Sometime tomorrow the Maryland General Assembly will be gaveled back to life and your freedom and wallets will once again be at peril.
While those of us who are familiar with social media know about the push to repeal the “road kill bill” passed last year over the objection of Governor Hogan, to me it’s more telling that the very first House bill out of the chute will be the mandated sick leave bill. The next one is a bid to expand the earned income tax credit, including to those who are childless.
But in reading through the list of pre-filed bills, there’s not a whole lot of exceptionally radical stuff – although the bill to mandate “stop and frisk zone” signage in Baltimore City gives me a lot of pause. There are also a couple of mandated spending bills already on the table, which is par for the course insofar as the majority in the body is concerned.
I suspect this session will be among the most rancorous yet as Democrats, desperate to knock down Larry Hogan’s approval rating, are going to throw everything he wants in a desk drawer and toss out the key; meanwhile, they will certainly do their level best to muck up the works and prepare the state for the 2018 Democratic campaign, which will employ the tactic of portraying Larry Hogan as a do-nothing governor.
I can see this coming a mile away, and actually the direction of legislation may be an indicator of who his opponents may be: legislators always try to bring home a little bacon for their districts, but if the idea is that of making a particular county-level executive look good (think Kevin Kamenetz) then there may be even extra effort to mandate spending for the county – never mind the rest of the state.
Of course, the flip side of the equation is that a whole lot of common-sense legislation will never make it out of committee because it would limit government, enhance freedom, or make things easier for business to succeed. But that’s why I look at the legislation every so often, and doubly why I do the monoblogue Accountability Project because people should know what happens to these more conservative, pro-liberty measures and how they never make it out of committee. If mandated paid sick leave makes it to a floor vote, I would say there’s a 99% chance that becomes one of my votes.
So now is the time to be vigilant, and let’s hope that the Hogan budget holds the line on spending this year. If you’re already going to be accused of cutting everything under the sun, you may as well be blamed for something you actually do.
It’s hard to knock out someone who’s been in politics for over half of their life, but in District 38B Delegate Norm Conway, who at 72 years of age has held elective office since 1974, has a challenger in 41-year-old Delmar Mayor Carl Anderton, Jr. (Put another way, Anderton was but a mere toddler when Conway was first elected.) It’s also hard to knock out someone who has as much in the campaign bank as Norm does, but Carl is getting some help on that front as well.
There’s no question that Conway has many of the same financial traits as fellow Democrat Jim Mathias: a plethora of businesses and PACs support his effort to remain in the House of Delegates. But it’s interesting to note that, after putting in a spate of local contributions dated January 7 of this year to be placed in the 2013 report (from a January 5 fundraiser in Willards, which ironically is now outside his district) and comply with the law prohibiting fundraising during session, Conway’s local contributions have all but dried up since that January accounting. Conway has raised less than $5,000 in individual contributions since the January report, with significant money coming from Rickman Firstfield Associates ($1,000) and PGA One Charles Center, L.P. ($2,000.) Rickman Firstfield is connected to William Rickman, who owns Ocean Downs and has been implicated in skirting Maryland’s ban on casino owners donating to political candidates. PGA One Charles Center works back to asbestos lawyer Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles.
It’s worth asking why they care about a local Delegate race, particularly since 96.4% of Conway’s individual contributions since his January report have come from outside the 218xx zip code area.
In that light, Anderton’s is for all intents and purposes a local effort: no PAC money and only a small percentage out of the district. Granted, the largest single donation comes from the vast coffers of Congressman Andy Harris, who gave $4,000, but that pales in comparison to PAC money finding its way to Conway. Others who have helped out Anderton are fellow Delegate hopeful Christopher Adams in District 37B, Wicomico County Council candidate Marc Kilmer, and Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker. Politicians have also transferred money to Conway: Wicomico County Council candidate Ernest Davis, Delegate Patrick Hogan (a Republican), and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz have chipped in.
But a consistent 25 to 35 percent of Conway’s take comes from Maryland PACs, with some of the largest contributors being the Baltimore Gas and Electric PAC ($1,000), Comcast PAC of Maryland ($1,000), Health Policy Leadership Alliance, the PAC of the Maryland Hospital Association ($1,000), Medical PAC Maryland ($1,000), SEIU Local 500 PAC ($1,000), Maryland Realtors PAC ($1,300), and the biggest by far: MSEA’s Fund for Children and Public Education PAC – the teacher’s union gave Norm a cool $5,150.
So it’s sort of telling in a way that Conway spent a tremendous amount of money on fundraising, spending over $17,000 to create just over $41,000 in individual contributions with events in Salisbury, Willards, and Annapolis. (For the Annapolis one he used our old “incumbency protection” friends at Rice Consulting, which received $4,361.93 for their trouble.) Meanwhile, the $15,880 on media was actually for billboard advertising with Clear Channel.
Conversely, Anderton seemed to have a lot more bang for his buck when it came to fundraising, spending $1,156.48 to generate $12,966.01 in individual contributions. EVO was his choice for venue, as he spent the entire sum there. All told, it’s worth pointing out that since the January report Anderton has outraised Conway $10,366.01 to $8,462.50 – granted, there were 90 days where Conway could not fundraise but practically all of the local money over the timeframe has gone to the challenger. (As full disclosure, I’ve chipped $10 into the Anderton effort although I didn’t attend a formal fundraiser.)
I was driving home yesterday along U.S. 50 when I noticed a Conway billboard – whether it’s the one he paid $15,880 for or one subsequent is not important. But on it Conway cited his “Eastern Shore Values” as a reason to be re-elected, so it’s funny that most of the money he’s used to pay for it comes from people who likely don’t share those values because they live in Annapolis or other parts of the state. Food for thought.
Next week I wrap up the series with a look at the District 37 House races. I’m just going to do one post and look at all five contenders.
Well, this is an interesting case indeed.
It seems that a Catonsville developer flouted campaign contribution laws by soliciting associates of his to make “straw donations” on his behalf to a Democratic Baltimore County Council member. Multiple reports relate that Stephen Whalen is on the hook for over $50,000 in fines for these transgressions.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe in campaign contribution limits so the Whalen conviction was a witch hunt of sorts. Yet there is a side to the story which should be exposed and that’s the sheer number of candidates and slates that Whalen and his companies made nearly $200,000 in contributions to over the last several years. Most of us who follow the law know that the limit for a state election cycle is $4,000 in donations to a particular candidate and $10,000 in total for the cycle.
David Ferguson of the MDGOP sent me a list of those who benefited from the largess, and it reads like a who’s who of Baltimore-area Democratic politics (with a couple exceptions.) Let’s start from the top, shall we?
- Democratic National Committee
- National Association Industrial & Office Parks PAC
- President Barack Obama
- Former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
- Congressman Elijah Cummings (7th District)
- Former Congressman Frank Kratovil (1st District)
- Governor Martin O’Malley
- Comptroller Peter Franchot
- State Senator Delores Kelly
- State Senator Edward Kasemeyer
- House Speaker Delegate Michael Busch
- Delegate Emmitt Burns
- Delegate Adrienne Jones
- Delegate Stephen DeBoy
- Delegate James Malone
- Delegate Stephen Lafferty
- Delegate Peter Hammen
- 23rd District Slate
- District 12A Slate
- Howard County Executive Ken Ulman
- Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
- Former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith
- Baltimore County Council member Vicki Almond
- Baltimore County Council member Kenneth Oliver
- Baltimore County Council member Cathy Bevins
It’s not the whole list, as there were a few primary losers in the bunch. There were also five Republicans named, with Bob Ehrlich and Baltimore County Council members David Marks and Todd Huff the three winners among the group. (Marks has returned his contributions from Whalen.)
Ferguson condemned the Democrats who have been recipients of over 95% of Whalen’s generosity. In a statement, the MDGOP’s Executive Director says:
Those who have received contributions from Stephen Whalen should follow the lead of Baltimore County Councilman David Marks and return his dirty contributions. Whalen gave over 96% of his contributions to Democrats and it is unacceptable for nearly $200,000 to be floating through the Democrat Party’s coffers from an individual convicted of political corruption.
Stephen Whalen’s conviction is another consequence of Maryland being a political monopoly for Democrats and their cronies. Unfortunately, this culture of corruption is standard operating procedure for crooked politicians and donors like Stephen Whalen looking to pay-for-play. For six years, Martin O’Malley and his allies have willfully embraced the lack of ethics in their government.
There’s no doubt that money may have been the lubricant for Whalen to grease the skids on getting his developments built: his company’s website states they specialize in medical office space around the outskirts of Baltimore.
(I find it somewhat ironic, then, that he supports many of the same Democrats who have voted to curtail growth in rural and suburban areas. Perhaps there’s more infrastructure in areas Whalen is interested in.)
So once again the state’s majority party is caught with its hand in the cookie jar, but do they condemn this violation of the law? No, they’d rather take potshots at Andy Harris for voting against a pork-laden hurricane relief bill. Their silence on the transgression is deafening and speaks volumes about the corruption they’re happy to put up with for political gain.