More of the same

I let this go by in the midst of my series looking forward at 2014, but on Monday Change Maryland released yet another in a series of Chinese water torture-style droplets of allegations on Maryland’s “pay-to-play” political patronage system. $650,000 in contributions to a governor for a $4 million contract is a pretty good return on investment in anyone’s book.

There’s no doubt kudos are due to Change Maryland for finding and releasing this information, but my serious question is simple: how would they do things differently?

Listen, political corruption is not something restricted to Democrats in Maryland, although they seem to enjoy finding new methods to perfect the art. Give certain people the authority and lack of oversight to flout the rules and those certain people will be quick to slide their grimy fingers into the pie. I think that has less to do with the political party in power than it does a political philosophy, since there are likely a number of scoundrels inhabiting the Republican-controlled states of Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and so forth who are in the party just for the access to power it has.

I think people – for the most part – understand and agree these allegations are just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem endemic in Maryland and across the country. But what I’m missing here is Change Maryland’s prescribed solution, for it may take many forms, with the most likely cure coming from the aspect of campaign finance reforms. Sure, these may be necessary – but are they the real solution?

The problem to me isn’t in the health care exchanges, the bidding process for state contracts, or within any of the several other contributions noted by Change Maryland over the last couple weeks. It’s not even the “healthy and competitive two-party system” Hogan was quoted as wishing for during a previous release. I think it’s the very existence of a huge pot of money in Annapolis called the state government, an entity which has become so vastly bloated and too powerful for our own good. Shrink the size and scope of government and there’s less incentive to “pay-to-play.” I’m surprised Change Maryland is overlooking this simple solution, unless the idea is just to change the list of cronies benefitting – I damn sure hope for better than that out of a Hogan administration.

I would feel somewhat more comfortable that ne’er-do-wells would be less tempted by a $27 billion budget than a $37 billion one. There’s no way the state of Maryland, doing its legitimate functions, can subsist on no money at all but trimming back to essential functions is a first step in the cleanup process, long before any restrictions on campaign finance take hold. That’s a good way to change Maryland.

4 thoughts on “More of the same”

  1. In 2011 the DGA raised >20 million, so 650,000 might have gotten some special attention, but Change Maryland is *still* using weaslese to push the payola narrative, which suggests they don’t have any *evidence* of payola, which means that no one will pick it up, and only Republican partisans will listen.

    But maybe Hogan just wants the nomination and has written off actually winning the governorship, because not only, as you said, is he pushing no solutions (though since he’s Old Guard you’re probably right about speech bans – I mean campaign finance reform) but he’s not even offering effective criticism of the opposition.

    Hogan/Brown 2014 debate: (Obviously hypothetical)

    Hogan: “Why did this company donate this money to the DGA!?”

    Brown: “Because the Governor asked for some money.”

    Hogan: “Ah-ha! In exchange for what?”

    Brown: “Nothing, we’ve worked with them for years and he sent them a generic fundraising letter.”

    Moderator: “Mr. Hogan, do you have any evidence of any kind of impropriety?”

    Hogan: “Well, no, but…”

    Brown: “What Mr. Hogan doesn’t understand, never having held elected office, is that you send fundraising letters to people you know. Governor O’Malley used his connections with these companies to help support worthy candidates across the county, that’s what the head of the DGA is *supposed* to do. And as Governor, I will use my connections for the benefit of the people of Maryland.”

    Or somesuch, anyway.

    Here’s how the LiveAction strategy works – you produce dramatic evidence of misconduct, then let the targeted organization respond by saying “Well, it’s only this limited subset of our organization.” Then you release more and more proving it’s widespread, and that the organization lied.

    But unless the evidence is dramatic, people become inured to the claims very quickly. That’s why LiveAction and Project Veritas use videos of people *actually promoting, defending or conspiring in* unethical or illegal behavior.

    Generic claims of “suggestions of impropriety” get boring really quickly, are easily dismissed as partisan BS and often lead to more speech controls that protect incumbents disguised as finance reform

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