Keeping up the momentum toward a high tide for Maryland conservatives

The announcement came to me in the days following the election last week – luckily it’s not a completely pressing event so I could give you my observations this evening. I let MDCAN pick it up from here:

Maryland shocked the nation last week by electing a Republican governor. Not only that but Republicans picked up seats in the Statehouse and Dan Bongino only lost by a razor thin margin in a district gerrymandered specifically for a Democrat.  Marylanders are showing they are ready to reject one-party control over the state.

There is still a lot of work to do to maintain the momentum though. Turning the Tides 2015 is a key part of that.

Join us to learn about what strategies worked and what helped weaken the one party monopoly in Maryland. Come to learn about how to infiltrate the pop culture and reach out to new potential voters. Perhaps most importantly, join us so we can show the state and the country a united front for making Maryland into the “Free State” once again. (Emphasis in original.)

I did not make it to the 2014 version, which had an ambitious agenda but didn’t quite have the star power of the 2013 event I attended. That earlier event had the notoriety of Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs, authors and columnists Diana West and Stanley Kurtz. and Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, among others. The 2015 agenda includes such topics as Pop Culture, Black Conservatives, Common Core, border security, video journalism, Maryland’s new administration, and what they call the Real War on Women. We just don’t know all the speakers and panelists yet.

If the funds are there, I would like to be in the house (or more specifically, the DoubleTree.) Last time I went they had a blogger’s row which really helped. But if you want to go, the tickets are discounted until November 28 and surely they make a nice stocking stuffer.

Ten Question Tuesday: February 19, 2013

This week I had the opportunity to speak to Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, about a number of topics affecting both Maryland and the nation at large. We also spoke a little bit about Tom’s book, The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government during our conversation.


monoblogue: The reason I wanted to talk to you – and I briefly got to talk to you at Turning the Tides, and got a copy of your book – what interested me in talking to you was your statement that you work as much in Maryland as you do any other state, based on all the petition drives and other political items we have – at the conference you talked about illegal immigration. Given that you’ve already been involved in our petition process, and knowing that the illegal immigration issue is off the table but that there will be more petitions on issues such as gun control – do you think you’ll be getting more involved in Maryland politics as time goes on?

Fitton: Well, some of these issues are off the table. Illegal immigration continues to be a debate on the law that was passed and upheld via referendum, (but) whether it’s legal or Constitutional I think is a question which could be further litigated. The Left in Maryland is upset with the use of the initiative process to challenge the legislation – some of which was very radical – that came out of the Maryland legislature and was signed by the Governor. They’re seeking to restrict the ability of Marylanders to have a say in their laws through this referendum process.

Obviously, with gun control most publicly on the agenda, that’s something the Left – if gun control is to be passed, there’s going to be heightened interest by the Left in restricting people’s ability to challenge and have a say on that law, or those gun restrictions.

monoblogue: Do you find Maryland is more of a “problem child” state than any other, or is it that it just so happens that it’s our turn in the cycle and maybe this time next year Illinois will be a problem, or New York, or what have you?

Fitton: Maryland doesn’t have any vibrant opposition; it’s a one-party state. That results in legislation and policies which aren’t as smart… in states where you have the vigorous back-and-forth between parties and philosophies, you get policies and legislation that is more commonsense and down the middle of the road. But Maryland seems to be a laboratory for the far left and, as a result, you get policies that are way out there, not only in terms of being bad policy, but even being good law in terms of being valid under the law.

monoblogue: So you’ll be more busy in our state than, say, an Alabama or Oklahoma – states that tend to be more conservative.

Fitton: Well, we are busy. In Maryland we’ve been extremely active, there’s been a lot of bad policy. I don’t want to attribute it to a political party, but certainly liberals are implementing their policies and the rule of law seems to be a secondary consideration in some of their implementations.

monoblogue: Yes, as you said at the conference, “bad policy is usually corrupt,” and Maryland does seem to take the cake – having lived here for several years I know this. You can also extrapolate that on a national level – you wrote The Corruption Chronicles, and that’s 350 pages of Obama’s misdeeds in just three years. (laughs) I don’t know if you’re going to write a second book on the second term, or do you think you have the point made already?

Fitton: Well, the book only touched the surface. We talked about the Clinton years’ corruption, corruption during the Bush years, and obviously the current crisis. This President represents a challenge to those of us who value Constitutional government and the rule of law; a challenge that we haven’t seen in recent memory.

monoblogue: True; like I said, you could write a second book for the second term – that’s not a problem. But I do want to point out that…

Fitton: Well, we could write a second book for the first term.

monoblogue: (laughs) That’s true.

Fitton: The government has grown by about a third, but oversight has actually decreased – Congress used to have five – well, you see this quoted in the book – five thousand oversight hearings a year, more or less, and now it’s down to about three thousand. So our government has increased by a third, but the oversight, at least Congressional oversight, has decreased by an even greater amount. Our government is really truly out of control in the sense that it’s not accountable to Congress and, frankly, if not for independent watchdogs like Judicial Watch and independent, enterprising media, you wonder what would be going on in Washington but for our activities given the lawlessness of so much of what the government’s doing.

monoblogue: Right. And I know from previously knowing a little bit about Judicial Watch (that) you guys are equal-opportunity; if a conservative President does something that you feel is unwise, you’re going to be on them, too. There were a few things you opposed President Bush on, so it’s not – you’re considered a conservative organization, but it’s very much a good-government organization.

Fitton: That’s right. And given the size of government, it’s always hard for it to be good. President Bush was, unfortunately, too much on the side of secrecy and lack of accountability. President Obama was elected, initially, in part as a reaction to that. And there’s good reason President Obama is always talking about transparency, because he understands the American people demanded it of their government. What we found is that his promises of transparency, his promotion of it, is completely at odds with actual policies.

monoblogue: Exactly, but that’s true of a lot of other things.

Fitton: That is true, but when it comes to issues of ethics, transparency, and accountability in government this administration presents challenges to us that we haven’t historically seen before, at least in recent times.

monoblogue: They don’t seem to be letting crises go to waste, that’s for sure. If you look at the problem as a whole, you oversee a large group that is obviously a watchdog, but maybe the better question – and something that could have been covered a little bit better in our brief time listening to you – is what can we do as a citizen about pointing out these things and getting the word out and helping to maybe rein in some of the excesses of government?

Fitton: Well, there are several things – obviously number one, if I can be provincial, is to support Judicial Watch. Secondly, you write letters to the editor to your media and elsewhere and alert your friends and family to these issues, about the importance of government accountability, transparency, and combating corruption, and you pressure Congress to do their job to oversee government activities and to make sure that they, themselves, in Congress are behaving appropriately, too. We see so many Congressional ethics scandals where the ethical transgressions are whisked away with a slap of the wrist – that’s got to end.

Whether you’re Democrat or Republican you care about these transparency and corruption issues; it’s most important that Democrats go after Democrat corruption or Republicans after Republican corruption, because, obviously, Republicans and Democrats have an interest in going after corruption in the other guy’s party, but they don’t look at the speck in their own eyes. It’s up to everyday Americans who are members of these parties and who have influence to say we’ve got to make sure we don’t have any corruption on our side of the table. We have to take partisanship out of policing corruption.

monoblogue: That sounds like a good plan, because many people I know, mostly Republicans but a few Democrats, they’re as interested in good government as I am. Yes, we disagree on the extent of government, but they would like to see clean government that’s efficient, does what it says it’s going to do, and is transparent. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the higher people are in power, the more they want to obfuscate.

Fitton: I agree, and we need the expectation – we have to have the understanding that we’re just not going to tolerate this anymore. Zero tolerance – I hate that phrase…

monoblogue: I do too.

Fitton: …but we have to have a much lower level of toleration for corruption in public office.

monoblogue: So, unfortunately, it seems like you have a neverending job taking care of the mess in both Annapolis and Washington. (laughs) And other state capitals, too.

Fitton: Well, it’s a – oversight and making sure our systems of government run well and are free of corruption certainly is an obligation to anyone who wants to be part of a society that purports to govern itself.  I think it’s an obligation, and government has to be managed by its citizens, and be held accountable all the time. So we can never cease the vigilance; it’s the price of citizenship in some ways – citizenship properly understood in areas of making sure the government’s held to account if you really, truly believe in self-government.

monoblogue: We have to be as watchful as you are, is basically what you’re saying.

Fitton: Everyone needs to ask questions, demand accountability, demand information, and demand transparency. I think it comes with the territory for a republican form of government, with a small “r.”

monoblogue: Yes, with a small “r.” But I appreciate this, and it sounds like a good place to stop.

Fitton: Well, thanks Michael. I appreciate your interest in our work, and thanks for promoting it.

monoblogue: I appreciate the time.


While I have a guest in mind for next week, the arrangements haven’t been finalized. Stay tuned.

Turning the Tides 2013 in pictures and text (part 1)

Yesterday was a good day at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis.

Somehow I had managed to miss the first two renditions of Turning the Tides, but when this year’s date was announced I pounced on making my way into the event this year. Part of this was the opportunity to network with over 200 of the state’s finest conservative minds, but part of it was a guest list dotted with nationally recognized speakers.

Unlike the many GOP conventions I had attended in the same building, there were no hospitality suites on Friday night. Turning The Tides was a one-day affair, which started with a breakfast I unfortunately missed. But I was set up on bloggers’ row next to a variety of state and local bloggers (including my “biggest fan” Jackie Wellfonder,) which gave me the opportunity to live-Tweet the event throughout.

The Tweets didn’t take long to build up steam once we dispensed with the preliminaries and heard from our first guest speaker, the exceptionally quotable Pamela Geller. Most people know Geller from her website Atlas Shrugs, which briefly covered TTT here, but she has been a tireless leader in the ongoing battle against radical Islam. (If you follow the link you can also see the extent of the crowd in the conference.)

Pamela praised the conference attendees, who she termed “smeared, defamed, and marginalized for standing in defense of freedom” by the “enemedia.” Her key point was defending the freedom of speech, without which “peaceful men have no alternative but to turn to violence.”

“Evil is made possible by the sanction you give it,” she continued, “Withdraw your sanction.” She also called Delegate Nic Kipke, who ignored a boycott call by the pro-Islamic group CAIR, a “rare bird in today’s environment (because) truth is the new hate speech, and just telling the truth is an extreme act.”

She went on to explain how she purchased ad space on the New York subway in response to anti-Israel ads, but was rebuffed because “the word ‘savage’ was demeaning. So I had to sue…and I won on all points. Freedom of speech protects all ideas.” Ten of her ads were destroyed within an hour, which she termed “a physical manifestation of this war on free speech.”

She also detailed her battle against the Ground Zero mosque, telling us the images of 9-11 have been “embargoed” because they offend Islamic sensitivities. “You defeated that mosque (when) everyone was against you.”

Yet there is a “sea change” occurring in attitude, she said, citing how comments used to be highly stacked against her, but now run strongly in her favor.

“No war has ever been won on defense,” she continued. She begged us to use our “spheres of influence” to fight this fight. “Silence is sanction.” We have to contest acceptance of Shari’a, since Mohammed “ain’t my prophet.”

Geller finished by taking a number of great questions on anti-Shari’a legislation, a nuclear-armed Iran, and the “cultural war” of politics which will include the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera.

The next speaker, author Diana West, touched on the Current TV sale in her opening remarks as well, as well as the foreign ownership of Fox News. But her remarks centered on her choice in foreign policy, of which she remarked “I’m debuting it here” – with one option to follow the “neoconservative” foreign policy based on universal values. “This has been a disaster.” The other side was a more libertarian-style idea: “I subscribe to ‘coming home America,'” said West, but they suffer the same flaw in that negotiations with Islamic nations “worse than fruitless (and) dangerous to our liberty.”

It begins with love of country, said West, and we would keep the allies with the closest philosophical views. But it would require one radical change: “It would…require leaving the United Nations.” (That was perhaps her best applause line, which she said did far better here than the “blank stares” she gets at the Washington Times.)

It would also be designed with the interests of the American people in mind. “We should fight for the American people.” Instead, we’ve begun to negotiate with terrorists, defend Shari’a-based regimes, and tell our military to look askance at “absolute outrages against American beliefs and sensibilities” in Afghanistan and other Islamic nations.

“And why? Why – nobody’s answered this – why did the Obama administration lie for two weeks that lawfully-protected free speech in America caused the Benghazi attacks?,” asked West. “Why didn’t Mitt Romney ask any of these questions?”

The key question, said West, was whether we were fighting abroad to protect liberty at home. “American interests have been blown to smithereens” by leadership, Diana asserted. Our borders are “essentially open” while National Guard troops protect Afghan citizens. Moreover, this is a contradiction to American values because 3/4 of Hispanics want bigger government while just 2/5 of the population at large feels the same.

West outlined a number of changes she would make, from a secretive foreign policy without much Congressional oversight over “a President run amok.”

“I have not seen terrible damage from Wikileaks,” she continued. “I have seen much corruption and lies on the part of our public officials.”

“I don’t believe that’s the way a republic functions. That needs to change,” said Diana. The war of our next generation is not the one we’re fighting, but a war against Shari’a. “Liberty is imperiled right here in our back yard,” said West, who also called the Islamization of Europe “the great uncovered story of our time.”

Our first group discussion panel, moderated by writer and columnist Marta Mossburg, featured a solid bank of speakers: Frederick County Commission president (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Blaine Young, writer and author Stanley Kurtz, and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

Young started out in a jovial manner, joking about the Geller controversy and about once being a Democrat: “Well, everybody can be misinformed, ill-advised, and brainwashed.” But he turned more serious about his assigned topic, telling those gathered “I’m a very pro-property rights person, always have been…property rights is where I’m at.”

Stemming from the very first attack on property rights, zoning, which began in the 1920s and has been accepted in most places – Young pointed out Garrett County is an unzoned exception – Blaine turned to the state as it stands and told us “we’ve never seen an attack like this on the state level,” referring to PlanMaryland. “This is a tool, to slow down the rural areas for growth.”

But Young’s most brilliant point was equating things done “for the Bay” with laws passed “for the children.” As I Tweeted:


Indeed, I have mentioned this a number of times over the years – here’s one. Great minds think alike?

Stanley Kurtz quickly asserted that “President Obama is not a fan of the suburbs.” As a community organizer, those who mentored Obama had the main goal was to abolish them because they were drawing away tax money rightfully belonging to the cities. To that end, Obama “has been a huge supporter” of that movement. “Barack Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities,” said Stanley. He identified the philosophy as the “regional equity movement.”

But among the federal programs imposed on the state, the Sustainable Communities Initiative is perhaps the one affecting Maryland the most. “Nobody pays attention to the Sustainable Communities Initiative,” despite the fact Baltimore was a “regional planning grant” recipient. It’s a program where the federal government pays for regional planning, such as PlanMaryland but on a smaller scale. The goal, though, is to make the receipt of federal aid contingent on adopting these plans, much like schools which accept federal money do so with stipulations placed on them.

And while everyone has heard of Agenda 21, not so many are familiar with the workings of the Smart Growth movement, concluded Kurtz. “Conservatives are missing where the real threat is coming from,” warned Kurtz, “We haven’t studied the home-grown (regional equity) movements.”

But Rothschild was the most strident speaker. “The question of the War on Rural Maryland begs a bigger question: why does this happen?” Richard went on to postulate that it happens “because we let them.”

“Those people that disrespect the Bible and the Constitution are invariably the ones who know the least about either of them,” said Rothschild. “We (conservatives) are abdicating our responsibilities at all levels of government to do what needs to be done.”

“Being a Constitutionalist requires practice,” opined Richard. Elected officials need to ask themselves not just ‘what would Jesus do,’ but a second question: what would Jefferson do?

Elected officials aren’t trained to uphold their oath of office and the Constitution. “We’re not thinking the right way.” As an example, he stood alone in his county in an effort to nullify SB236. A further test was when he went to the recent Maryland Association of Counties meeting and asked six random county officials about what they would do if an order was passed down to confiscate guns in their county.

“Three of them said they don’t know, and the other three said they would resign from office,” Richard charged. “Not one said they would nullify, interpose, or engage their locally elected sheriff to defend their citizens’ Constitutional rights.” That was the fundamental problem.

Richard even spoke on comments he made regarding the SB236 Tier IV opt-out provision proposed right here in Wicomico County. (The original post is on the Conduit Street blog.) “They do this because we let them…we are tolerating the intolerable.”

“I don’t negotiate one-sided contracts…we shouldn’t even engage,” Richard opined, “Constitutional rights are non-negotiable.” Rothschild vowed to work with the Institute on the Constitution to put together a training course on how to uphold their oath of office.

“(Liberal groups are) going to spend a fortune to try to defeat like Blaine and people like me during the next election because they hate us,” Richard concluded to a raucous standing ovation. And he’s right.

The final session of the morning discussed the “War on Jobs,” with Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton and Delegate Nic Kipke, who was introduced as a member of the Maryland Health Reform Coordinating Council. Fitton focused on illegal immigration while Kipke naturally looked at Obamacare. “Nic knows more about Obamacare than the legislators who voted for it in 2010,” noted moderator Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland.

Fitton described his work with Help Save Maryland and other legal groups interested in upholding the idea that workplaces should have workers here legally. But that fight began with Montgomery County Community College giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens. “They thought they could get away with it,” noted Fitton. A nice thing about Maryland law, he continued, was that it has a provision allowing citizens standing to sue the government to prevent illegal expenditures of funds.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to illegal aliens who can’t work, stated Tom, “Maryland is a magnet for illegal immigration, and the impact on jobs is obvious.” Most affected were the construction trades where the majority of contractors, who are law-abiding, are “competing against crooks.”

“It’s a racket” to keep certain politicians in office, Fitton charged. And speaking of Maryland politics specifically, Tom also alleged there was corruption behind the passage of the ballot initiatives. “(O’Malley) was using his office to promote the approval of the referenda,”

Tom also had kudos for Delegate Neil Parrott, who he’d worked with on the ballot issues, calling him an important figure in Maryland democracy. “We’ve been proud to stand with him,” Fitton beamed.

The lesson here, Fitton said, was that the illegal immigration issue is not automatically a turnoff to Hispanics. He cited polling data which said, in the most recent election, 40% of Hispanics “agreed with the idea of an Arizona-style approach to illegal immigration.” It was 13 points more than Romney received among Hispanics at large. “This is a majority issue for us,” Fitton claimed.

“We’re really in a battle for our lives in a lot of ways,” Kipke opened. “It used to be we were in a battle for our rights, but we’re also in a battle for our way of life.”

He went through a couple examples of the “trainwreck” of Obamacare, one being the fact that the age breakdowns – lumping everyone from age 21 to 60 in a group – will create a spike in rates making insurance unaffordable to young people. (One estimate pegs the additional cost as anywhere from $280 to $400 a month.) “It’s almost designed to fail,” said Kipke.

The second problem is that the exchanges will essentially all offer the same programs – health insurance has to be approved by and purchased from the state – generally these are the “richest packages available.” At this time, Maryland is one of just eight states with an exchange in place. “If Obama is successful, health insurance will be purchased through the state, and it will be the state design,” Kipke said.

The Delegate urged us to use him and Delegate Parrott as a conduit to the General Assembly. “If you have access to technology, you should see the stuff that goes on. Bring a camera, we’ll tell you where to stand and we’ll put you up in front of the next Delegate who embraces socialism. We’d love to get that on video.”

That brought us to the lunch break. While most of us grabbed a quick bite to eat, there was a lot going on both inside and outside the lobby.

On the inside, a total of fifteen groups had information tables and other items set up. Here are a few of those:

In order, these were Accuracy in Media, Defend Life, Maryland Republican Network, and Election Integrity Maryland. Other groups in attendance were the Franklin Center (sponsor of Bloggers’ Row), the Red Maryland Network – which did a live broadcast from the lobby – Institute on the Constitution, Americans for Fair Taxation, Montgomery County Republicans, Stop Agenda 21, Help Save Maryland, the Leadership Institute, Maryland Legislative Watch, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and Conservative Victory PAC.

There were also merchants, with event T-shirts and Breitbart design shirts on sale.

We also had a chance to meet some of the speakers and purchase their books.

From left to right, represented were Stanley Kurtz, Diana West,  Pamela Geller (crouched), and Tom Fitton. Dun Scott (husband of organizer Cathy Trauernicht) is standing in the center; thanks to Ann Corcoran for the correction.

As I noted, there was also action outside the building. The CAIR protest of Pamela Geller finally showed up two hours after she finished speaking. (Photo by and courtesy of Jackie Wellfonder.)

Yet the ten protesters got media attention. If it weren’t for them, I doubt the TV stations would have showed up.

So that’s where we stood as lunch concluded. In part 2 I’ll cover the four intriguing seminars which occurred afterward and the closing remarks by Jim Rutledge.