the planet” is good enough to deserve scrutiny.
If skyr (the Icelandic yogurt referred to in the first blurb) has a market here in the U.S. then it will be found. Why should Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown help them with a promotional spot? The same holds true for Clean Currents and Apples & Oranges, as both could be considered niche businesses. Clean Currents is essentially an electrical service broker, selling wind-produced electricity at a slight premium over conventional rates (perhaps $2 a month, depending on usage) while Apples & Oranges is a food store which opened in an area termed a “food desert,” defined as a neighborhood where few healthy food items are available. (To bolster that narrative, it’s located across from a McDonald’s.)
Obviously I understand the idea of a business being a political prop – over the years, politicians of all stripes have attended the ribbon-cuttings, made campaign appearances at particular business locations, and so forth. Democrats and Republicans here and everywhere else have “their” businesses they lean on for various functions – as an example, I’ve attended many a meeting at Adam’s Ribs in Fruitland because it’s considered a Republican- and TEA Party-friendly establishment so we patronize them. Conversely, Seacrets in Ocean City tends to be the preferred location for fundraisers for Democratic State Senator Jim Mathias so one could infer they’re backers of his. The same was true of Main Roots Coffee for Democrat Jim Ireton in the recent Salisbury mayoral campaign.
The point of the AFP criticism lies in the “MaryLand of Opportunity” campaign, which belies the actual conditions encountered by most small businesses which don’t receive the break of state endorsement:
Governor O’Malley and Annapolis should be focusing on making Maryland the best place to do business by reforming our business climate, not masking the problem by wasting more of your tax dollars. Only through free market reforms can Maryland’s reputation as being flyover country for businesses and families that are choosing states with brighter economic outlooks like Texas and Virginia be erased.
With the state’s priority of pushing organic dairy products, wind-produced electricity, and produce markets in inner-city neighborhoods, one has to infer that a startup in the oil services industry, a gun shop, or a Christian-themed reception hall won’t be getting state help anytime soon. Yet they produce jobs, too, and eliminating the corporate tax and keeping state spending in line would help all of these businesses, not just the chosen few picked as the most politically correct.
Oh, and just to be nitpicky – I don’t consider Wegmans as a small Maryland business that sells skyr since it’s a New York-based regional supermarket chain. And the Clean Currents energy is not available “across Maryland” since I actually put my zip code in to check rates and it said their service wasn’t available here. So I used Annapolis instead. Typical “One Maryland” garbage.
Of course, it’s not with the Democrats.
This was supposed to happen several weeks ago during session, but cooler heads prevailed and pushed the vote back to last night. All it did, though, was delay the inevitable and this time Delegate Nic Kipke won. Instead of Delegate Michael Smigiel as second-in-command, though, the new Minority Whip will be Delegate Kathy Szeliga. They replace the old leadership team of Delegates Tony O’Donnell and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, which had held their respective Minority Leader and Minority Whip positions since 2007 and 2011, respectively.
And like Delegate Ron George’s announcement last night, it seems like the center is striking back. With O’Donnell being fairly conservative in philosophy – at least as evidenced by his voting record – Kipke leaves a lot of room for improvement; in fact, for as much grief as I gave Delegate George for his choices, Kipke’s have been even worse every year since I started the mAP in 2007, and for many of the same reasons. Yet when I hear Mike Busch saying “Tony did a good job of providing the loyal opposition,” I wonder if the change wasn’t needed.
On that note, Kipke is pledging to work with center-right groups like Americans for Prosperity, Change Maryland, and the central committees to “coordinate the GOP’s push for support.” We won’t find out if this bears fruit, though, until next January.
At that point Nic may have to be the circus master as Delegates eyeing new districts or higher office add their political calculations to the already volatile mix of session business.
Late last month the Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Maryland, along with the Sage Policy Group, released a study claiming that possibly over 1,000 jobs could be lost in Maryland if the gasoline tax is increased via either the adoption of a 3% or 6% sales tax on the product – in other words, expanding an already-existing tax to cover a product previously exempt from that avenue of taxation – or simply adding a dime per gallon to the current state tax burden of 23.5 cents per gallon.
Before I begin my take on this, though, it’s helpful to know the players. We all know AFP tends to be a group which favors low taxation and limited government; they have graced this website many times before with their message. I had never heard of the Sage Policy Group prior to this study, though, so I looked them up. It seems like a small, one-horse operation but their clientele is varied and they appear relatively apolitical. I would have to say, though, this isn’t the most in-depth study I’ve ever read – to me it’s almost like a paint-by-numbers job based on the description of the software used. (Then again, the experience to interpret the numbers has some value.)
The obvious weakness of the study, plainly stated within, is that it’s not an attempt at a cost-benefit analysis. Obviously the state would be able to derive some benefit to having a Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) stocked with more cash to do the needed repairs and construction on state transportation infrastructure, but the question on the mind of most is whether they trust a greedy governor and compliant legislators to keep their hands out of the till. We probably wouldn’t be having this discussion if our last two governors hadn’t “borrowed” over $1 billion from the TTF “pot of gold” to keep the budget in balance, rather than bearing the blame for unpopular spending cuts or more new taxes; not that the latter stopped Martin O’Malley.
Yet it’s all but inevitable the tax will be increased; after all, the Democrats have the votes and the respective ribbon-cuttings on projects would likely be timed in the few months before they face voters. Surely, they will argue, a dime or two a gallon – most of these schemes would work out to ten to twenty cents a gallon, depending on gasoline price – is a small price to pay for fixing Maryland’s roads and bringing O’Malley’s dream of expanded light rail to fruition. And perhaps it would be, if the former assumption on usage was true.
But a study by the Department of Legislative Services shows that spending on transit takes up almost half of TTF funding, up from about 1/3 twenty years ago; meanwhile, the highway construction share has declined by about the same amount, to less than a quarter per dollar spent. The drop has been most precipitous during Martin O’Malley’s tenure. Given those facts and O’Malley’s stated wish list of new mass transit projects, it’s likely that the best we can hope for would be to get back to pre-O’Malley levels of spending on highway needs if the gas tax were increased.
The Sage Policy study, though, also estimates the number of jobs lost due to the tax hike. Obviously, though, there would be some jobs gained as a number of construction projects are funded. Someone has to pave the roads, design the bridges, and provide the materials necessary for working on infrastructure. While the Sage study couches in some fashion the job losses based on a theory that money taken out of the private-sector economy results in job losses, there are legitimate needs the public sector pays for and roads are among them – hopefully to provide a net gain.
Simply put, if you figure the $4 a week lost by an average family due to this tax is computed as one latte, sure, if everyone stops buying as many lattes it will eventually result in the coffee shop laying off workers or even closing, but the construction business next door may be able to hire laborers with a higher skill level and wage thanks to the new highway projects being built. It’s a tradeoff, and we all know that a robust highway network facilitates the efficient movement of people and goods. On the other hand, light rail projects don’t contribute in the same way and generally require subsidies from the state to remain in operation. Fewer jobs are created with that spending – yet that’s my suspicion as to the real purpose of this proposed gas tax hike.
I believe Marylanders would be less reluctant to pay a gas tax increase which amounts to something no worse than an average “sticker shock” gas price jump where the cost goes up 20 cents a gallon overnight if they had confidence the money would be spent wisely and not just tossed into the void of the state’s General Fund or spent on mass transit boondoggles. Yet if we returned mass transit to its traditional level of spending we might be able to get back to fixing roads without the need to increase the gasoline tax. That seems like the logical step here before we vacuum more money from the pockets of those Marylanders who still are among the working.
As I often do, here’s a collection of little items which grow to become one BIG item. And I have a LOT of them – so read fast.
For example, I learned the other day that Richard Rothschild, who spoke so passionately about private property rights (and the Constitution in general) will be back in our area Saturday, March 2nd as the speaker for Dorchester County’s Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s being held at the Elks Lodge outside Cambridge beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets, which are just $30, are available through the county party.
While Rothschild is the featured speaker, you shouldn’t miss some of the others scheduled to grace the podium, particularly gubernatorial candidates Charles Lollar and Blaine Young as well as Congressman Andy Harris. For a small county like Dorchester, that’s quite a lineup!
The controversy over the Septic Bill is far from the only item liberty-minded Marylanders have to worry about. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with notices over a number of issues.
For example, after what State Senator E.J. Pipkin termed as a “structural failure” regarding hearing testimony on Senate Bill 281 (the gun-grabber bill) he offered an amendment to the Senate rules to handle these cases. However, I could not find a follow-up to that bill.
What I could find, though, was Pipkin’s statement that the state was making citizens into criminals, stating “The penalties embedded within the Governor’s Gun Control bill are extreme; they would criminalize paperwork errors in ways that destroy careers, lives, and families.” And he’s absolutely correct.
“This bill does not address the issue of gun violence in Maryland. The real issue is illegal firearms in Maryland, something the Governor’s bill does not target,” Pipkin concluded.
But guns aren’t the only problem. Unfortunately, we are one step closer to an offshore wind boondoggle in Maryland despite the best efforts of those who deal in the realm of reality to stop it. One bastion of sanity in Maryland is Change Maryland, whose Chair Larry Hogan expressed the following regarding offshore wind:
It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and gas more expensive. He is pushing an increase in the gas tax and pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers.
At the close of the last session, the governor ignored the budgeting process which resulted in a train wreck. Instead he was out on the steps of the capital, leading wind energy activists in chant that said ‘all we re saying is give wind a chance.’
There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony-capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.
Actually, Hogan slightly misses the point because true capitalism would occur when the market continues to shun the expense and non-reliability of offshore wind. I guarantee that if this project goes through it will cost those of us who use electricity in Maryland a LOT more than $1.50 a month – subsidies can always change, just like tax rates on casinos.
The aforementioned Pipkin also weighed in on offshore wind:
This legislation may represent a shift in how private business is done in and regulated by the state.
This bill requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to weigh new criteria in approving private development contracts to build off-shore wind turbines. The Commission will now consider prevailing wage and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation as criteria in its contract award.
This could set new precedent. In the future, we could see every business now regulated by a state agency subject to prevailing wage and MBE requirements.
You think? Our Big Labor-friendly governor stops at nothing – nothing – to grease the skids for his union cronies. And surely this will extend to whatever road work is performed once the gas tax is increased by O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats. Wait, did I say road work? Hogan and Change Maryland question that assumption, too:
Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan backed transportation reform which has emerged as a key issue this legislative session after several years of being relegated to the back burner. Specifically, key members of the Maryland House of Delegates are advocating guiding principles to ensure much-needed investments are made in infrastructure and fundamental reforms made to transportation policy.
“Previous attempts to improve our transportation network in Maryland have been an abject failure. Our top elected officials are saying roads and bridges are crumbling, but what they won’t tell you is they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place,” said Hogan. ”Another myth that is being foisted upon us is that there is an urgent need to raise the gasoline tax, and that is simply not true.”
Hogan joins Del. Susan Krebs and other House members in instilling common-sense policy solutions to making transportation policy. These include protecting the transportation trust fund with a constitutional amendment, realigning infrastructure investments to reflect how Marylanders actually travel and restoring funds for transportation. (Emphasis mine.)
I highlighted the above phrase as a way to say, “bingo!” That, folks, is the problem in a nutshell.
This is a state which jacked up the tolls on the Bay Bridge to create a cash cow for other projects which don’t pay their own way, like the Inter-County Connector outside Washington. O’Malley’s gas tax is really intended to build rail lines most of us will never ride rather than build projects we could use, like perhaps a limited-access Easton bypass for U.S. 50, widening Maryland Route 90 into Ocean City, or building an interchange at the dangerous U.S. 113 – Maryland Route 12 intersection in Worcester County.
The gas tax proposal has led to acrimony in Annapolis, as Delegate Kathy Szeliga points out:
(Senate President Mike) Miller called House Republicans who oppose his gas tax proposal, “Neanderthals,” and “obstructionists.” In response to his comments, Delegate Szeliga tweeted, “Yabba-dabba-do, Mr. Miller,” further commenting that she hopes to obstruct and stop this massive 70% increase in the gas tax and government expansion. In response to Senator Miller’s jabs at Republicans, Delegate Herb McMillan added, “Even a caveman can see that it’s stupid to raise gas taxes when there’s no guarantee they’ll be used for roads.”
Kidding aside, you can call me a “total obstructionist” as well, Senator Miller. On the road to serfdom someone has to stand in the way, and I’m one of those someones.
Notice that I haven’t even talked about the federal government yet. One sure sign of a new year, though, is the ubiquitous Congressional scorecard. Two organizations which have released theirs recently are Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action for America.
Not surprisingly, Harris scored a 95% grade from AFP, leading the Maryland delegation – former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett had the second highest grade at 91%. As for the rest, well, their COMBINED score was 50 percent. Heritage Action, however, graded Andy more harshly with an 81% grade (Bartlett scored 67%.) Once again, the remainder of Maryland’s delegation scored anywhere from a lackluster 17% to a pathetic 4 percent.
We’re also talking about immigration reform more these days. I happen to lean somewhat on the hawkish side, so I believe these reports from the Center for Immigration Studies are worth discussing. In one, former Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia looks at what happened the last time we went down this road insofar as collecting back taxes from illegal aliens – a key part of the compromise provision – was handled after the 1986 reform.
The second CIS report looks at recommendations the bipartisan Jordan Commission made in 1997, after the 1986 immigration amnesty program failed. This middle ground made five recommendations:
- Integrate the immigrants now in the United States more thoroughly;
- Reduce the total number of legal immigrants to about 550,000 a year;
- Rationalize the nonimmigrant visa programs and regulate them;
- Enforce the immigration law vigorously with no further amnesties; and
- Re-organize the management of the immigration processes within the government.
That seems like a pretty good starting point to work from, particularly the first recommendation.
Another study worth reading is this one from Competitive Enterprise Institute called “The Wages of Sin Taxes.” In it, author Chris Snowden takes an unflinching look at who really pays for these tolls. As CEI states in their summary:
Most remarkably, Snowdon, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, demonstrates that financial burden supposedly placed on society through the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, high-calorie foods, has little basis in reality. The myth that these “sinners” cost the rest of us money is perpetuated in large part because “government has no incentive to tell the public that these groups are being exploited, and the affected industries dare not advertise the savings that come from lives being cut short by excessive use of their products.” This type of tax is actually a regressive “stealth tax” that allows lawmakers to take money from their constituents with the lowest incomes without the pushback an upfront tax would provoke.
I would put that in the category of “duh.” Ask yourself: how much state-sanctioned money and effort do you see given by government to prevent drinking, smoking, and gambling? Yet they rake their cut off the top in each of these three vices, which are only legal because government and society have compromised on these issues.
On the other hand, those who grow or smoke marijuana or do other illegal drugs are considered criminals and tossed in jail or fined. The same is true with prostitutes in most locales. If there were tax money to be made, though, and societal mores shifted ever-so-slightly toward a more libertarian viewpoint with regards to these self-inflicted actions, they would be legal – but you’d certainly still see the public service announcements about “just say no” or the dangers of selling one’s body. (Oddly enough, I doubt we buy time around the world to warn about the dangers of illegally immigrating to the United States. Why do you think that is?)
And I don’t think items like this upcoming movie will help the libertarian cause – not because of the message per se, but the poor quality of the animation. It reminds me of those cheesy Xtranormal movies people make, sorry to say.
I also have a couple items – as I get closer to wrapping this up – that I think are worth reading. Paul Jacobs is on Townhall giving our state a little tough love regarding the drive to tighten petition rules (in a state where it’s already very difficult to succeed) while Mike Shedlock is there making a point I’ve made for several years – my daughter’s generation is being hosed.
While he’s a little bit older than the Millennial Generation, I think Dan Bongino can relate. This video is now going viral on Youtube, in part thanks to the Blaze.
Finally, I think it’s worth alerting my readers that this may be the last edition of odds and ends for awhile. No, I’m not going anywhere but in the interest of bringing more readership I’m in the process of exploring the concept of a quicker posting tempo which may or may not feature shorter posts.
I’ve always felt the ideal post was somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words, but these odds and ends posts can run 2,000 words or more. Maybe it’s better for both readers and this writer to space things out and perhaps devote 200-300 words to an item rather than wait and collect a bunch of items which could get stale after a week or two. I can’t always control the length of my Ten Question Tuesday posts or ones where I report on an event, but I can work with items like these and see what’s truly worth writing about.
As the political world and internet evolve, I think the time is right to change up the mix and tempo here just a little bit. Certainly I won’t get to a point where I’m simply rehashing press releases but I think it’s a better use of my time to shorten the average post I write.
So there you have it: another post which weighs in at 2,000 words, exactly.
In recent weeks, 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino has created a lot of buzz regarding his future plans, rumors which included everything from being appointed to the recently vacated Anne Arundel County Executive post or being elected Maryland Republican Party Chair to a potential run for Governor. While the two former options were eliminated in a statement from Dan, many still speculate about his possible pursuit of the Governor’s chair.
Apparently the proverbial “last year’s model” didn’t want people to forget about him and his own run from not-so-long ago, so I received an e-mail on Saturday which explained the following:
Eric Wargotz believes that the economic health and well-being of all Americans must come first. That is precisely why we are working with Eric to determine what his next move should be. As the 2014 elections approach, we are examining opportunities at both the State and Federal levels as well as locally.
Eric Wargotz is a rare blend of individual who truly understands what it is to serve. As a physician, caring family man, business owner, former County Commissioner and U.S. Senate Nominee, Eric Wargotz understands that you come first, that together we hold the power and that he works for all of us. Conservative and compassionate, Eric Wargotz understands the complex issues facing us and believes in working towards common-sense solutions and not through oppressive government policies which threaten our liberties and our private enterprise. Eric Wargotz has a proven record of fiscal conservatism including reducing taxes and job creation.
Eric Wargotz was Maryland’s Republican U.S. Senate Nominee in 2010 and continues to be an active community leader throughout the State. Dr. Wargotz garnered the largest percentage of the vote in the history of challenges to this entrenched incumbent Senator and Washington Insider. Eric Wargotz is a respected physician, small-business owner, and former elected President of the Queen Anne’s County, MD Board of County Commissioners who while in office:
- KEPT his promises.
- LOWERED taxes.
- INCREASED government transparency and accountability.
- Made PRIVATE SECTOR JOB CREATION a top priority.
“Like you, I am outraged by career politicians who care more about their political lives than the people who elected them. Politics as usual has gotten us into this mess, and both parties share the blame for where we are today. It’s time we returned to our core roots of fiscal discipline and job creation to dig America out of this hole and secure our nation’s future. Please support me and my team in our effort to raise necessary funds to pursue the path to victory as we survey the landscape to explore how best I may serve you.
Thank you in advance for your support and generosity.”‘
In the 2010 election, Wargotz had a higher percentage of the overall vote than Dan Bongino received in 2012, but only received 655,666 votes compared to 693,291 for Bongino two years later – bear in mind also that Dan had an independent candidate drawing perhaps 3/5 of his vote away from Dan’s column.
And just like Dan, Eric’s options are limited by the small number of statewide offices on the ballot this time around; however, Wargotz does have a track record of winning in Queen Anne’s County which he alluded to in his letter. Shrewdly, he did not preclude starting over politically with a local office (and obviously, smaller budget required.)
However, Eric has limited 2014 options for higher office unless he wants to challenge Maryland’s lone Republican federal elected official in Andy Harris for a Congressional seat or incumbent Republicans in a race for the General Assembly. In essence, his only option for a statewide office is a run for governor – but is it a winnable race for him? Given the bullet points he outlined in his missive, it seems to me that’s the direction Eric is pointing in. (Moreover, for a local run Eric could probably launch his campaign later this fall given his name recognition in Queen Anne’s County. So why else would he start talking up his options now?)
Therefore, it would not surprise me to see this message as a precursor and feeler for a run for Governor. (Revising his website with this message is also a clue.) Obviously, except for Bongino, Eric is the only one among the current presumed contenders who has previously run statewide, although Charles Lollar has run the statewide Americans for Prosperity organization for some time. (The same can be said for Larry Hogan and Change Maryland.) But money may be an issue, as Eric wasn’t a prolific fundraiser in his U.S. Senate bid and instead relied a lot on out-of-pocket funding. While Wargotz has an outstanding state account, as of January 2012 he only had $3,435 in it (with a loan balance of $11,000.) Last month Wargotz filed a Affidavit of Limited Contributions and Expenditures on that account for the period since January, 2012 – an ALCE affirms a campaign has not spent or received over $1,000 in the previous filing period. As always, though, the ALCE is not binding for a future period.
But if Wargotz wants to be included in the conversation of potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates, sure, I’ll start that ball rolling. Since most other areas of the state have a candidate hailing from their section, why not one from the Eastern Shore?
I’m still trying to figure out who “we” is, though. I know he reads this space, so perhaps Eric can enlighten me and the rest of us.
Since my e-mail box is filling up with items I’ve been meaning to get to and I spent part of my day today cleaning out our garage, it’s in that spirit that I present to you yet another heaping helping of items I figure are worth a couple paragraphs or so.
First of all, it seems our newly elected friend up Cecil County way, County Executive Tari Moore, is just getting everyone mad at her. Cecil County GOP head Chris Zeauskas chastised the woman he called “whichever way the wind blows” Moore for appointing Winston Robinson as her finance director. Robinson was a loser in the Democratic primary for the post Moore now holds but has lengthy experience in the financial field, according to the Cecil Whig. Zeauskas also blasted Moore for not hiring either one of two people who she presumably passed up for the appointment: county treasurer Bill Feehley and budget manager Craig Whiteford. Both are Republicans.
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Liberty is raking Moore over the coals for promising to appoint a person to run economic development in Cecil County. Their point is that:
Businesses and individuals build our economy, not government officials.
The idea that we need more bureaucrats to help those in the private sector to navigate red tape is proposterous. (sic)
Why not eliminate the onerous regulations that businesses face and eliminate the “need” to hire a government employee?
In a Cecil Whig news article, Tari Moore “promised to create a business advocate position to create incentives and work with businesses to create jobs in Cecil County.”
The key here is provision of incentives. Why should government have the authority to pick winners and losers in the market place?
Why should county government be giving your hard-earned tax dollars to private companies?
Every time the government uses your tax dollars to give hand outs to private businesses, it distorts and inhibits a truly free market.
It seems to me that both of these parties make valid arguments, particularly the Campaign for Liberty. However, I suspect in the Zeauskas case that if Moore hadn’t changed her registration the Republican Central Committee would have invoked the Eleventh Commandment and remained silent about the Robinson pick. The Campaign for Liberty knows no such thing and will just as readily skewer a Republican as it would a Democrat.
In fact, the C4L goes a little farther, calling on Moore to defund all economic development programs because:
Taxpayers in Cecil County have been forced year after year to give millions of dollars to county run economic development programs.
Yet, over the past two decades Cecil County has had the highest unemployment rate in the region.
By returning the money spent on these programs back to taxpayers we can start to create some real economic growth in our county.
Rather than taking potshots at a decision Tari Moore made simply because the group is upset about a change in partisan affiliation, at least the C4L has a basis in fact that perhaps another direction is needed for economic development. The data doesn’t mean that having an ineffective economic development department is the cause of the issue (since many of the peer counties are in other states, which have their own set of advantages) but could be a factor to consider going forward.
And at the moment the liberty movement in Maryland is feeling its oats, based on the glowing report I received from Maryland Liberty PAC head Patrick McGrady about their hospitality suite at the recent convention:
Our Maryland Liberty Caucus event had more visitors than any other event, by far. Not only were we able to rally our own troops to attend, but we met many new allies and friends who want to fight side-by-side with us in Maryland.
On the other hand, McGrady was blunt in his assessment of the political scene:
Although we met many old and new friends on Friday, we also came away with a very clear conclusion: the Political Establishment in Maryland is strong and will not go away easily. These people are addicted to power and are sell-outs to the conservative cause.
These Big Government Republicans and Democrats are destroying our liberties and burdening us with over-the-top wasteful spending.
Tell me something I hadn’t figured out already, Patrick. We’ve been fighting that battle off and on since I joined the Central Committee in 2006. Unfortunately, we have way too many Republicans who go along to get along in Annapolis.
Another Pat, Delegate Pat McDonough, bemoans the “Radical Blue” nature of Maryland politics in a recent release:
The dynamic of the voting power in Maryland probably ensures there may never be another statewide Democrat office holder from Baltimore after O’Malley, Cardin, and Mikulski have moved on. The Baltimore area voters have become captive step-children to the massive voting power of the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Baltimore’s “radical blue” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake presides over an urban landscape beset by murder, muggings, economic stagnation and a dim future. She suffers no real opposition, except possibly from another “radical blue” political challenger. The diversity of electoral politics or public policy is non-existent in Charm City.
All doubt about this growing power was removed when the 7 questions on the ballot achieved a solid victory created by a deluge of votes from the D.C. suburbs. The problem is compounded by the fact that the two major press organs dominating Maryland, the Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, both reflect the “radical blue” philosophy in their editorial and reporting practices. They are enablers, not objective journalists.
I would prefer that a neither a Baltimore-based Democrat nor a Democrat based in the Washington suburbs see statewide elected office again after the way both of those groups have ruined a once-fine state. The “landscape beset by…economic stagnation and a dim future” is the state of Maryland as it stands now. So why is Delegate McDonough conceding this ground?
Be that as it may, McDonough later makes the point that the wealthy in Maryland are “voting with their feet” and leaving the state. However, a recent decision by the IRS pointed out to me by Jim Pettit means these changes will be harder to track:
(T)he IRS Statistics of Income Division attributes the decision to cancel the program, which dates back to 1991, to coordination issues with the U.S. Census Bureau. There is no official word yet on why the program was cancelled.
Pettit also stated:
The IRS tax migration data is the best indicator we have of how state and local governments are doing in developing their tax base. If there is no effective way to monitor changes in the tax base in the context of macro-economic trends, then state and local governments are at a severe disadvantage in making key legislative, regulatory and fiscal policies that address the challenges of funding government budgets.
This data was a key cudgel used by the advocacy group Change Maryland to point out the multiple failures of Martin O’Malley’s economic program for the state of Maryland. Now we’ll be down to anecdotal evidence of people leaving Maryland and seeking states more friendly to their economic interests.
Soon the transport industry may follow, as it’s all but certain the General Assembly will once again consider a gas tax when they reconvene next month and may even try to work out a mileage tax as part of their “War on Rural Maryland.” But I’m putting that cart ahead of the horse a little farther than Americans for Prosperity is by setting up their opposition to a gas tax via petition. (Of course, it also builds up a healthier e-mail list.)
Let’s just hope Republicans stay unified in opposition to a gas tax this time around, mmmmmmkay?
Another tax which stands a good chance of being increased yet again is the cigarette tax, but Marc Kilmer of MPPI punctures a hole in the logic of the Baltimore Sun and lobbyist Vinnie DeMarco in his usual clear, level-headed way. It’s worth a read since the cigarette tax increase proposal is another of those Maryland General Assembly rites of spring.
Taxes are also on the mind of national politicians thanks to the closeness of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” But a coalition of nineteen conservative groups called on Congress to “…reject tax increases, refocus negotiations on spending cuts and entitlement reform, where they belong, and send a strong signal to Americans they can count on their elected representatives to look out for them in the upcoming budget negotiations.” But that would require members of Congress to exhibit some backbone, which is in short supply inside the Beltway.
I could go on but you get the idea. Despite the holiday season, politics doesn’t seem to take a break and vigilance is always required.
Now that I’ve posed the question about whether a pro-liberty message can play in Maryland, the logical follow-up is who will be able to deliver it?
Of course, the most obvious answer is the Maryland Republican Party. Many activists question its ability to pack a political punch given their lack of success over the last hundred years, yet on the other hand there is no paucity of groups out there trying to wield influence within the party.
At the risk of creating a long and boring list, here are just some of the groups and individuals trying to become players within and surrounding the MDGOP:
- Obviously, the current party leadership.
- Elected officials who carry the GOP banner at the state level.
- Various county Central Committees, some more than others.
- The Maryland Young Republicans.
- Hundreds of sub-groups which fall under the category of local Republican clubs, such as the Wicomico County Republican Club.
- Americans for Prosperity – Maryland.
- Campaign for Liberty and its various local branches.
- Change Maryland.
- Conservative Victory PAC.
- Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland.
- Help Save Maryland.
- Maryland Center-Right Coalition.
- Maryland Conservative Action Network.
- Maryland Liberty PAC.
- Maryland Right to Life.
- Maryland Society of Patriots (plus its local chapters).
- New Day Maryland.
- Protect Marriage Maryland.
And that’s just a small sampling of groups I’m aware of. Some exert more toward their goals than others, and obviously some work exclusively on their pet issues. At times these groups manage to row in opposite directions, leaving a void the other side exploits.
It’s interesting that the port side has its coalitions which don’t always get along well – for example, the argument over the Keystone XL pipeline pitted Radical Green against Big Labor. In the end, though, both of those groups pretty much stayed with the leftist side even as Big Labor didn’t get what it wanted. (There were other areas in which they did, which makes a difference.) Yet they didn’t take their ball and go home when the chips were down, unlike, say, those who supported a certain Republican candidate in the primary.
Of course, conservatism can’t make the same guarantees liberals do because to the Left keeping a promise is as easy as slicing off a little piece of the government pie for those groups which clamor the loudest at the particular time. Even though the conservative aim is generally one of smaller, more limited government, there are some groups within the list I described above which would like more government in certain areas. These most generally are the advocates for social issues, such as abortion foes who want a Right to Life Amendment in the Constitution.
Those who push for social conservatism, though, are usually the targets of the circular firing squad for which Republicans are famous. “If it weren’t for those hayseed Bible-thumpers who want to end abortion we would win elections,” cry those in the Republican establishment; meanwhile, they forget that those voters provided a huge portion of the overall vote. That perception is amplified in the mainstream media which tarred and feathered Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock over comments they made about rape, as if this duo actually supported the raping of women. But it sure played well into the whole false “War on Women” narrative the other side got away with, didn’t it?
If we want to deliver the true narrative that enhanced freedom leads to greater personal and societal prosperity, we have to find messengers to do so. That leads to a conundrum because, remember, the Republican Party is chock full of disparate groups and many of them like the Bush 43 idea of “compassionate” big-government conservatism. But the record of third parties is less than abysmal and once the GOP became entrenched in the two-party system they, along with the Democrats, rewrote the rules in order to keep the spoils for themselves. Generally it’s that factor, not necessarily the lack of popularity of their respective platforms, which keeps groups like the Constitution, Libertarian, or even Green parties from ever getting more than a tiny percentage of the vote. Naturally it’s also the job of those in the major parties to state the case that a third-party vote is a wasted one. On that point I reluctantly have to agree.
While I have friends and relatives who are dyed-in-the-wool Libertarians, the political reality we face is that we exist in a two-party system. My goal in both joining the GOP as an activist member and (later) writing this website was, as I’ve said before, pushing this country in the RIGHT direction. I may not like every candidate we nominate, and there have been a few occasions where I felt I had to skip the office on the ballot or vote for someone like Ross Perot (which I did.) But the vast majority of the time I figure that advancing the ball, even a little, is better than losing more ground. Sometimes I’m disappointed because there’s not even the smallest smidgen of progress in the next term but generally I can comfort myself with knowing at least the trend isn’t going the other way. I may not have liked Bob Ehrlich or Mitt Romney much, but they were certainly better than Martin O’Malley or Barack Obama.
But that still doesn’t solve the problem of finding a good group of messengers to spread the gospel of how limited government benefits us all in Maryland – in that respect we have a whole lot of work to do. Hopefully in the next few months the conservative movement will get a chance to do some vetting of the leaders who will bring us success in future elections. I look forward to the challenge.