A MDGOP Fall Convention preview

It’s been awhile since I was entitled to go to the state convention, but what a few hundred Wicomico County voters tried to do was undone by a much smaller number last month, so I have returned like the prodigal son.

My first convention back will be in Solomons, which as I recall was the home of my favorite convention, the spring 2012 one where we elected Nicolee Ambrose as National Committeewoman in a contentious vote over Audrey Scott. This one will probably not have the same amount of angst, although we may see issues with the three bylaw amendments on the docket.

The first is a lengthy proposal to create a process for Central Committees to fill legislative vacancies. After the debacles we saw last year as Governor Hogan picked members of the General Assembly to fill out his cabinet and lead departments, it became a priority to come up with a way of doing so lest the General Assembly take our power away (which still could happen.)

In a nutshell, the amendment allows a county to create its own process but leaves as a default the state-prescribed method. In looking it over briefly, the fight may be over the call to submit “name(s)” to the Governor, as some would prefer the Central Committee submit just one name as was custom until the most recent round of appointments.

That controversy led to the second bylaws amendment, which a perverse sort of “loser pays” arrangement for entities taking legal action against the state party, just like Carroll County did last year. I think this one will create the loudest arguments, to be honest.

Third is a proposal to give the Maryland Black Republican Council full voting status on the Executive Committee. If so, they would join the Maryland Federation of Republican Women, the Maryland Federation of Young Republicans, and the Maryland Federation of College Republicans as voting members of that committee. (Conversely, the Teenage Republicans and Heritage Council are non-voting members.) As I recall, we had a lot of rancor about giving the YRs and CRs an Executive Committee vote a couple years ago, in a voice vote that was literally cast as we were being ushered out the door. So we’ll see.

The one resolution that I’m aware of (barring others introduced from the floor for our consideration) deals with the redistricting commission, so that should be no issue. I don’t think there’s 10 percent of the party that likes the way we do it now.

But all work and no play makes Republicans a cranky bunch. Fortunately, unlike the last couple conventions I attended, we will have no shortage of hospitality suites to check out.

A list sent out by the state party shows no less than a dozen different suites. While the host counties of Calvert and St. Mary’s and Montgomery County have their parties, the headlining parties will be competing affairs between supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Not to be left out, all three major U.S. Senate hopefuls – Richard Douglas, Chrys Kefalas, and Kathy Szeliga, who is piggybacking with Congressman Andy Harris – will have suites on separate floors. Add in local Congressional candidate Charles “Sam” Faddis and the aforementioned Black Republican Council, throw in a couple wild card suites, and it should be a fun evening tonight.

Naturally some of the conservative blogosphere will be there, so we’ll see what sort of coverage we can drum up. Whether the era of good feelings brought on by Larry Hogan’s election will subside this time or wait until spring when we elect a new National Committeeman and National Committeewoman along with slates of convention delegates and alternates remains to be seen.

For now I’m just going to enjoy the moment because, I hate to admit, I sort of missed these gatherings during my hiatus. Glad to be back.

A few convention thoughts

April 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A few convention thoughts 

For those who don’t know, the Maryland Republican Party had its convention “downy ocean” on Friday and Saturday.

They certainly can go upscale now that we occupy the governor’s office.

Doesn’t seem that long ago we couldn’t scrape up convention sponsors, let alone “Governor’s Circle” or “Chairman’s Circle.”

Since I didn’t have a proxy, nor could I attend anyway because I had work to do for a new employer, I decided to do the Friday night drop-in. To allocate a couple lines from an old Bob Seger song: “I headed east because I felt the change would do me good – see some old friends, good for the soul.”

Unfortunately, poolside at the Princess Royale isn’t great for photos. But truth be told, I wasn’t much into documenting the night anyway. I was having too much fun chatting up folks like my old “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, being a radio guest for Ryan Miner, and talking shop with some others. I did take a few various shots with the cell phone, but they don’t rise to the level of worth commenting on because most are dark or somewhat tiresome.

But I did receive some flak from on high about the piece I wrote Friday, being scolded because I didn’t know the whole story. Yet this bears one question: what would Joe Burns – or those four members of the Carroll County RCC who opposed the change to submitting multiple names – gain from lying or embellishing the truth? Conversely, if they are right, what does the “good old boy establishment” wing of the MDGOP lose? The ability for cronyism at will?

There’s no doubt that Joe’s idea of a properly working MDGOP is different than that of the leadership, and it’s probably a far cry than mine. But it’s my understanding that Diana Waterman chose to address this at the very end of the convention, after the expected move by the Resolutions Committee to not report any resolutions out. Been there, done that. As always, we have plenty of time for rehashes of what’s going on with the various party leaders, but not enough time to put some simmering issues to rest. I’d love to have some input from those on Resolutions to know why nothing made the cut.

Going forward, though, this is something which needs clarity. Either we allow the governor to have his way simply because he has an “R” behind his name or we have consistency in rules. After all, there was no do-over on any of the other General Assembly nominees.

One other thought I had, thanks to the presence of Don Murphy, was his belief that “you must be present to win.” Where was everyone who is considering a 2016 U.S. Senate bid? Besides Andy Harris, who had a hospitality suite upstairs, away from the pool, I wasn’t aware anyone else hosted a suite. Perhaps they were on the downlow, but now that session is over you would think we would have some movement. We already know a couple of the players lined up on the other side.

From what I heard, the party will be back in Annapolis Solomons this fall so I’m sure all those Senate hopefuls will be out of the woodwork by then – along with the umpteen GOP presidential hopefuls (more specifically, their Maryland proxies.) Hopefully we can be arguing over the merits of Dan Bongino vs. Andy Harris vs. Laura Neuman for Senate and all those who wish to clean up Barack Obama’s disaster because we will have some resolution and direction on the subjects currently at hand.

And who knows? I might just get a proxy for that one, or I might not. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for all but two things: working (which is what I did) or arguing politics. I only missed it a little bit, which isn’t bad considering.

It might be a good idea this fall, though, to bump the Resolutions Committee report to the front of the agenda – and bring some popcorn.

Contention from the floor

A couple weeks ago I noted a prospective resolution for tomorrow’s business session of the Maryland Republican Party’s Spring Convention, which begins tonight in Ocean City. While that Article V convention was a hot topic, this one is even more blazing – so much so that sponsor Joe Burns is forgoing the usual process and banking that he can introduce it from the floor. He adds:

I expect I will be attacked a variety of ways, and other tactics used to prevent any issues like this from being even (being) discussed!

Therefore, I will need your help and assistance, if we are to reign in and correct these problems, now! The next elections and upcoming redistricting issues are at stake! We need to fix this now!

I am taking responsibility for one of our County’s own members. There may be others you feel also deserve some form of action too. I will leave this to your own good judgments!

If we all work together, we can nip some of these problems now, and save the rest of the Party, possibly winning future elections, and fixing redistricting problems!

(Obviously, Joe is heavily into exclamation points.)

The gist of his resolution is a demand that MDGOP Second Vice-Chair Larry Helminiak be subjected to a “vote of no confidence” and upon the presumed positive result of that vote, step down immediately. Obviously that would make for a much less harmonious convention, but Burns apparently feels the whole situation of submitting one name originally, then being strong-armed into rescinding the original vote and submitting three names for a General Assembly vacancy (as opposed to the tradition of just one) put Carroll County in a bad light. As his resolution reads:

Whereas, through the actions of one significant member of the Maryland State Party, the 2nd Vice Chairman Larry Helminiak, as an elected Officer of the Party’s leadership, participated in actively preventing other members of his own Central Committee, blocking information from being passed between members, plus pressuring other County’s Central Committee members, to violate their Oath of Office, or the unencumbered exercise of their franchise, while fulfilling their duties as fellow elected officials, (Article IV, Section 4.1, Subsection b, Clauses (1), & (5) plus Article XII, Section 12.1, & Section 12.2) and,

Whereas, by stating at an open meeting, that all members of any County Central Committee, were not ‘elected officials, as they do not stand for election in a general election, but were therefore equal to and should be only considered as ‘being appointed to their seats’ thus degrading the status and the earned, recognized, legal position of each elected Committee members, and,

Whereas, by his specific actions, both internally on this Committee, and throughout the state, he has tried to remove the lawful control of the State Party from the Central Committee elected delegates, placing it into the hands of a limited number of Party officials, contrary to traditional government by ‘We the People’ under consent of those being governed as outlined in our Constitution, a situation of Party Leadership tyranny is being fostered and created, and by using the power of the Party treasury to fund lawsuits to the detriment of, and promotion of these changes, no individual Central Committee’s independence or sovereign existence is guaranteed, and,

Whereas, as there was no reasonable excuse for the State Party to be involved in this lawsuit or situation at all, spending State Party assets to do so, unless this were an attempt to destroy the Party’s Central Committee’s function and their existence through these actions, thus destroying the Party itself,

Therefore, I submit a resolution under the By-Laws were these actions should be considered as ‘Conduct Unbecoming for an Officer of the Party’, I hereby request and require that 2nd Vice Chairman Larry Helminiak be given a vote of ‘No Confidence’ by this Convention for his continuing in office, stepping down immediately as an officer of the Party, and an election for his replacement be accorded as outlined in the State Party By-Laws (Article V, Section 5.5, Subsection e, Clause (2) immediately during this gathering of this Spring Convention.

We go back to the question of whether the Carroll County GOP made the proper play. Thus far the courts have disagreed with Burns, but there is a legitimate question of why the state party had to be involved in the case at all, particularly to the tune of $37,000. On those occasions where previous governors have plucked a member out of the General Assembly for his cabinet, or the more usual death or resignation of a member of either party, the standard procedure was one name picked by the local Central Committee. Carroll County’s first choice wasn’t to Larry Hogan’s liking, so someone requested a do-over. That does seem rather disrespectful of the local officials, yet a majority was fine with that. (You better believe it wouldn’t have been a majority on ours.) Bear in mind that the provision of Article III, Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution does NOT provide for the governor’s rejection of the appointee.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of Burns’ accusation is the paragraph where he alleges Helminiak said members of the Central Committee were not elected officials. In the respects that we are not paid for holding office, need not fill out financial disclosures, and are elected in the primary election rather than the general, this is true; however, we do have to take an almost identical oath of office, have to fill out the campaign finance reports (which include having the bank account and selecting a campaign treasurer), and are given a set of responsibilities which include appointing various officials up to and including members of the General Assembly. I don’t know about Carroll County, but ours takes that responsibility seriously.

In 2010, the last time I was elected, 2,139 people said I was an elected official. I think that carries a little weight, don’t you?

I’ve known Larry for several years and to me he’s a stand-up guy. But there is a part of me who would at least support Burns’s resolution getting to the floor because the whole situation stinks to high heaven and I think Larry Helminiak (as well as the other Central Committee members attending the convention) should explain their actions and answer questions about how much influence was really exerted by the governor’s office.

If we are a party which truly stands for limited government and local control, we should make this an example of executive overreach from Annapolis. Just because the guy in Government House has a “R” behind his name doesn’t mean the party has to bow to his every wish.

Stacking the deck by rule?

March 4, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Stacking the deck by rule? 

If you’re not aware of this, the saga of appointing new legislative members in Carroll County came to an inglorious end when the state Court of Appeals ruled it was within the Carroll County Republican Central Committee’s right to send multiple names to Governor Hogan for the selection of a new member of the legislature. Personally I think it should remain as one name, but apparently Larry likes having choices.

But you may not be aware – in fact, I wasn’t either until it was alluded to at Monday night’s Central Committee meeting – that the next state party convention, to be held next month in Ocean City, will feature a push to have counties adopt a standardized policy on filling legislative vacancies.

Indeed, there is logic and sense behind this as a whole. However, if it’s up to each county to make this official I would recommend the Central Committee in Wicomico County adopt this with at least one change. In Section 13, where it reads:

The Chair shall submit one name, however, at the request of the Governor, may submit more than one name.

I would ask the sentence be amended thus:

The Chair shall submit one name.

Here’s the reasoning why we should stay with a one-name approach (and why the Court of Appeals got it wrong.)

It has long been the practice that Central Committees in each county submitted just one name – problems only tended to occur with multi-county districts where more than one name was sent because counties preferred different candidates. (Senate District 36 is a recent example.)

That District 36 situation illustrates the problem with a multiple-name approach. If my memory serves me correctly, two counties selected eventual winner (and then-Delegate) Steve Hershey while the two other ones tabbed former Delegate Michael Smigiel. The choice was eventually made by Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. (Note each of the four counties sent up one name.)

Someday there will be a Democratic governor again who will preside over the selection for filling a vacancy in a conservative Republican district. Based on the language in this prospective amendment, what is to stop this governor from informing the Central Committee that he or she wants ten names rather than just three? Or instead of making a formal selection, the governor simply requested the forwarding of the name of everyone who applied, regardless of merit?

There are not a lot of representative functions for which the local Central Committee is charged – mainly their job is to represent the county at the state conventions. But it does serve at times as the electorate in those situations where it’s not practical to have an election – in recent meetings, the committee I serve with has selected applicants for the Board of Elections and interviewed for vacancies in our Board of Education. In the recent past, our local Central Committees have worked to select members of the General Assembly who died in office – Republicans for Page Elmore in 2010 and Democrats for Bennett Bozman in 2006.

Because Maryland doesn’t have the provision for special elections, we have to take that task seriously as voters won’t be able to correct us for many months or even three-plus years. It’s interesting that Kathy Fuller, who was one of the plaintiffs in the Carroll County case (supporting the submission of just one name) has the idea of prohibiting the selection of a member of the General Assembly for an administration position. With one exception, that’s the root cause of all this commotion.

But I digress. While there are many times we would be satisfied with any of a number of candidates, there is generally one who stands above the others in our estimation; however, there’s no guarantee the Appointments Secretary will feel the same since it’s likely he or she won’t do an in-depth interview.

One name has worked well in the past, and it’s a shame Larry Hogan mucked up the system because he didn’t like the Central Committee’s original choice. That’s what it boils down to. A more stout Central Committee would have stuck with their first choice, so I think we need the rules that will stiffen their collective spines.

The power of one

January 25, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The power of one 

The return of a Republican to Government House has been a boon to the state party, but it has created no shortage of chaos in the General Assembly and in counties where erstwhile members of that body reside. One example of this is Carroll County, which has had to replace two members of its delegation as both Senator Joe Getty and Delegate Kelly Schulz were tapped for administration jobs.

Replacing the latter brought significant strife to neighboring Frederick County, where most of District 4 lies, but since a small portion lies in Carroll County they also get their say. But one change in their process was agreeing to Larry Hogan’s request to send him three names, which Carroll did. Since former Delegate Barrie Ciliberti is on both lists, it would presumably be his seat once Schulz is confirmed the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation by the Maryland Senate.

But if you look at the three men Frederick County advanced to their final interview stage, you would notice that Ciliberti was the only name agreed on – however, it’s been reported that Carroll had Ciliberti as their second choice behind Ken Timmerman, who didn’t make Frederick’s top three.

Carroll County has also been feeling the heat for sending up the name of Robin Bartlett Frazier as their choice to replace Senator Getty over Delegate Justin Ready, among others. Frazier was a county commissioner until losing a bid for re-election this year; her biggest claim to fame is ignoring a judge’s order and beginning commission meetings with a prayer. One argument in Bartlett’s favor was that selecting Ready would have only set up a second search for his vacant position.

These incidents serve as a reminder to the issues Republicans had with replacing Senator E. J. Pipkin and Pipkin’s eventual successor Steve Hershey back in 2013. But imagine if all four counties in the District 36 jurisdiction had to send up three names, and they were all different? It would be chaos.

Here’s what the Maryland Constitution has to say about the process of replacing General Assembly members:

SEC. 13. (a) (1) In case of death, disqualification, resignation, refusal to act, expulsion, or removal from the county or city for which he shall have been elected, of any person who shall have been chosen as a Delegate or Senator, or in case of a tie between two or more such qualified persons, the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing, within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, by the Central Committee of the political party, if any, with which the Delegate or Senator, so vacating, had been affiliated, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, in the County or District from which he or she was appointed or elected, provided that the appointee shall be of the same political party, if any, as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to make said appointment within fifteen days after the submission thereof to him.

(2) If a name is not submitted by the Central Committee within thirty days after the occurrence of the vacancy, the Governor within another period of fifteen days shall appoint a person, who shall be affiliated with the same political party, if any as was that of the Delegate or Senator, whose office is to be filled, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Delegate or Senator, and who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in the District or County.

(3) In the event there is no Central Committee in the County or District from which said vacancy is to be filled, the Governor shall within fifteen days after the occurrence of such vacancy appoint a person, from the same political party, if any, as that of the vacating Delegate or Senator, at the time of the last election or appointment of the vacating Senator or Delegate, who is otherwise properly qualified to hold the office of Delegate or Senator in such District or County.

(4) In every case when any person is so appointed by the Governor, his appointment shall be deemed to be for the unexpired term of the person whose office has become vacant.

(b) In addition, and in submitting a name to the Governor to fill a vacancy in a legislative or delegate district, as the case may be, in any of the twenty-three counties of Maryland, the Central Committee or committees shall follow these provisions:

(1) If the vacancy occurs in a district having the same boundaries as a county, the Central Committee of the county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(2) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion of one county, the Central Committee of that county shall submit the name of a resident of the district.

(3) If the vacancy occurs in a district which has boundaries comprising a portion or all of two or more counties, the Central Committee of each county involved shall have one vote for submitting the name of a resident of the district; and if there is a tie vote between or among the Central Committees, the list of names there proposed shall be submitted to the Governor, and he shall make the appointment from the list (amended by Chapter 584, Acts of 1935, ratified Nov. 3, 1936; Chapter 162, Acts of 1966, ratified Nov. 8, 1966; Chapter 681, Acts of 1977, ratified Nov. 7, 1978; Chapter 649, Acts of 1986, ratified Nov. 4, 1986).

One can argue this both ways, but since the language states “a person whose name shall be submitted” it’s taken to mean one person. In the case of District 36, the choice was made by then-Governor O’Malley between two names because two counties backed Hershey and two preferred Delegate Michael Smigiel. All of them submitted one name.

And this brings me to a message those of us who serve (or ran for) Central Committees around the state received from Kathy Fuller, who serves on the Carroll County Republican Central Committee. After she went through the process Carroll County used, she made one key point:

We have the constitutional requirement to provide one name. To do anything else usurps the constitutional authority endowed upon the Central Committee. If a Central Committee decides upon one name and submits it, the Governor must appoint that person. The power of the appointment then rests with the Central Committee. If the Central Committee can be convinced to submit more than one name then the Governor actually chooses who is appointed, and the power of the appointment rests with the Governor.

The Constitution designates Central Committees to choose who is appointed and the governor to carry out the appointment. This is separation of power. The Governor is the executive branch; the House and Senate are the legislative branch. If the Governor picks the members of the legislative branch then this corrupts the separation of powers and the checks and balances necessary for good government.

Think of it this way: The Governor has hundreds of appointments he is able to make. If he were to appoint legislators to most of those jobs and then tell the central committees who to send as replacements he would control most of government, both the executive and legislative branches. This is an extreme example, but illustrates the danger of allowing the authority endowed upon the central committees to be usurped by giving the governor more than one name or by allowing him to tell the central committee who that name should be. This is the same reason many gubernatorial appointments are made with the consent of the legislature. It is the check and balance of good government.

Just because Larry Hogan wants three names to choose from doesn’t mean he is entitled to those three names. Unfortunately, most Republican politics turns the process on its head as they desire only one person to run in any primary (to avoid a GOP candidate spending money in a primary fight) but more than one person in this instance so that the state elected official farthest from the people (and perhaps representing the opposite party) makes the choice. Given the choice between a hardline conservative and someone more moderate and “bipartisan” we know who Larry Hogan would pick 95 percent of the time – so Carroll County should have maintained their fealty to the original process. If Maryland had a provision for a special election to fill these seats I would be happy to have plenty of choices, but it does not and I think Fuller’s argument is the correct one.

And to me there is no better illustration of what went wrong with the process than our experience with the District 4 Wicomico County Council vacancy some years ago. By charter, we had to submit four names to County Council, which did their own vetting process after we did our interviews and voted on who to send. At the time it was also an overly rushed process because we only had 30 days to get through the process – a charter change adopted in 2012 extended this to 45 days. But had we only been required to send one name, there would be a different occupant of the office because the eventual appointee was not our top choice. This would be a good charter change to consider since the county charter is different than the state’s Constitution on this manner.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that, in one respect, all of these appointments are moot because none of the principals have resigned yet. They all await confirmation to their positions but the process was started early because the General Assembly would be in session during the time. But I think it needs to be clarified that the duty of the Central Committee is already spelled out in the state’s Constitution and we need only submit one name for these positions.

Let’s do what’s right under the law, not the personal preference of the new governor.

No opposition desired

June 22, 2013 · Posted in Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on No opposition desired 

It seems like I’ve heard this story before, but now an incident involving Congressman Chris Van Hollen and his recently-redistricted constituency in Carroll County has drawn the attention of law enforcement there.

Van Hollen has scheduled a public townhall meeting at Carroll County Community College (CCCC) for this coming Monday, a fact not lost on Michelle Jefferson of We the People – Carroll County, a nonpartisan local group which states as its purpose:

WTP exists to inform and educate anyone who has a desire to hear and learn about the political goings on in a nonpartisan approach. Every political party is represented in WTP – we believe we are Americans first and foremost and there’s no sunshine between the two major parties.

Locally, however, they’re known for being a group sympathetic to the TEA Party. So when Jefferson said about the CCCC townhall meeting, “I say we give him a WTP welcome to the neighborhood. Bet (Rep. Van Hollen) can’t find Westminster with his GPS,” the sarcastic tone was taken to be a threat by Carroll County Democratic Central Committee member Don West.

Bear in mind that this is a public meeting. Yet, as reported at Frontline State, the threats perceived by West have led to a peace order being slapped on Jefferson, of which a copy can be viewed at FLS. In it, West affirms that he “contend(s) that the respondent has engaged in a malicious course of conduct in which the respondent approached or pursued you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death?” as a stalker. All this over Jefferson calling West “a weenie & a jackass.” and pointing out that he had previously tried to secure a peace order against her – this was his second try, according to the complaint. It’s worth noting the same document lists Jefferson as being 5′-5″ and 120 pounds, so I don’t see her as an imposing physical presence to Don West, who I have never met so I can’t ascertain his size. Chances are, though, he’s larger than Jefferson.

But Michael, you may argue, she’s inciting a mob to riot at the event!

Please tell me where a TEA Party has gotten out of hand and trashed the venue at which it was held or committed physical violence to someone there. And even if you find an isolated incident I’m not privy to, won’t there be security at the Van Hollen townhall meeting? Certainly the words may be a little bit heated, but if anything one would think those who oppose Van Hollen would be on their best behavior given the knowledge of this so-called threat and the penchant of anyone in the media to assume the TEA Party is a bunch of troublemakers. (This, of course, assumes Van Hollen goes through with the meeting given the political climate created by his Democratic supporter, who believes the TEA Party has “violent tendencies.”)

In the meantime, answering the peace order will cost Jefferson part of her day at work and may serve to exempt Jefferson from the Van Hollen townhall meeting, because attending could be a violation of the order – one could reasonably expect West will be there as a Van Hollen backer. However, he is also an elected official so one would have to question the legal standard used by the court commissioner, Michele L. Keys.

I found the reaction from Sixth District Congessional candidate Dan Bongino interesting, given his background in the Secret Service. In a release, Bongino stated in part:

After a 2012 campaign marred by vehicle and property vandalism and a more recent, brazen display of government intimidation by the IRS, the Democrats are at it again. Now they are attempting to use law enforcement to intimidate and silence one of my former volunteers and a female Conservative activist in Carroll County, Maryland.

As a former law enforcement officer and a Secret Service agent with specific expertise in evaluating political threats, the Maryland Democratic Party should be embarrassed by this shameful attempt at intimidation and the corresponding waste of law enforcement resources. I am calling on the Maryland Democratic Party to issue a public apology to the Carroll County law enforcement officials involved and Mrs. Jefferson, immediately.

Apparently Dan knows Jefferson and didn’t perceive her as a threat; then again, she’s not likely to ask tough questions about Dan’s political views.

But the question of whether this so-called threat as a political weapon remains; on the other hand, it could serve as a call to arms for our side. The newly-christened Citizen Action Network (still MDCAN, but with a new “C”) added:

If you wish to show your support for WTP and demonstrate your displeasure with the Democrat party’s continued harassment of tea party activist groups, you can attend the public “meet and greet” with Congressman Van Hollen.

Given the recent IRS revelations alluded to by Bongino, the real threat may be coming from liberal Democrats. Whether it’s finding a court commissioner easily convinced by flimsy and circumstantial evidence or additional IRS scrutiny for TEA Party groups, our freedom could be at stake. But I would encourage people in every Congressional district to attend town hall meetings, regardless of whether they agree with the Congressman’s politics or not. It’s a very basic step toward an informed public, and should be taken advantage of when the opportunity is presented.

Constitutional defender speaks in Salisbury

The crowd at the Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots meeting, January 15, 2013. It was a pretty packed house last night for the Wicomico Maryland Society of Patriots meeting, in part because it was a joint meeting with Worcester County’s TEA Party chapter and partly because we had a strident Constitutional defender speaking. That gentleman is familiar to liberty lovers across Maryland as a leader who conceded that the Democrats and unions will be gunning for his seat next year. “They hate me,” said Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

But before Richard spoke, we had to get some of the preliminaries out of the way: a prayer, which was originally uttered by Thomas Jefferson in 1801, the Pledge of Allegiance, the assessment by host Dr. Greg Belcher that “I’m pretty confident we’ll have some good information” coming out of this meeting, and some words from Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots, who characterized our situation as “not only fighting for our freedom, but fighting for our lives.”

We also introduced a number of elected officials and other public figures, including three members of Wicomico County Council (President Matt Holloway, Vice-President Bob Culver, and former President Joe Holloway), Jim Bunting of the Worcester County Commissioners. and a number of Republican Central Committee members from Wicomico, Worcester, and Dorchester counties. Salisbury mayoral candidate Joe Albero also put in an appearance.

Matt Holloway alerted us to an upcoming hearing regarding how we’ll address the provisions of SB236 on February 20 at the Civic Center. It was also announced that Delegate Mike McDermott had filed a bill in the House of Delegates to repeal last year’s Senate Bill 236, which provided much of the impetus for tonight’s gathering. But as a pair of videos shown tonight revealed, the process has been in the words for nearly three decades.

Indeed, there was a lot to digest in the 2 1/2 hours we held court at The Legacy Restaurant, and I haven’t even gotten to what our featured speaker said yet. Granted, some of it – particularly on the Constitutional aspects of holding office – was rehashed from that which he said at the Turning the Tides conference on Saturday, but the Agenda 21 and SB236 information was less familiar. Some of it had appeared in 2011 at a conference he’d spoken at (before SB236 even passed) but a number of predictions Rothschild made within that presentation have panned out.

A pair of guests were pointed out by Richard, and they weren’t those you may expect at a TEA Party meeting. But the two came representing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, venturing into enemy territory as it were. But Richard didn’t see it that way, encouraging the group to join the Clean Chesapeake Coalition of seven Maryland counties. And while he contended that conservatives were capable of abating more pollution than our liberal opponents, he assured the CBF representatives that “I am committed to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.”

Yet Richard also contended that “if it’s sound policy it won’t need to be forced by the state.” SB236 and PlanMaryland both fail that test. Moreover, Rothschild was distressed by the vague and undefined terms in PlanMaryland, giving several examples. To him, “‘sustainability’ is a euphemism for ‘government approved.'”

“I said to the state of Maryland, ‘let the free market do its work,'” repeated Richard.

Rothschild went on to explain that in the old days, planning was a map. Now it’s a goal, a movement, and a new way of life required by government. The “smart growth” concept was a noble idea, he continued, but it ignores empirical realities. “The facts do not support their assertions,” he said. One example of that was failing to take into account that clustering housing units as proponents of smart growth suggest won’t raise enough tax revenue per unit to be viable without a massive increase in the tax rate.

And if the numbers don’t support the correct assertions, then create new ones. Rothschild criticized the new Genuine Progress Indicator standard, in which some portions increase through negative outcomes – for example, if all of the job producers who make high incomes are driven out of the state, the “income inequality” indicator would reflect this in a positive direction. Never mind the higher unemployment and economic misery sure to follow. “This is Machiavellian,” said Richard.

Another facet of this push toward cleaning up the Bay by fiat was the uneven distribution of costs. Using what he termed “rough order of magnitude” costs as an example, in order to cover the increased costs of Watershed Implementation Plan compliance Carroll County would have to raise taxes 10 percent and Frederick County 20 percent. But those property owners here in Wicomico County would be saddled with a DOUBLING of the tax to cover a $1.2 billion overall cost – bear in mind our annual budget is not far north of $100 million.

Yet, as he described later, the state was less than aggressive in addressing the problems at the Conowingo Dam, where over 100 feet in depth of nitrogen-rich sediment has filled in the waterway behind the dam. In severe storms, that sediment escapes into the Bay, wreaking havoc on the uppermost portions of the estuary.

Part of this presentation was handled by Phil Hager, the Carroll County Director of Land Use, Planning, and Development. Rothschild noted that it took a long time to fill the position because “I couldn’t find a land use manager who respects the Constitution” until Phil came along.

Hagar focused on some of the nuts and bolts of the law, noting that SB236 was passed in lieu of a BAT (best available technology) law by the General Assembly. Instead, the Maryland Department of the Environment administratively enacted the BAT regulations a week after the session ended last year.

Phil also made it clear that Carroll County was not hurrying through SB236 compliance, instead choosing to address this as part of their comprehensive plan, with ample public input. He added that Cecil County passed its map “acting under duress and protest.” Wicomico County is charting a similar path to Carroll County’s, holding off on submitting a map until more public input is granted.

Returning to the podium, Richard stated the case again that we can’t be so bold and arrogant to presume we know what’s best for our children and grandchildren. Too many innovations can take place to assume what is now will always be – for example few know there once was massive concern over reliance on horses, dubbed the Horse Manure Crisis of 1894. Instead of being buried under tons of horse droppings, though, technology intervened as the automobile was invented.

“I personally believe this law demands nullification,” Rothschild asserted, adding “if I tried to go the other way (and make zoning less restrictive) I’d be told ‘you’re violating the law.'” Yet no one bats an eye at this process, whether it be intrusions on property rights, the Second Amendment – which Richard called “a God-given right that’s not negotiable” – or any other intrusion. “We (as counties) don’t project power,” said Richard.

Finally, Richard predicted 2013 would be the year of greenhouse gas in the Maryland General Assembly. The goals are already in place: a 15% reduction from 2006 levels by the year 2020 and 95% reduction by mid-century. The 15% reduction is expected to cost $20 billion, a toll which Rothschild charged would create “devastation of our economy of epic, Biblical proportions.”

He closed out by telling the crowd what many of us already harbor as a gut feeling: “It will end in a trainwreck.”

On the other hand, I found the meeting as informative as predicted. The good news is that PAC14 taped the proceedings, so at least some of it will be available for future viewing on our cable access channel as well as online.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 8, 2013

Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.

Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.

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monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?

Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.

monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.

Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.

But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.

monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.

Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.

Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.

When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.

monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?

Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.

The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?

And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.

The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.

monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.

We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.

Bongino: Right.

monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?

Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.

Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.

Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.

monoblogue: It established credibility.

Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.

And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.

When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.

…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.

monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.

Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.

monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?

Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.

I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.

monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.

Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.

I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.

I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.

monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.

Bongino: No, it’s not.

monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!

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Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.

Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.

Odds and ends number 55

My e-mail box was flooded with interesting nuggets over the last few days, so on these topics I’ll devote somewhere between a few words and a few paragraphs. You’ve probably seen this enough that you know the drill; in fact the very first of this long-running series came in the first month of monoblogue’s existence. It’s been a fairly regular feature of late, typical for an election year.

Speaking of elections, our Congressman Andy Harris is up this year as are all 434 of his cohorts. His most recent radio address talks more about the failures of the President, though. That’s sort of like picking the low-hanging fruit but is still a good reminder.

The failure-in-chief, though, is playing the class envy card by creating a tax calculator which claims Mitt Romney will raise your taxes while Obama lowers them. Yes, it’s laughable on the face but the assumptions being made are even more hilarious:

Because the tax code is complex, the calculator makes a number of simplifying assumptions that may differ from the circumstances of any particular user. It assumes all income is from wages. For married filers, it assumes that income is split evenly between two earners. It assumes that income does not vary over the years analyzed. It assumes that taxpayers claim the standard deduction for the purpose of analyzing the impact of the expiration of the middle class tax cuts. The impact of Mitt Romney’s tax plan is based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which determines the tax increase or tax cut the average family in each income group would face if Romney paid for his $5 trillion tax plan by cutting tax benefits. The analysis assumes that Romney eliminates all tax benefits, except those for savings and investment, for households earning over $200,000, and reduces those benefits for households earning under $200,000 to cover the rest of the cost – resulting in a reduction by more than half. The Tax Policy Center uses income thresholds based on “cash income”, a measure broader than AGI commonly used by TPC. The calculator is intended for information purposes only.

In other words, this is complete fiction – we’re just going to lie like a rug to those on our e-mail list. Besides, I think people wouldn’t mind paying a little more in taxes if they were convinced the money they sent in wasn’t being wasted on bailouts, handouts, and crony capitalism. With Obama you have all three, and with Romney the chances are somewhat better of that not happening.

And it’s Democratic policies which are destroying the working class. This point is taken to an extreme by a Missouri Congressional candidate’s radio ad, the transcript of which follows:

Narrator: “We interrupt your regular programming for this breaking news.”

** Apocalyptic catastrophe sound effects**

Reporter: “I’m standing here at what remains of downtown St. Louis after the disaster.  It is complete and utter devastation.  A sad day for St. Louis indeed.

** Apocalyptic catastrophe sounds fade out**

Narrator: “Congressman Lacy Clay wants you to think the world will end if he isn’t re-elected, but the problems facing St. Louis after a decade under Lacy Clay are apocalyptic enough.  Under Lacy Clay’s anti-business policies, thirty thousand residents have left St. Louis.  The unemployment rate for African American males in Lacy Clay’s district is 20%.  That’s higher than the unemployment rate in Baghdad.  We deserve better.  We deserve a representative who will work for all of us, and not just sit in Washington DC collecting a lavish paycheck.  We deserve Robyn Hamlin for Congress.  Find out more at HamlinForCongress.com.”

Robyn: “I’m Robyn Hamlin and I approve this message.  Paid for by The Committee to Elect Robyn Hamlin.  Dwayne Hinch, treasurer.”

Hamlin sounds like a good TEA Party candidate but admittedly has an uphill struggle in a almost exclusively urban D+27 district not unlike our Seventh Congressional District. But she’s got some good ammunition to use against a Congressman who’s the second generation of a political dynasty that’s been in office for over forty years because it’s all true. Why should those people settle? But they do, and likely will continue to do so to their detriment.

Similarly in Maryland, Fourth District Republican Faith Loudon is the underdog against incumbent Donna Edwards – admittedly, Edwards isn’t as entrenched as the Clay family has been in Missouri and the district is a touch more friendly to the GOP. Still, it will be a slog for Faith but she’ll get a bit of help: Loudon is the second Maryland Congressional candidate to be backed by the Conservative Victory PAC:

Before a packed event hosted by Dr. Jim and Marianne Pelura at their Davidsonville home, CVPAC Treasurer Ruth Melson presented the endorsement.

Melson remarked: “We are here to help our friend Faith Loudon finish strong and win this November. Let’s congratulate Faith on running a strong campaign. We can win! We must win! Faith Loudon will bring honesty, integrity, and sanity back to Washington. That is why Conservative Victory PAC is endorsing Faith as the next United States Congresswoman from Maryland’s 4th District.”

Melson’s comments struck a chord with the audience disappointed by Faith Loudon’s opponent, incumbent Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Conservative Victory PAC’s support of Faith Loudon for victory in November is to ensure that Maryland’s elected leaders in the US Congress represent the voters of Maryland and not the special interests catered to by Donna Edwards. Under Donna Edwards’ tenure: Maryland is ranked by the Federal government as the second highest in food stamps fraud, Maryland’s seniors have lost $500 million from Medicare to subsidize Medicaid that is rife with corruption and little or no verification of legal residency, Maryland’s small business has been impoverished by new taxes and regulations, and Federal stimulus funds have been sent overseas to China and funded crony capitalism for the likes of Solyndra.

Of course, one can make the argument against any incumbent Maryland Congressman of any party, including the GOP. But, particularly on the third point Melson makes about the new taxes and regulations, the GOP is trying to eliminate them while Edwards isn’t working to stop them.

You know, I could go on a real rant about all this. But there are others taking up the torch on the state and local level.

Witness Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin and his tirade about the lack of a gambling bill to read. On Thursday, he demanded Governor O’Malley release the gambling bill immediately. Insofar as one can bellow in print, Pipkin bellowed:

The Special Session begins in less than a week. The Governor has had all summer to craft the proposal. Where’s the bill?

A week from now, after he crams his bill down the legislature’s throat, we will hear his platitudes about ‘tough decisions and working together.’ If we are going to work together, the Governor should present his bill today!

In the last year, the Governor has waited to the last minute to release his legislative proposals for Special Sessions. Last October, before the Redistricting Special Session, the Governor waited until 36 hours before the session to release his proposed bill.  For the Special Session to increase the state income tax opening on Monday, May 14, the Governor waited until 3:30pm on Friday to allow legislators to see the bill.

(snip)

The entire legislative process of careful debate and review should not be abandoned in a Special Session. The General Assembly membership must have ample time to examine the legislation before it is introduced on the floor.

Marylanders know that those whom the Governor wants to be informed already know and that the fix is in. Certainly MOM knows who’s in his pocket and who can be bought off with favors – releasing the bill early means no opportunity to add those goodies to sway recalcitrant members of the General Assembly who may have leaned against the bill at first glance. It’s sad but true, and the next chance to take care of this problem doesn’t come until 2014.

Yet there are those who are trying pre-emptive strikes. Witness the Maryland Liberty PAC, which is accusing three Carroll County commissioners of “spending like drunken sailors.” Of course, Carroll County is among the most heavily Republican in the state (one reason it was divided up in Congressional redistricting) so all five of the commissioners are Republicans. It’s likely they’ll be recruiting candidates for primary challenges to the so-called “drunken sailors.”

Similarly, in Harford County the Harford Campaign for Liberty is condemning the “Craiganomics” of granting a development loan to a British company:

On July 10th, 2012 the Harford County Council, at the urging and recommendation of County Executive David Craig, voted to hand over $850,000 of your hard-earned tax dollars to a foreign company!

Apparently County Executive David Craig and the County Council believe in Craigonomics, the idea that government should tax and spend – and then claim it as job growth and economic development.

You and I know better.  Government doesn’t create jobs and that government handouts do absolutely nothing to stimulate our economy.  Free markets and innovative entrepreneurs have and will always make our economy grow.

Obviously this is presented as a shot across the bow of David Craig’s nascent 2014 campaign for governor, and from the details given in this article by Bryna Zumer in the Harford Aegis the money is a required matching fund to a state grant. So Craig and his council were presented with a choice: take the state money or don’t, but the expansion is apparently already built. Realistically, is the company going to pull out now over $750,000? Certainly this will be something the Campaign for Liberty watches as local elections draw closer in Harford County.

Both the Harford Campaign for Liberty and The Maryland Liberty PAC share in the disappointment some feel locally when our 6-1 County Council majority doesn’t act in a conservative manner. I look at it this way: while I want a Republican to win, it doesn’t always have to be the Republican who’s already in office because I demand conservatism and limited government. Personally, I’d be happy with contested GOP primaries up and down the ballot – maybe that’s not what the party apparatus wants but I put my faith in voters to decide, not a tiny group of self-appointed elites who like the power of being kingmakers.

When those who claim the conservative mantle screw up, we should take note and call them out for it.

Fresh maps, rancid gerrymandering

Or maybe it’s O’Malleymandering?

This actually came out late Friday night, but I wasn’t made aware of it until last night. Annie Linskey and John Fritze of the Baltimore Sun posted two maps they claimed were the top choices among Democrat redistricters. Neither is an improvement on the jigsaw puzzle we have now, particularly in the central part of the state – in fact, both of these solutions try extremely hard to ignore any semblance of honoring geographic boundaries. But it’s obvious the 10-0 project is in full effect with one option.

In comparison with a previous incarnation leaked to the Maryland Reporter website, there’s little change in the Democrats’ strategy of placing D.C. suburbanites with residents of the Maryland panhandle in the Sixth District. However, Option 1 brings in more rural voters by corkscrewing the district eastward from the Pennsylvania border in Frederick County around through the western reaches of MoCo back to the city of Frederick.

The question for Democrats seems to be whether to go for broke and try to oust Andy Harris or not. Their revised Option 1  tends to maintain the district as relatively Republican, but extends it west right along the Pennsylvania line to include portions of Carroll County for the first time. In return, much of Baltimore County is chopped away, with most of it going to the Seventh Congressional District of Rep. Elijah Cummings.

It’s Option 2 where they sell out to wipe out all the Republicans. While it’s a somewhat cleaner map geographically, for the first time in memory the Eastern Shore would be split among two Congressional districts – Salisbury would be the linchpin.

From Salisbury northward, the Eastern Shore would remain in District 1, with the Lower Shore population replaced by a bloc of voters accessed by a narrow strip through Anne Arundel County. Andy Harris, meet your new constituents in Prince George’s and Howard counties. Andy’s current residence would be a county removed from the new district, which would end at the Susquehanna River.

On the south and east sides of Salisbury, we would be introduced to our new Congressman – one Steny Hoyer. Yes, the Democrats would place all of Somerset and Worcester counties along with about 2/3 of Wicomico into the Fifth Congressional District. Good luck for us trying to outvote the swath of PG County left in Steny’s district to keep it a majority Democratic district. (In fact, adding Somerset might well make it a majority-minority district.)

It’s also interesting to look at the map and see the lengths Democrats went to in maintaining that each of their existing Congressional delegation remain in their districts, as pathways were created just long enough to keep  Chris Van Hollen in District 8 (which would either run westward along the Potomac or north into Carroll County) and Elijah Cummings in District 7.

Well, Democrats, you outdid yourselves. See you in court, because I would imagine either of these monstrosities will end up there.

Update: If Red Maryland is to be believed, the Eastern Shore will dodge a bullet with Option 1.

Is so-called sustainability more important than growth?

August 30, 2011 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Is so-called sustainability more important than growth? 

Last week before Irene burst onto the scene I read an interesting article by Ann Miller, a Baltimore Examiner.

Apparently the folks in Carroll County have regained a dose of common sense and are trying to apply the brakes to the steamroller called Plan Maryland. Obviously this is a cause which Wicomico County should sign up for as well, given how much the state has attempted to bully local governments into giving up control in the recent past. As we have seen in its dealings with the poultry industry, Annapolis (and by extension, Washington) does not know best.

After all, the goals of Plan Maryland are:

…centered on growth, preservation and sustainability. The “growth” goal is to concentrate development and redevelopment in towns, cities and rural centers where there is existing and planned infrastructure. The “preservation” goal is to preserve and protect environmentally sensitive and rural lands and resources from the impacts of development. And the “sustainability” goal is to ensure a desirable quality of life in our communities and rural areas while preserving the significant natural and cultural resources that define Maryland.

Given that goal, one could reasonably ascertain that the “war on rural Maryland” is far from over. Just because Governor O’Malley didn’t get his initiative of banning septic systems for large developments through the General Assembly doesn’t mean he won’t try an end run like this document, which notes:

With Smart Growth, many thousand fewer septic systems would be installed since the same number of households would connect to community systems with far better treatment, preventing tons of nitrogen discharge into Maryland’s waters.

(snip)

Smart Growth limits additional wastewater and stormwater pollution by reducing the addition of septic tanks, limiting the amount of forest and wetlands removed for new development, encouraging smaller lawns, and preventing impervious surfaces.

Of course, they forget to mention that what growth does occur becomes much more expensive.

And what the state can’t get through legislation they get through regulation. They already would like to get us out of our cars:

Land use decisions at the local level and housing policy programs need to more effectively consider infrastructure capacity and need to manage demand for travel, to make decisions that will be financially wiser for Marylanders. Moreover, a smarter linkage between where we grow and how we get around has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases, cut air pollution, support the creation of more compact communities, and provide Marylanders with more options on how they move from place to place.

So don’t be looking for that wider road anytime soon – they’ll spend the money on a bus route no one rides.

And that’s the problem – I don’t believe that a one-size-fits-all solution dictated from on high like Plan Maryland is necessarily going to work in the best interests of our area. Read more

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