A jealous man can’t tell the truth

January 17, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on A jealous man can’t tell the truth 

If it’s a date on the calendar, it must be a day when someone twists the truth about their political opponents. But this one hits us where we live.

Ben Jealous is one of several Democrats seeking to oppose Larry Hogan this fall, and as his latest salvo he’s accusing Hogan of pay-for-play. Pointing out a recent Wall Street Journal story about how corporate entities are using the respective governors’ associations (both Democrat and Republican) as a means to donate additional funding beyond candidate limits, Jealous claims that “Poultry industry gives $250,000 to help Hogan campaign…Gov. Hogan slashes chicken manure regulation, putting more chicken (stuff) in the Chesapeake.”

The WSJ story is now behind a paywall, but fortunately I have access to the pertinent part for my purpose:

In October 2014, the Republican Governors Association needed help in Maryland, where the gubernatorial race was tight. So it called Mountaire Corp., one of America’s largest suppliers of chicken products.

Companies can’t donate large sums to candidates in many states, including Maryland. But they can give unlimited sums to governors associations, which sometimes use the donations to support a company’s favored politician without any indication in the public record of the original source.

According to a then-RGA official, the RGA needed $500,000 for an ad campaign to help Republican Larry Hogan. Mountaire was facing tough new environmental regulations in Maryland, where it raises and processes millions of chickens every year. Mr. Hogan had criticized the regulations.

Mountaire sent $250,000 to the RGA on Oct. 31, according to filings from the Internal Revenue Service. It didn’t give its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, a penny that year.

On inauguration day, Mr. Hogan blocked the proposal opposed by the poultry industry. He later negotiated new rules that won some praise from environmental groups but also gave the poultry industry more time to comply. (Link added.)

Even the Washington Post noted that the Hogan regulations which were placed as a substitute – something Jealous obviously didn’t mention – were fine with the environmentalists:

Hogan won the support of environmentalists and Democratic legislators when he negotiated a revamped set of regulations during his first months in office. The plan phased in stricter restrictions over a number of years and allowed extensions for some farmers if major problems arise.

So Jealous is sort of hiding the truth, although I expect that out of a politician.

That’s not to say I was enamored with Hogan’s retreat on the issue, which was something I originally was happy to see him address so quickly. However, it also allowed the O’Malley regulations that were on the verge of passing the General Assembly to be pulled, and that was a good thing. But when people try to stir up sh*t by twisting the truth and distorting the record because they have nothing good to run on besides rewarmed old socialist bromides that would bankrupt the state and drive the producers away, I figure it’s time to speak out.

And here’s my question for Ben Jealous: are you going to refuse DGA money or assistance if you get the nomination? Something tells me he’ll be lined right up to receive that manna from heaven if he gets the nomination, so don’t try to sell us your story. You must want to be completely shut out on the Eastern Shore.

Is Hogan returning to earth?

There’s some concern in Larry Hogan’s campaign about a New York Times/CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker Poll showing Hogan again trails Anthony Brown by double digits, particularly after a Republican pollster showed Hogan trailing by just three points last month. This outfit’s July poll of over 1,400 registered voters showed Brown on top by 13 points in July, and is computed in the Real Clear Politics average.

The Republican’s campaign contends the poll is “so flawed and so misleading that Politico hammered the New York Times for lending their name to this internet survey.” YouGov’s methods are different than most pollsters, as they conduct their surveys among an audience which opts into the poll via the internet, then weighs the results among demographics. The overall survey even solicits new customers, requesting people to “Join YouGov today to take part in surveys like these and earn money…”

Maryland’s race is also interesting because of the relative lack of responses compared to other states. Out of 35 states surveyed, Maryland only beats 12 states in terms of participation. Most of the states Maryland beats are fairly rural and sparsely populated: Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming. It’s not a tremendously representative sample.

Nor is it necessarily reflective of the Maryland electorate. The unweighted sample actually has independents well over their voting strength at 29%, with Democrats comprising 45% and Republicans only 25%. (It’s actually close on the GOP.) But weighting the sample as YouGov does places the Democrats at 52%, independents at 26%, and Republicans at only 22%. In reality, according to the latest voter registration figures, Democrats have 55% share, Republicans 25.7%, and independents just 19.3%. So both major parties are undersampled by about 3% apiece.

Polling is all about turnout. While the YouGov survey claims these are “likely voters,” in reality those not affiliated with a party are the least likely to turn out for a gubernatorial election. Yet when I reset their polling numbers to a very likely turnout model (that of the 2010 election, which was a muted TEA Party wave election in the state) and distribute the “not sure” voters in the same proportion as those who have decided, I come out with this possible result:

  • Brown 57.5%, Hogan 40.2%, other 2.3%

I think the reason this turns out the way it does is that the YouGov sample has Brown winning Democrats at roughly the same rate Hogan wins GOP voters. In a lot of ways the YouGov poll is almost a worst-case scenario for Hogan, who needs to both boost turnout for his side to levels last seen in 2002, when almost 68% of Republicans and over 45% of independents came out to vote – in 2010 those numbers were about five points lower – and get far more than the 6% of Democrats the YouGov poll has voting for him. If Anthony Brown can convince Democrat voters to stay loyal to the nominee, the game is over, and that’s why Brown’s going negative.

In fact, Hogan’s campaign added that:

If the MD Democratic Party – with their two-to-one registration advantage over Republicans – honestly thought Brown was ahead, they wouldn’t need O’Malley’s Democratic Governors Association to spend $750,000 in special interest money on attack ads to bail out his campaign.

So I think the reality is somewhere between the 14 points this poll has Brown leading by and the 3 points Hogan claims he is behind. It just proves there’s a lot of work to do in explaining the real record of Anthony Brown and the damage his policies would do to Maryland if he’s elected.

Getting to know…the real me?

August 11, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, National politics, Politics · Comments Off on Getting to know…the real me? 

This will be a fun little post.

In an effort to have further blog fodder (and sometimes a good laugh) I’m on the mailing list of the Democratic National Committee.

So on Saturday I received an e-mail with the subject line “Getting to know you.” I found out a couple neat little tidbits about that “powerful, dedicated community” on that side of the spectrum:

  • 853,185 have been on their e-mail list for five years. I think I’m one of them, but that number seems surprisingly low. They must cull their list based on response/open rate.
  • 11 people signed up as Barack Obama and “think they are pretty funny.” Hey, with the history of failed hard drives around Washington, D.C. perhaps Barack Obama was being intentionally redundant or he simply wanted to tailor the message to his multiple favorite vacation spots.

And they “consider me a critical part of their team.” Well, I am pretty critical about their intentions, motives, and methods of operation.

But the idea behind the e-mail was to flesh out the information they have on me. I actually trashed the e-mail then decided to bring it back because I was curious what they wanted to know. Truthfully, I was disappointed.

They already had my first and last name, along with my e-mail address (duh!) And of course, they know I live in the 21804 zip code so things are pegged to Maryland. The character string attached to the link has all that, along with the particular e-mail date they would harvest the information from.

So those things are spotted. The next information they wanted was my phone number. Since most people use cell phones, there was also an opt-in checkbox to receive “periodic automated text messages and calls on my mobile number from the DNC.”

The next items were my birthday and gender. I’m thinking they are going to tailor specific messages to specific people – if I had put down “female” my e-mail would be filled with items dealing with the so-called “war on women.” Older folks would certainly be given the usual scare tactics about cuts to Social Security and Medicare, although it’s likely their targeting is a little more sophisticated. It will be interesting in my case to see how messages change when I make it to a half-century next month and slide into a different age category.

The next item asked where I primarily got my news: internet news sites, newspapers and magazines, TV, social networks like Facebook or Twitter, e-mail, or friends and family. It’s surprising they ask this considering they cater to the low-information crowd.

Finally, they asked where I go for my updates on Democratic candidates and races: the DNC, local campaigns in my community, the state Democratic party, the DCCC (House Democrats), the DSCC (Senate Democrats), the Democratic Governors Association, or friends and family. Interestingly, the DNC Services Corporation didn’t include the local news or internet.

Obviously I get similar e-mails from the Republican side as well. But one thing they often ask for that these Democrats don’t are the issues I’m most interested in. To me, that would seem like a missed opportunity for the other side until you figure out that they are on the wrong side of practically everything, and often focus on issues of little actual importance: witness the whole “Redskins” name controversy, for example. If thousands of people came back and said we needed to do something about securing the border, those Democrats have no solution.

So they didn’t get anything else out of me: just name, rank, and serial number. Maybe “Barack Obama” needs to transform into a 25-year-old woman just to see what kind of soap they try to sell her.

More pay to play, the Martin O’Malley way

Damn, I can’t wait for this report to come out. Almost makes me wish Larry Hogan would drop this governor’s business and focus on getting more of this information out because too many will dismiss it as partisan opposition research:

Change Maryland has released new information that seems to reveal the appearance of a “pay-to-play” system within the O’Malley-Brown Administration where contractors received significant benefits from the state either before or after their donations to the Democratic Governors Association during Governor O’Malley’s tenure as its chairman.

“This additional data further suggests a disturbing pattern of behavior that, at the very least, is unethical and inappropriate,” said Larry Hogan, Chairman of Change Maryland. “I think the public has a right to know the truth about these practices. Did the governor and/or others in his administration solicit large contributions from contractors, then reciprocate by rewarding those donors with huge state contracts, contract extensions, or other special favors or decisions in return?” he added.

Obviously this has serious implications and gives the appearance of the potential for decisions being influenced by millions of dollars in “donations.” Recognizing the inappropriate and unethical nature of these relationships, state law currently prohibits state contractors from making contributions to an elected official’s campaign account. This evidence indicates the possibility of a deliberate, coordinated effort by this administration to circumvent the intent of the law by soliciting huge, unlimited contributions to a federal, rather than state, account.

The report released today by Change Maryland shows that healthcare services company Express Scripts received a $2.3 billion contract despite serious concerns about the company’s legal issues in Maryland and 28 other states. In 2008, the company paid over $9.3 billion in settlement costs to these states.

From March 2011 to February 2012, the Maryland Board of Public Works was deciding whether to approve the lucrative contract to Express Scripts to provide prescription drug services to state employees. In March 2011, two of the three members voted to postpone a decision out of concerns about the company’s legal issues and several flaws in the procurement process. Governor O’Malley was the lone vote to move forward with the contract.

During this same time, Medco – a company looking to merge with Express Scripts – donated a combined $225,000 to the DGA. In fact, their first contribution came just six days after Governor O’Malley cast the lone vote to move forward with the drug contract.

In late January 2012, the Board of Public Works again voted to delay the contract award, drawing significant criticism from Governor O’Malley at the time who complained about the endless delays. One month later, the BPW reversed course, awarding the contract to Express Scripts in a two to one vote. On March 27, 2012, Medco made their second and final donation to the DGA: $125,000. Medco and Express Scripts received final Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approval for their merger on April 2, 2012.

“Maryland’s working families deserve better from their elected leaders,” Hogan said. “This is what happens when you have an arrogant monopoly that feels they can get away with anything. What Maryland desperately needs is a healthy and competitive two party system, open and honest debate, and some real checks and balances to keep some of these outrageous abuses from taking place.”

In addition to this most recent research, Change Maryland released other questionable contributions from state contractors to the DGA.

Update: I was informed by a representative of Express Scripts that the correct settlement figure is $9.8 million (not billion.) This is incorrect in the original Change Maryland release, so I left the release as is and opted to clarify here.

Hogan’s group seems to be taking the Chinese water torture approach, leaking information on this report a drop at a time to both make the opposition wonder what else he’s got and keep up interest in the runup to the release.

This series seems to leave me torn as well. I’m an advocate for unfettered political contributions, even at the risk of these apparent pay-to-play contributions. But I also want full and relatively instant disclosure, and even though these are federal releases with a more aggressive reporting schedule than state accounts – at least in non-election years – there’s still a significant lag time involved.

The allegations also raise another embarrassing question: where was the state’s major media in reporting this? Didn’t anyone wonder why the vote changed? Certainly Comptroller Peter Franchot had his reasons for maintaining his vote against the issue; the vote which changed was treasurer Nancy Kopp – interesting, because hers is not an elected post. (The transcript of that meeting is painful to read because the state really seemed to drop the ball on a $2.3 billion contract, dropping a Maryland-based provider for the aforementioned Express Scripts.)

What I’m afraid of is that this Change Maryland report will be both the tip of the iceberg and dismissed as “old news” because Martin O’Malley isn’t running for anything in Maryland and Anthony Brown will escape culpability because Larry Hogan is now a political opponent instead of an honest broker.

We need to clean out the swamp, it’s true, but in order to clean it we have to secure the tools to do so first. I think it would also be a good idea for Change Maryland to reveal where it gets its funding, just to show leadership. That’s my two cents.

Preparing the shovels

One thing I’ve noticed in the rampup to Larry Hogan’s big announcement is a significantly increased tempo in media operations from Change Maryland, and the report released yesterday was more than just a little thorn in Martin O’Malley’s side – nope, this was more like a shiv stuck in there and twisted around a couple times. Sadly, pay for play may be considered business as usual in Maryland, but this also demonstrates that Martin O’Malley’s grandiose presidential dreams were cemented into place as the 2010 returns came in.

The always-quotable Hogan remarked:

Our preliminary research indicates a disturbing ‘pay to play’ pattern emerging from the O’Malley-Brown Administration where some DGA donors received a substantial, and increased, state benefits before and after making a contribution. Did the Governor solicit large contributions to help further his national aspirations and reward those donors with huge state contracts and/or implement policies that help them significantly?

Our initial research of DGA financial records is just the tip of the iceberg. It establishes a troubling trend which, when complete, may require a deeper investigation.

Could this investigation be a centerpiece of a Hogan administration? Perhaps, although having an Attorney General who won’t sweep this under the rug (i.e. a Democrat) would be of great assistance in this regard. I think Richard Douglas could sink his teeth into this one.

And while the allegations are against Martin O’Malley, whose Maryland electoral days are likely behind him, you have to wonder how much of these broad brushstrokes will tar Anthony Brown, the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination. And considering all this went on under the nose of Brown’s chief rival, Attorney General Doug Gansler, he may be in for a share of blame, too.

This obviously leads me to wonder about the timing of Change Maryland releasing its promised January report when you consider that Hogan’s announcement is also slated for sometime that month. My belief is that the report will come out just a day or two before the official announcement, giving Larry a longer news cycle to build momentum for his race.

But it also pushes me into thinking that the 2014 election could be one of the muddiest in Maryland history. We’ve already seen evidence of this in the internecine Democratic fighting between Brown and Gansler – interesting how the state trooper incident and underage drinking allegations came out at just the point when Gansler was beginning to get a little traction in the race.

So I got to wondering who was the one that went way back to 1992 and started the meme which Jeff Quinton reported on regarding Hogan’s position on abortion? (Update: As it turns out, it was Jeff himself. My mistake originally was in assuming he was fed the information, not realizing he has an extensive pro-life background.)

One has to take this in context, though: Hogan was running for a Congressional seat at the time (as opposed to a state office) and there was a ballot question regarding abortion law which was petitioned to referendum but handily kept in place by state voters at the time. (Question 6 of 1992 passed by a 62%-38% margin, and was the last referendum until 2012.) Being pro-choice was perhaps the safer electoral move at the time – besides, it took less than four years for Barack Obama to do an about-face on gay marriage so it’s possible Larry has gravitated to a more pro-life perspective in the last 22.

Of course Democrats know that the Republican base is primarily pro-life, so what better way to sow seeds of discord among a select group of GOP primary voters than to bring up the abortion issue? Frankly, that’s not a top-drawer concern for many voters, even in the GOP,  but that five percent who identify it as their key issue can make a difference in a multi-person primary. (Aside from the notion that Hogan favored keeping abortions legal, he’s right on the money about overturning Roe v. Wade and sending the issue to the states. It’s a battle best fought in Annapolis…and Dover, and Columbus, and Austin, and so forth.)

But if someone is digging that deep to find dirt about Larry Hogan, perhaps there’s something to the notion that we weren’t buried face-down as deep as some would have thought eight years ago. 2014 seems like a nice time to emerge.

Odds and ends number 49

May 1, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2012, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Odds and ends number 49 

Let me just say up top that this occasional look at items which can be covered in a paragraph or three will also serve to clean up some of the loose ends remaining after our Spring Convention over the weekend.

In my first installment on the proceedings, I mentioned that the group Change Maryland has 12,000 members – although their cake maker wanted to grow them tenfold. But something I didn’t realize is that the number of those liking the group on Facebook is larger than those who like the state Democratic and Republican parties combined, and also more than those who like Anthony Brown, Peter Franchot, or Doug Gansler. Coincidentally, these are three of the top contenders for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

And Larry Hogan told me the group appeals to a broad cross-section of voters, drawing interest from Democrats and unaffiliated voters as well as Republicans. I was hoping to get a more formalized sit-down with him before the Executive Committee meeting, but we will have to do it another time.

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