A Troopathon update

July 2, 2014 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off 

troopathon2014_banner_160x240Just before heading into the Independence Day holiday, I wanted to update you on the status of Troopathon 7.

When I last left you on the subject, they were looking to reach a goal of $300,000. At the end of the telecast they finished about $1,600 short of the goal, but subsequent offerings enticed them to raise the goal to $350,000. As of this writing, they are at $317,950.

One thing I have not been able to track down is how much this site raised in the overall bloggers’ competition. I know that Wayne Dupree won (and received the AR-15 they were giving away) but I don’t have my own number. I will tell you that one of my readers donated to my PayPal account with the intention of using that as a donation, so I purchased another care pack on her behalf (made sure the note said so as well.) If, between her donation and my personal purchase, that was all I accomplished I would be a little disappointed in my readership but secure in the knowledge I made a little bit of difference.

It will be interesting to see in which direction Troopathon goes next year, since plans have been made to withdraw most of our remaining armed forces from Afghanistan. Unless we suddenly decide to slug it out with the ISIS terrorists in Iraq, 2015 will bring perhaps the smallest number of Americans in combat this century, since Barack Obama is hellbent on wrapping up the Long War whether victory is in hand or not. Of course, it won’t mean those few who remain won’t appreciate the efforts provided by Move America Forward, but I think it’s a question I think is worth asking. So I will and if the response is worthwhile it can be featured here.

Update: I raised $50 out of the total bloggers’ pool of $600, good for fourth-best. I think as a group we did better last year, but every little bit helps. It’s sort of sad that a number of bloggers who agreed to participate didn’t even help for themselves.

Hogan: coordination allegations “absurd and false”

This was a pretty quick response to an accusation over three years in the making. I’ll begin with fellow candidate Ron George’s perspective, which is reflected in statements within from David Craig’s campaign:

Today, the Ron George & Shelley Aloi for Maryland campaign joined the Craig-Haddaway for Maryland campaign in filling a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections alleging illegal coordination between between Change Maryland, LLC and Larry Hogan’s various campaign committees.

“These actions by Change Maryland, LLC and Larry’s campaign committees represent an egregious breach of the public trust and utter disrespect for the law. We expect candidates for public office to hold themselves to a higher standard. These laws are designed to promote transparency,” said David Craig.

“The public should know where contributions are coming from and where they are going; It’s a matter of public trust. Furthermore, they should expect those who want to make more laws follow the laws we already have,” said Delegate Ron George.

On January 31, 2014, Change Maryland, LLC filed its most recent contributions and expense report for the period of January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 listing total contributions received of $145,995 while expending $213,040.

“We believe that all current and prior activities of Change Maryland, LLC appear to be directed by Larry’s campaigns and those activities should be considered part of his gubernatorial campaign for reporting purposes. With this complaint, we are asking the State Board of Elections to investigate. If the Board of Elections doesn’t, we can expect organizations in the future to skirt campaign finance laws to hide where their money comes from and where it goes. I hope the Board of Election agrees with us that the process should be transparent and uphold the integrity of law,” said Paul Ellington, campaign manager for Craig-Haddaway for Maryland.

Hogan responded, almost immediately:

“The entire premise of these allegations by two desperate campaigns is utterly absurd and patently false.  Had David Craig and Ron George bothered to do even a cursory check, they would have seen that the “about” page at Change Maryland’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChangeMaryland/info) and website (www.changemaryland.org), clearly states Paid for By Hogan-Rutherford to Change Maryland.   In short, Larry Hogan for Governor owns Change Maryland and has since he became a candidate.

Unlike David Craig’s campaign which has already been found guilty and fined for violating campaign laws, our campaign has worked closely with the Maryland Board of Elections to ensure from day one that we comply fully with all state laws.”

Background:

Before starting his campaign for governor, Larry Hogan’s team sought guidance from the State Board of Elections on whether or how Change Maryland, a 527 political organization, could interface with a campaign for governor, also a 527 political organization.  The guidance received was that Hogan for Governor could purchase the assets of Change Maryland much like campaigns purchase mailing or contact lists from any other organization.  Immediately upon registering as a campaign for governor, with the SBE, the campaign entered into a purchase agreement for all of Change Maryland’s assets at fair market value.

Obviously there’s the question of how they determined what “fair market value” was, but we’ve known for three years that Change Maryland could be a handy vehicle to keep Hogan’s name in circulation after his abortive 2010 campaign. The question came up on one of his first interviews  as Change Maryland leader, with Maryland Reporter‘s Len Lazarick.

As far as the market value, if you look at the first Hogan financial statement the apparent “fair market value” for Change Maryland is $18,164.05, which is listed as an “asset purchase” made April 7. It was about 2 1/2 months after the campaign was formed, and the “contact list” pales in comparison to what the campaign had paid to date for mailings – for that purpose, the Hogan-Rutherford campaign spent nearly $121,000 employing a New York-based firm called SCM Associates during the initial months of its campaign. It was almost as if someone thought at the last minute, “hey, we better cover ourselves on this one.”

I’ll admit I’ve had campaign finance questions about my unusual situation of being a blogger and candidate for which I’ve sought advice from the Board of Elections, but $18,000 seems to be a lowball estimate for an organization whose 527 clearly states it churned through over $350,000 last year, raising over $140,000 by itself in a year when only one of the opposing candidates did as well.

So we have found out that the “perpetual campaign” is not just a Barack Obama phenomenon. Obviously he wasn’t going to admit it publicly, but all along many have suspected that Change Maryland was simply the lead-in to the 2014 Larry Hogan for Governor campaign – after all, why bring up a past campaign if you’re not running, as this archived Change Maryland page shows – just as any number of PACs created by particular failed candidates were formed as a way to keep their name in the limelight and (more importantly) create a donor database.

The beauty of Change Maryland, though, was that contributions to it didn’t count against a contribution limit to Hogan for Governor, and there’s little doubt that list is being mined again. In one respect, it’s a stroke of genius and perhaps there’s some sour grapes from the others about not coming up with the idea themselves. After all, we could speculate back in 2011 when Change Maryland was formed that David Craig and Charles Lollar were probably going to run in 2014, along with perhaps Brian Murphy and maybe even Michael Steele. (The entry of Ron George was a little bit more out of left field.)

These accusations, however, served to blunt the news that Hogan had reached the seed money threshold required to qualify for matching funds.

By qualifying for matching funds, the Hogan campaign is guaranteed $2.6 million immediately after the primary.  The Hogan campaign has received contributions totaling over $600,000 from more than 3,000 contributors since formally entering the race in late January. By reaching the matching funds threshold, will also receive over $260,000 in Fair Campaign Finance Act matching money.  In all, by qualifying for the match, the campaign says it will spend over $4 million “taking on the political establishment.”

Obviously Hogan has to win the primary to cash in, and that’s by no means certain when “undecided” has such a big share of the electorate. Classifying his opponents as desperate seems a little premature, and it may be a pretty tense couple days before the party’s unity rally slated for June 26.

I don’t think anything will come of this, but there is the potential for an October surprise if Hogan wins the primary and the Board of Elections indeed decides there’s some fire among all the smoke. I trust the other side about as far as I can throw them.

2014 Maryland GOP Spring Convention in pictures and text (part 1)

As has often been the case, I am splitting this into two parts. One will come out today and one tomorrow, since the news is of the sort that it will keep. Always leave them wanting more.

Anyway, my traveling companion Dave Parker and I arrived in Bethesda in the pouring rain, and after checking in I retreated to my room with a view…well, sort of I guess.

It was almost a three-hour trip, so when I got myself unpacked it was just about time to get registered for the convention and go to the Executive Committee meeting.

After MDGOP Chair Diana Waterman informed us she was “excited” about filling out the statewide ballot, she began on the subjects she would stress over and over during the event: turnout and unity. We would have had a Republican governor over the last four years if we had turned out our base, said Diana.

We also learned who would be the speaker at the annual Red, White, and Blue Dinner June 19 at Turf Valley. I Tweeted the news:

Diana then introduced party executive director Joe Cluster, who remarked “this state is tired of Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama,” based on their approval numbers sagging below 50 percent. He also predicted that, “incumbent Republicans will do very well in this election.” It was the “chance of a lifetime to really put a dent in the Democrats,” Cluster added. While the Treasurer’s Report was its usual depressing self, we were doing slightly better than expected on fundraising. It’s no secret the party is still carrying some debt, though. Waterman added that members could help by participating in the Old Line Club, where people could pledge as little as $8.25 a month to assist the party.

Diana also announced that there would be no open primary committee business on this convention agenda – we would address it after the 2014 election. She also announced the state Board of Elections denied a bid for online absentee ballots and same-day registration.

Cluster returned to the microphone later to talk about Andy Harris being “very supportive of the party” and began to speak about him not having a credible opponent. But Waterman cautioned that she would have a “very frank discussion” if Central Committees acted in a manner backing one contender over others. “We do not take favorites” in the primary, Diana warned. It was fine for individual members to do so, depending on local bylaws, but this cannot be done as a committee unless there’s only one contender. “I’d much rather have one candidate in every race,” she added, but conceded this wasn’t always possible.

We also discussed the proposed bylaw amendment for regional chairs and conventions. It was not recommended for approval by the Bylaws Committee, who held a conference call on it, but sponsor Kevin Waterman planned to bring it up from the floor. And while Diana Waterman believed it was “vitally important” to have regional chairs, the Bylaws Committee considered it a “distraction.” One county chair remarked, “if there was a call for (regional conventions), we would already do it.” Most of us already knew it was Diana’s birthday, but a surprise awaited as I Tweeted:

That pretty much marked the end of the open part of the meeting, as a brief closed session was held – it took place while I wandered one floor down to check this out.

They even had a two-piece band for entertainment, mostly classic rock from what I could hear.

I actually meant to take this photo of Charles Lollar hanging in the back meeting with campaign staffers, but it evolved into a conversation about engaging voters on the other side of the aisle after I noted he looked a little tired. You be the judge.

Charles told me he considered the event a success, and it was a lively affair while it lasted.

But before I went upstairs to see what else was up, I ran into another statewide candidate.

Not literally, of course – since Shelley Aloi is a karate expert that may be a sure way to get hurt. I just figured it was one way to document who was there among statewide candidates. (If you look closely at the second Lollar photo you’ll see his running mate Ken Timmerman and Comptroller candidate Bill Campbell also enjoying themselves, so they are covered.)

There were a number of interesting vendors in the lobby.

As you might be able to see, there were the usual campaign-related sellers there, but there was also a table of supporters for a draft Dr. Ben Carson for president movement as well as a table for First District Congressional candidate Jonathan Goff, who is running against the aforementioned Andy Harris for the nomination.

I also realized that the Maryland Liberty Caucus was holding their own party down the hall, although it appeared to be winding down as I arrived.

Yet there still seems to be a strong pro-liberty streak in our party.

So I finally went upstairs and decided to work my way up, which led me to find this in the elevator.

On Saturday, we all found a handout at our chairs detailing what Millennial Maryland really stood for:

We represent all Republicans, the old-white-straight-Christian males, and, well, all the others. We’re here to show that Republicans are listening to gays, to immigrants, to black and Latino Americans, to those concerned about the environment, education, and the poor. We represent the GOP in all its diversity, and while we may be more moderate at times than some, we would never advocate excluding someone for disagreeing with us. We’re here to make the tent bigger, more diverse, and more electable.

Judge for yourself whether that would be the case. Onetime MDGOP Chair candidate Mike Esteve is the head of this group.

My first stop after getting off the elevator was the MoCo suite. Very crowded.

So I went up two floors to find an equally lively David Craig suite.

But in the back corner I found Lieutenant Governor candidate Jeannie Haddaway and a man seeking to replace her, Dr. Rene Desmarais, having an enlightening discussion.

They were gracious enough to add to my collection of candidates, as did David Craig.

The mini-bank Craig was holding came with a few pennies inside so it would rattle. He was giving them away as trinkets.

After those good photos, I wandered upstairs to the last suite, that of Eugene Craig III and the Young Conservatives. Things were starting to wind down.

I think David Craig’s was the best suite, simply because it had the best food – had I made it to the Young Conservatives suite earlier, though, I may have been persuaded otherwise. With so few party suites, food was a little harder to come by as the night wore on.

So I made it to bed about midnight or a little after, which is about the time I’m wrapping up this post. For the evening I will complete part 2 detailing many of Saturday’s events.

Local TEA Party welcomes ‘Betrayed’ author

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a local TEA Party event in Wicomico County, but the hiatus appears to be ending – not with a typical rally, but with an author who’s advocating a more robust military. From Greg Belcher, who is organizing the event:

Billy and Karen Vaughn are the parents of fallen Navy SEAL Team VI member, Aaron Carson Vaughn. The downing of a chopper (call sign Extortion 17) carrying thirty fearless American warriors was the day Aaron’s life ended and the day their lives began again.

As Billy and Karen began searching for answers their eyes were opened to vile atrocities being played out on America’s military. They’ve now become advocates for our war fighters, exposing the criminal Rules of Engagement, which have unnecessarily cost so many American soldiers their lives. Billy has authored the book “Betrayed” detailing the days, weeks and months after his son’s death, as he began compiling this devastating information.

The Vaughns spend a considerable amount of time on Capitol Hill, and have shared their story on countless local, state and national radio outlets. They’ve made many appearances on Fox & Friends, as well as Beck TV, The Huckabee Show, Hannity’s America, The Today Show, The Andrew Wilkow Show, The Willis Report, The Kelly File, Geraldo at Large, and more.

Their mission statement: Our defenders deserve to be defended. The burden of their covering rests on us, the patriots of this nation. It is imperative that we stand together and demand change. “Let them fight or bring them home.”

Billy Vaughn will be making the appearance at Adam’s Taphouse Grill (most people still know it as Adam’s Ribs) on Fruitland Boulevard in Fruitland on April 1 at 6 p.m.

Obviously Vaughn will be discussing the book, but there are other insights which can and should be gleaned from this appearance.

First of all, we can determine if  there is still interest in the Afghanistan conflict, which for our part is being wound down as we speak. Once it was the “good war” all those who were opposed to our excursion into Iraq thought we should be pursuing, but it’s apparent that was just a smokescreen. Once Barack Obama spiked the football of Osama bin Laden’s demise (at the hand of many of those killed on Extortion 17) the question was: how useful were those guys? The conspiracy theorist could posit that having a lot of heroes who could point out just how uninvolved Barack Obama really was cast their die for them.

This may also show where the libertarian, Ron Paul wing of the TEA Party movement – the one which believes we shouldn’t be involved in the affairs of far-off countries with little to no national interest at stake – might not play well with the element that believes the battle against radical Islam is truly the Long War I’ve occasionally written about, a battle without clear borders or defined enemies.

But as the rebirth of the local TEA Party, this could be a good kickoff. Most indeed believe America should have a strong defense which fights to win, not to not offend local populations. As the Vaughns ask:

Don’t you want to know what went so terribly wrong in our military strategy that the single largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY came at the hands of a 14 year-old Afghan farmer? AND…the SECOND largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare HISTORY ALSO came at the hands of a young Afghan goat herder. The dialogue MUST begin.

One of the upcoming points for that dialogue will be next Tuesday in Fruitland. And for my friends up Cecil County way, Billy Vaughn will be the guest at the Cecil County Patriots meeting on Thursday, April 3rd. That meeting will be held at the Cecil County Administration Building in Elkton starting at 7 p.m.

Effective ridicule?

March 25, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Occasionally I’ll see something in my e-mail which piques my interest, and this evening the winner was this video put out by former Senator (and presidential candidate) Rick Santorum’s group Patriot Voices.

The message of the video, called “Attention Deficit”: we don’t have a President who’s serious about the job. Or just let them describe it:

It highlights how despite the dramatic events and foreign policy challenges our country is facing, President Obama seems to care more about becoming a pop culture icon than a serious Commander-in-Chief.

As far as that goes, the accusations seem to be true. It’s well known, for example, that George W. Bush gave up golf in 2003 – some have reported that it was because “it just sent the wrong message” during the Long War. And while Bush wouldn’t criticize his successor for hitting the links, many Americans who wish they could afford to go out and hit a few at the local municipal course may beg to differ.

It’s become the norm, though, for presidents to burnish their celebrity status by appearing on various Hollywood productions, often doing so in a tongue-in-cheek manner. But wouldn’t it be better to have a person whose nose is firmly to the grindstone in these troubled times? Certainly the ersatz examples in the video won’t come true, but then again who predicted a president would mess up a popular song during a White House concert?

Whether Rick is in the 2016 race or not, his organization makes a pretty good point. Naturally the e-mail was looking for donations (as does the landing page I used for it) but at this time I’m not sure they would use this as a TV ad or not – for one thing, it’s about thirty seconds too long, but probably could be distilled to proper length.

I guess the way I see it is that we need to put the adults back in charge again. Call me a prude if you will, but I would like someone more serious and sober conducting our affairs, both at a state and national level.

Reversing the process

I got an interesting e-mail the other day – not necessarily for the content, but who it was from and what it may represent.

After the 2012 Republican primary campaign wrapped up, a number of the also-rans decided to form political groups or super PACs to keep their names out there, continue compiling e-mail lists, and – most importantly – keep the money coming in. Two good examples are Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices group he formed shortly after withdrawing and the American Legacy PAC Newt Gingrich is wrapped up in.

But as we begin to inch toward the 2016 campaign, the Republican field is (hopefully) looking beyond the retreads from past elections, and the potential first-time candidates are numerous. Sure, you have your share of governors like, for example, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Scott Walker, along with a number of those already in Washington like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who has began the slog by winning a couple key straw polls.

Yet there’s always something about a campaign: the issues you may think will be the hot-button issues a couple years in advance rarely turn out to be; heck, even six months is a political lifetime. But Barack Obama’s foreign policy weaknesses, which were successfully swept under the rug for 2012, seem to be much more prominent of late. It’s interesting how the race to enroll people by the March 31 deadline for Obamacare and the entirety of the debacle itself still hasn’t quite been able to succeed in pushing the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation off the front pages, no matter how hard the Obama admnistration tries to mash that “reset” button.

So yesterday, thanks to the always-growing number of people who seem to have my e-mail address on file, I found out that former Ambassador John Bolton created a PAC last year. He was looking for donations, of course, but one has to ask whether the time has arrived for a foreign policy hawk to assume the Commander-in-Chief’s position? I can’t answer the question, of course, but it’s relevant to ask because Bolton drew 3% of the vote at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Granted, that’s not in the league of the aforementioned Paul, Christie, et. al. but it’s three times better than Martin O’Malley is doing in Iowa and everyone knows MOM’s gunning for the White House sooner or later. Like O’Malley, Bolton is even a Maryland native.

Maybe what got me to thinking Bolton may make a run is the PAC website. Its look and feel gives me the impression that it’s a couple little tweaks from being the John Bolton for President website. Instead of featuring candidates the PAC may be helping, it’s focused completely on Bolton himself – not a bad thing, but why have the pretense?

At the risk of being called a neocon, I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Bolton to make a run and create a referendum on our foreign policy. Obviously John was there during the George W. Bush years when we were hip-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately it’s beginning to appear all that blood and treasure was for naught because we left before the job was (or will be) done. In both cases, we stopped short of annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force as we did in World War II. (Arguably, this is true of all our conflicts in the post-atomic era – well, maybe Grenada turned out pretty good.)

Unfortunately, those who have opposed us since the Vietnam era have learned that our resolve is only as good as the news cycle allows it to be. One would think after 9/11 we would see the Long War through but it doesn’t appear our current Commander-in-Chief is interested in victory or even rules of engagement which would allow the possibility because someone here may be offended. In the interim, much damage has been done to both our military and our national psyche, and Hillary Clinton won’t be the right person to fix it – for one thing, she wouldn’t hire John Bolton, PAC or no PAC.

Mooney rising

If I didn’t give enough attention to the former Senator-turned-party-chair-turned-Congressional candidate (twice) I think I will now. But at the intersection of familiar former radio personalities from my hometown and party chairs who were my second or third choice for the job, along comes this podcast from Mark Standriff and the Tea Party Express, telling me, “This candidate is a movement conservative.”

In this week’s “On the Campaign Trail” podcast, we are joined by Alex Mooney. Alex discusses his campaign for the U.S. Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District where he hopes to replace the seat vacated by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

Alex Mooney is exactly the kind of Constitutional conservative that will bring the voice of the working class to Washington, D.C. He is a proven conservative champion who will never back down in the face of President Obama’s war on coal and will stand strong against the EPA’s radical anti-coal agenda.

Alex talks about his experience as a Maryland state senator and how it compares to his current campaign, as well as Obamacare, Obama’s war on coal, the recent debt ceiling deal, and states rights.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, Mooney had a very conservative voting record while he was in the Maryland Senate, and for want of 1,045 votes would probably either be running again for State Senate in Maryland, or more likely trying again for a Congressional seat from our Sixth District. (He also could have pulled an E.J. Pipkin and resigned mid-term to do what he’s doing now.) In any case, the carpetbagging aspect of Mooney’s run was ignored in Standriff’s line of questioning, which is too bad. I think if Mark were still doing the radio show it may have come up.

All this leads me to ponder whether the TEA Party Express will be helping Maryland candidates like Dan Bongino, who perhaps could have used it in his last run. While the TPX has done eight national bus tours and a handful of regional ones, Maryland is one of just five states to have never drawn a stop. (For obvious reasons, Alaska and Hawaii are two of the others, as are Vermont and Idaho.) That may not be in the cards anymore, as the TPX hasn’t done a bus tour since 2012, but it would be nice to see some support.

Apparently Andy Harris likes the guy, though. And why shouldn’t he? They served together in the Maryland Senate for the same three terms, and where Mooney had the second most conservative voting record, Harris was number one.

The other November election

There’s no doubt the importance of the 2014 elections in Maryland can’t be overstated. At stake will be the very direction of the state: will it continue to re-elect the same failed liberal leadership that’s been bleeding jobs (and may continue to do so) and can’t seem to balance a budget, or will it try the GOP alternative that at least promises to reduce the state’s onerous personal tax burden, depending on whether the victor is David Craig, Ron George, Larry Hogan, or Charles Lollar? And will the GOP get to those magical numbers of 48 Delegates and 19 Senators which will allow it to be a viable minority party?

To address the latter point, it’s worth mentioning that the GOP has conceded 46 House seats and 14 Senate seats to the Democrats because they couldn’t find a willing candidate. Most of these vacancies are in what I call the 10, 20, and 40 districts, which in the state’s numbering system cover areas around Washington, D.C. and inner-city Baltimore – basically the counties and Baltimore City which haven’t quite figured out yet that it would be in their best interest to divest themselves from big government and voted for Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. Most of the areas which backed Bob Ehrlich and Mitt Romney lie in the districts with single digits 1 through 9 or in the 30s. (For reference, here on the Eastern Shore we have districts 36, 37, and 38.) In the latter areas, Democrats conceded five House seats and three in the Senate, so at play are a total of 90 House seats and 30 Senate seats. In order to get to 48 and 19, respectively, the MDGOP has to win 43 out of 90 races in the House and 16 of 30 in the Senate.

We obviously won’t know those results until November, and they will go a long way in determining the fate of the Free State. They will also go a long way in determining who will lead the party over the next four two years, and I think Diana Waterman is working hard to overcome her early missteps – so would she be in the mix for a full four-year term starting this November? (Corrected: I forgot we changed the bylaws a couple years ago to a two-year term starting in 2014, to match the national party.)

Certainly many have been impressed with her response to the ill-considered HB1513 on behalf of the state’s Central Committees, which Joe Steffen elaborated on yesterday. But she’s also been careful to reiterate that Central Committees cannot endorse candidates in contested primaries (although individual members can) and that our terms run until the election is over. (This year’s Fall Convention doubles as the quadrennial organizational meeting for the party, when new members are officially sworn in.)

And she also reminded us:

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this but our number one job is to get Republicans elected. This is our time – the stage is almost set (Primary first to determine who will be facing off against the Democrat). The only way we will be successful is by working together. We are outnumbered. We must find a way to pull together – even if don’t see eye to eye with the candidate or some of their volunteers. And I expect all of us to run clean campaigns so that they day after the Primary we can stand together and show our complete support for our ballot. I promise you, no matter who the candidate is, even if they were not your candidate, that you will have more in common with them than you will the Democrat on the other side of the ballot. I am not asking you to yield on any of your principles but to remember, even if the candidate who won the Primary is too conservative or too moderate for you – they are better than the Democrats who have a strangle hold on everything in our State. For starters, the Democrat who wins in the Legislature will case their first vote for Mike Miller or Mike Busch. And it just goes downhill from there!

Precisely. So the question is whether the grassroots and activists will follow, or take their ball and stay home on election day if their chosen candidate doesn’t win. Remember, based on the polls we’ve had so far, a majority of voters will not have their first choice be the nominee for governor; unlike other states, we don’t have a runoff to ensure majority support.

That healing process has to start June 25, because I know from experience that the other side sucks it up and gets behind whoever they pick, generally having their arguments behind closed doors.

But if Diana Waterman can pull off these electoral miracles with very little money and the more than 2-to-1 registration disadvantage with which we’re currently handicapped, the only races we may have would be for the vice-Chair positions. I can’t see the Republican winner wanting to put “their guy” in as the party chair after success like that. She’s mended some fences over her term, and standing up for the Central Committees may allow her to climb out of the hole she dug early on.

Back to that three letter word: J-O-B-S

I still like picking on Joe Biden. But over the last month or so I’ve collected a lot of divergent information on policy suggestions, each of which promses to be the magic elixir to get our economy moving in the right direction again.

I think the key to this lies in two areas: manufacturing and energy. In that respect, I keep a lot of information handy to discuss in this space, with a group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) generally representing the left-of-center, pro-union side. And while their main goal seems to be increasing the coffers of Big Labor, luckily most workers still have free will – ask the employees at the Tennessee Volkswagen plant about how much effort from the UAW can be rebuffed in a simple up-or-down vote.

Currency manipulation is one area in which the AAM has been focusing. A study they cite, by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), makes the case that:

Many of the new jobs (if the subject is addressed) would be in manufacturing, a sector devastated by rising trade deficits over the past 15 years. Rising trade deficits are to blame for most of the 5.7 million U.S. manufacturing jobs (nearly a third of manufacturing employment) lost since April 1998. Although half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since 2009, a full manufacturing recovery requires greatly increasing exports, which support domestic job creation, relative to imports, which eliminate domestic jobs.

Personally I disagree with the premise that rising trade deficits can be blamed for the job losses; instead, I think an absurdly high corporate tax rate and onerous regulations have contributed more to chasing away American manufacturing. (While many simply blame “outsourcing” for the problem, fewer understand the dynamics which led to the outsourcing.) Yet there is merit to the idea that all sides should be competing on as level of a playing field as possible when it comes to the means of exchange, and China is one of the worst offenders. (And why not? They are communists, after all, and you can’t trust communists any farther than you can throw them.)

Two of EPI’s findings are quite interesting: first, should the EPI model come to its fruition, the oil and gas industry would be the hardest hit, and second, Maryland would be among the states least impacted, with barely a 1% rise in employment.

Yet AAM president Scott Paul is quick to blame Barack Obama:

President Obama promised to hold China accountable. He hasn’t. The White House last month said President Obama would use his pen and his phone to make progress on economic issues. He could start today by signing an order to designate China as a currency manipulator.  Then, he could call the Chinese leadership to demand an end to that practice, and secure an agreement on a plan to cut this deficit in half over the next three years.

I sort of wish Mr. Paul would also figure out the other problems, but he is correct to be concerned about our Chinese policy. Job creation has become more important than deficit reduction in the minds of Americans, both in the AAM poll I cited above and a Pew Research Poll cited by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

And the industry which benefits from API’s efforts represents another piece of the puzzle which we can take advantage of: our abundant energy supplies. While America uses 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, there is the possibility of as much as 10,000 trillion cubic feet within our land mass. That’s nearly 4 centuries worth, so I don’t think we will run out anytime soon. (Estimates have continued on an upward path as new technology makes previously unworkable plays economically viable.) As I keep saying, it’s too bad we don’t have a nice shale play under our little sandbar. Not only that, but the infrastructure we will need to take advantage of all that (and help curtail spot shortages like the ones we’re having this chilly winter) would be a guaranteed job creator – one which derives its basis from the private sector. New pipelines aren’t just for export facilities like Cove Point, but could benefit this area and perhaps bring more natural gas service to our region.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t poised to take advatange of either the manufacturing or energy booms at present, thanks to back-breaking economic policy and a foolhardy go-slow approach on fracking. It takes a strident opponent of the latter to suggest yet another approach which will do damage to the former, but gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur accomplishes this with the tired old combined reporting proposal. Hers comes with a twist, though, which she announced last Monday:

In the morning, Mizeur will host several Maryland business owners for a Small Business Roundtable. They will discuss her legislation to provide tax relief to small business owners, as well as other highlights from the campaign’s ten-point plan for jobs and the economy, which was released last fall. She will also hear from the business owners on a range of other concerns.

(snip)

At 1:00 pm, several business owners will join Mizeur in front of Ways and Means to testify on behalf of legislation that would enact combined reporting and distribute the estimated $197 million to small businesses for personal property tax rebates.

It’s the liberal way of picking winners and losers. And according to a 2008 study by the Council on State Taxation – admittedly, an opponent of the practice:

Combined reporting has uncertain effects on a state’s revenues, making it very difficult to predict the revenue effect of adopting combined reporting.

Even proponents don’t address that aspect, instead emphasizing how it would “level the playing field between multistate corporations and locally based companies.” But since Mizeur’s idea is one which would subsidize some businesses under a certain employment plateau, the uncertainty would likely be just another reason to avoid Maryland.

On the other hand, a Republican like Larry Hogan at least gets businesses together to discuss what they really want. Granted, once he gets them together he speaks in broad concepts rather than a more specific plan, but at least he’s listening to the right people. None of the others in the GOP field have specific plans, either, although Ron George probably comes the closest.

One has to ask what states which are succeeding economically are doing to attract new business. The state with the lowest unemployment rate, North Dakota, is prospering – more like crushing the rest of the field – on account of abundant energy resources, and perhaps that success is pulling surrounding states up with it. Its three neighbors (Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota) all rest within the top 13 when it comes to low unemployment rates and other regional states like second-place Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Kansas lie within the top 10. Although the top five are right-to-work states, half the bottom 10 are as well. Nor can tax climate be seen as a dominating factor since the top 10 in unemployment vary widely in that category: Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Montana are indeed excellent in that aspect, but North Dakota is decidedly more pedestrian and Iowa, Vermont, and Minnesota are among the worst.

But Maryland has the tendency to depend too much on the federal government as an economic driver. This presents a problem because bureaucrats don’t really produce anything – they skim off the top of others’ labor but don’t add value. Certainly it’s great for those who live around the Beltway, and it’s telling that all three of the Democratic candidates have a connection to the two Maryland counties which border the District of Columbia while none of the Republicans save Larry Hogan do.

In order to create jobs, I think the state needs to diversify its economy, weaning itself off the government teat and encouraging manufacturing and energy exploration. Meanwhile, there’s also a need to rightsize regulation and restore a balance between development and Chesapeake Bay cleanup – specifically by placing a five-year moratorium on new environmental restrictions while cleaning up the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam. Let’s give that which we’ve already done a chance to work and other states a chance to catch up.

The best route out of government dependence is a job. Unfortunately, when the aim of the dominant political party in the state is one of creating as many dependents as possible, a lot of good entrepreneurs will be shown the door. It’s time to welcome them in with open arms.

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.

The real unemployment number

Forgive me if I don’t make sense today. I’m going to take a bucket of water and pour in a few drops at the top. Let’s call that job creation. What I’m going to gloss over is the gaping hole near the bottom where water is gushing out. Some skeptics might call that people leaving the labor force, but the shiny objects are those droplets of water and the trickle from last month we found was larger than we thought. So the bucket seems really full.

For the first time since 2008, the “topline” unemployment number is under 7 percent, as it was announced today that the rate dropped to 6.7 percent. But experts were “hard pressed” to explain why so few jobs were created.

The problem was summed up by someone who’s not an economist, but a frequent critic of the current regime. Nathan Mehrens of Americans for Limited Government noted:

Since Obama became president, the number of people who are considered to be in the civilian job eligible population has increased by just shy of eleven million people, but the number of people who have entered the work force has only increased by about 730 thousand people.  Quite simply our nation cannot survive when fewer than sixty six out a thousand working aged people are entering the workforce.  Of those sixty six who want a job, about five of them are unemployed.

I’ll grant that the Mehrens example is perhaps a little overblown, as more of those who would be considered job eligible also become eligible for Social Security and/or reached retirement age. There are also a growing number who claim disability, which is why the seasonably adjusted number for those not in the work force has peaked at 91.8 million while the labor participation rate slid back under 63 percent. They’ve talked for years about the fact that a shrinking number of workers contribute to Social Security while those who collect live longer; well, we’re now practically at a point where five workers support three who aren’t working. Nor do these raw numbers consider how many jobs are in the public sector vs. private sector work, so the ratio is just about to a point where one private-sector worker is supporting one of either the roughly 22 million public-sector workers or the nearly 92 million non-workers.

Bottom line: the system trend is unsustainable, So what is the solution being offered by the government? Barack Obama calls them “Promise Zones” and they are supposed to “cut through red tape.” But it looks to me like more of the same:

(Yesterday), in the East Room of the White House, the President will announce the first five “Promise Zones”, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

These areas – urban, rural, and tribal – have all committed, in partnership with local business and community leaders, to use existing resources on proven strategies, and make new investments that reward hard work. They have developed strong plans to create jobs, provide quality, affordable housing and expand educational opportunity, which we’ll help them execute with access to on-the-ground federal partners, resources, and grant preferences.

“Make new investments” is codespeak for spending more money on the problem, and Democrats just love to utter that “investment” term. That makes sense when the vast majority of the proposed solution lies in more federal involvement. (There is a small component involving tax credits, but those are generally temporary and don’t cover all of the increased costs involved in locating in these areas.)

So the one-to-one ratio will probably continue, particularly since the first five mainly involve some sort of educational component. Of course, that won’t be done through private-sector means.

Has anyone thought to ask those who create jobs what gives them an incentive to do so? Certainly tax credits may help, but as I noted above those are of a fleeting nature. Unfortunately, it seems that government regulation is forever; well, at least until business learns to live with that which is in place – only then do the bureaucrats seem to change things for the worse. One study pegged the net cost of government regulation in 2013 at $112 billion; using that as a guide business spent that sum complying with regulations instead of creating 2.24 million jobs at $50,000 apiece. That would knock nearly one-fourth off the unemployment rate, putting it back to around the 5% “normal” the media regularly lambasted as a “jobless economy” during the George W. Bush years.

It seems like politicians pay lip service to the concept of business friendliness during election years because they know the voting public really, truly wants to work and advance their economic status. (I know I do.) Yet the results of the last half-dozen years or so have been those of government projecting more of its influence over the private sector when the reins should be slackened instead. In no way has the world reached a terminal point of satisfaction with its collective lot, so there’s much room for growth in the American private sector given the advantages our nation has in terms of natural resources and willing workforce.

So let my job-producing people go, and we can return to the full employment we enjoyed just a few short years ago.

A look ahead: 2014 on the national front

December 31, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

This will be, by far, the trickiest of these columns I’ve taken the last three days to write. There are so many unknowns that even the “known unknowns” pale in comparison. But as the conservative, pro-liberty movement stands currently there are a number of items for which we can reasonably be certain 2014 will bring some kind of resolution.

First and foremost among them is that the goalposts will continue to be moved for Obamacare. As originally envisioned, we would all begin feeling its full effects tomorrow, but self-imposed – and I mean self-imposed, because few of these changes went through the legislative branch – changes have pushed back the deadline for many later into 2014 or even 2015. At this point, the strategy seems to be that everything bad about Obamacare gets blamed on Republicans who were really pretty powerless to stop its enactment in the first place – remember, Democrats had a clear majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate from January 2009 to February 2010 when Scott Brown was sworn in – and those few popular items are all due to the Affordable Care Act. That seems to be the preferred, focus group-tested name now because Obamacare has a bad connotation.

Meanwhile, we are supposed to be beyond the prospect of a government shutdown (really a slowdown) which Republicans were deathly afraid of for some reason. I don’t recall any hardships in October, do you? My life seemed to be unaffected. Nevertheless, the GOP seems to be afraid of its own shadow so when Democrats threaten to shut down the government the GOP snaps to. It’s sickening.

By that same token, the ball is supposedly being teed up for immigration reform (read: amnesty) over the summer, once GOP Senate incumbents know their filing deadline has passed. There’s no question a schism over immigration is developing in the Republican Party just as Obamacare is splintering off those Senate Democrats who face re-election in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012. I say primary ‘em all with conservatives so that maybe the incumbents will be scared straight.

Those are some of the key domestic issues we’ll be facing. I can guess two or three which won’t come up as well.

We will see absolutely zero effort to reform entitlements, whether Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. This will be another year they hurtle toward insolvency, probably going splat just in time for Generation X to reach retirement age in about 15 years. (That would be me – I’m on the cusp between Gen X and Boomer.)

Nor do I care how many articles of impeachment are drawn up: the House leadership doesn’t have the courage to pursue it, nor would they ever get the votes in the Senate to convict. They could find Barack Obama in bed with a dead girl, live boy, a bloody knife in his right hand and a signed confession in his left and the Democrats would swear the boy set him up and the girl stabbed herself thirteen times – in the back – and not convict him.

It doesn’t matter how poor the economy is, either. The government won’t dare stop priming the pump to the tune of a trillion dollars a year in debt, parceling out $80 billion or so of “quantitative easing” monthly. When the Dow and its record highs are the one factor of success apologists for Obama can point to, anything which maintains that facade will be continued despite the possibility of long-term inflationary catastrophe – again, probably in time for Generation X to retire.

Just as ineffective is our foreign policy, which has been a muddled mess as old friends are ignored and longtime enemies coddled. We may have an idea of what the hotspots may be, but events have a way of occurring at the most inopportune times and places for American interests.

All this points toward the midterm elections this coming November. While Democrats are talking up their chances of regaining the House, the odds are better that Republicans will instead take the Senate. The sixth year election in a President’s term is traditionally a bloodbath for his party, although the one exception over the last century was during the term of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton in 1998. At that time, though, the economy was in pretty good shape and the modest gains by the Democrats in the House weren’t enough to swing control back to them. (The Senate stayed in GOP hands, with no change in the 55-45 GOP majority.)

Looking briefly at the Maryland delegation, all indications are that all of our eight-person Congressional delegation will seek another term, although only Fifth District representative Steny Hoyer and Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings have filed so far. The most spirited race may be the Sixth District, where 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino is expected to take on freshman Democrat John Delaney.

But there’s still time left for the 113th Congress, which will have to deal with the mercurial Barack Obama for another year before we enter the home stretch of what seems like a couple decades of the Obama regime. There’s little doubt that conventional wisdom will be set on its head again and again over the next year, a real-life version of trying to predict the upsets we all know will occur during March Madness. It’s all about who comes out on top, but my bet is that it won’t be the American people.

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