Thursday, April 17, 2014

Red Maryland April 2014 Poll Results

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MDGOP Bylaws Committee Rejects Waterman Amendment

Earlier this week I discussed Kevin Waterman's reasonable and practical amendments to the Maryland Republican Party bylaws he was proposing be adopted at next weekend's State Party Convention. Well, it seems like the proposal has hit a bit of a snag.

One of the requirements for the introduction of a bylaw amendment is that it be considered by the Maryland Republican Party Bylaws Committee. The Committee has considered and rejected Waterman's proposed amendment.

This is not the end of the Amendment process; the full convention can reconsider, debate, and discuss the amendment notwithstanding the objections of the Bylaws Committee.

Below is the text of an email that Waterman sent to fellow Central Committee members. I would urge you to consider contacting your County Central Committee members and voice your opinion on this practical change that we can make to ensure that our party is run more effectively and closer to the people.

From: Kevin Waterman
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:09 PM
Subject: Proposed Bylaws Amendment for the Upcoming MDGOP Convention

Dear Central Committee Member, 
My name is Kevin Waterman, I'm a member of the Queen Anne's County Republican Central Committee. I am writing to you concerning a proposed change to the MDGOP Bylaws that I have offered. 
You should be familiar with this proposal as I emailed both an earlier draft of the proposal and several possible changes to it to your County Chairman and asked them to send it on to all their committee members for review and discussion.

Unfortunately, the MDGOP Bylaws Committee has decided not to give their approval for the measure to be presented for a vote at the upcoming convention. However, this does not mean we cannot discuss and consider the proposal at convention, it simply means we, as a body, must vote both to consider the amendment (3/5 approval) and then on whether or not to approve it (2/3 approval).
 Since I think this is an issue of great importance to the State Party and have received a lot of interest from many parties, I believe we should take the step of voting for such a consideration. To that end, I am including the full amendment (you can find the text below my signature). I would ask that you please review the proposal and contact me with your thoughts on it. 
Additionally, based on some of the feedback from the Bylaws Committee, if approval for consideration is given I am considering making a motion to divide the question, separating out the issue of regional chairs and regional conventions (and making a minor amendment to the elections process as well so we don't have an issue if one half were approved and the other rejected). In other words, first we would debate and vote on changing from a 1st Vice Chair plus two additional chairs to a 1st vice chair plus four regional chairs. Then we would debate and vote on changing to one Statewide convention and one regional convention in odd numbered years.

While I believe that both pieces will help us in our goal to elect more Republicans by promoting cooperation between counties in a region and promote unity across the State, some feel that we should make these changes incrementally.

Please also let me know if you think this proposed amendment is a good idea or not. And if you would support it in its entirety, or one part or the other. 
I look forward to seeing you at convention!

Sincerely, Kevin Waterman

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Red Maryland Radio Tonight 8pm

Special guest Dennis McIver aka @Dennisthecynic from The City That Breeds joins Mark Newgent tonight for a jam packed show.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gansler Takes Aim at Corruption Firewall

Attorney General Doug Gansler sure did find a curious way to come out in favor of government efficiency:

As part of his plan to spend less money and make government more efficient, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Tuesday proposed eliminating the agency that investigates corruption among public officials. 
Gansler, a Democratic candidate for governor, called the Office of the State Prosecutor "a holdover from the Watergate era" that overlaps with other law enforcement offices. 
"If a need arises for a special prosecutor, for instance to avoid conflict of interest, one can be temporarily appointed, as Congress does now," Gansler said in a detailed 16-page plan on how to streamline state spending if he were elected governor. 
The State Prosecutor, established by a constitutional amendment in 1976, in recent years investigated the theft scandal involving former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, the misconduct case against former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, and campaign finance infractions by state lawmakers. 
Gansler argued that state prosecutors share jurisdiction over corruption and voter fraud cases with the attorney general's office, the U.S. Attorney's office and state's attorneys. Eliminating it, he said, would save taxpayers as much as $1.2 million. 
The idea is one small part of a detailed fiscal plan for the state Gansler released Tuesday in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 24 primary.
Gansler's full plan, which contains a lot of other details which can be reject later, describes it in similar terms.

As conservatives we are fully in favor of government efficiency, but the idea of eliminating the State Prosecutor's office is probably one of the craziest idea I have seen in some time. By coming out in support of its elimination, Gansler has decided to cast his lot with the corrupt and the wicked.

It's important to note why we have a State Prosecutor to start with. Gansler is correct in saying that it does come from the Watergate era, but it was passed not in regards because of that scandal, but due to the never-ending parade of Maryland Elected Officials who were convicted of corruption during the 1970's. Corruption was so prevalent in the 1970's that the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland produced a 24-page paper entitled "Spiro Agnew and the Golden Age of Corruption in Maryland." Here's an excerpt from the paper, quoting a November 11, 2005 speech by  Washington Post columnist and former Maryland Political Reporter Richard Cohen:
In my days covering Maryland, the Governor [Marvin Mandel] was convicted of corruption – later overturned on appeal – and the former Governor, Spiro Agnew, then the Vice-President  of the United States pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion. Also convicted [on a variety  of charges] were the County Executives of Anne Arundel County [Joseph W. Alton] and  Baltimore County [Dale Anderson], the Baltimore County State’s Attorney [Samuel Green  Jr.], the Congressman from the first district [William O. Mills], a Baltimore State Senator [Clarence Mitchell III], the Speaker of the House [A. Gordon Boone], a U.S. Senator  [Daniel B. Brewster], and a member of the House of Delegates [James A. “Turk” Scott] who was flushed out of the State House by U.S. Marshals because he was wanted on drug charges…
So this Culture of Corruption in Maryland was the genesis of the State Prosecutor's Office.

According to Prosecutor's website:
The Office of State Prosecutor was established by Constitutional amendment and legislation in 1976 (Chapter 612, Acts of 1976, ratified Nov. 1976). The State Prosecutor’s Office began operation January, 1977.
The State Prosecutor may investigate on his own initiative, or at the request of the Governor, the Attorney General, the General Assembly, the State Ethics Commission, or a State’s Attorney, certain criminal offenses. These include: 1) State election law violations; 2) State public ethics law violations; 3) State bribery law violations involving public officials or employees; 4) misconduct in office by public officials or employees; and 5) extortion, perjury, or obstruction of justice related to any of the above.
A clear reaction and link to the corruption scandals of the prior years.

The key point about the State Prosecutor is not that idea that somebody can request that the State Prosecutor begin an investigation. It's the fact that the Prosecutor can began an investigation on their own initiative. The post of State Prosecutor, once confirmed by the State Senate, is basically an independent entity beyond the reach of the Executive and Legislative Branches:
The State Prosecutor is nominated by the State Prosecutor Selection and Disabilities Commission and appointed by the Governor for a term of six years and until his successor is appointed and qualifies. He may be removed only for misconduct in office, persistent failure to perform the duties of the office, or conduct prejudicial to the proper administration of justice.
And that is a very important firewall against corruption in State Government. There is no political component to the execution of the office of State Prosecutor. The term of the Prosecutor extends beyond the term of an individual governor or an individual General Assembly term. And that's the point. The entire purpose of the State Prosecutor is to not be subject to the political whims of the Governor and of the General Assembly. They do not risk being fired by the Governor or removed by the General Assembly for making logical decisions to investigate or prosecute public officials for their behavior. They have the discretion to do what is best and what is necessary to protect the public trust. Public officials who have found themselves being investigate by the office in recent years include former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, both of whom resigned in disgrace after their prosecutions.

So why does Doug Gansler not believe that such a position has value? Gansler notes that the office of the Special Prosecutor shares jurisdiction with the Attorney General, the State's Attorney's, and the U.S. Attorneys. But so what? U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the President and the U.S. Attorney General and are inherently political positions, often filled by politically connected or politically active attorneys. The Attorney General and the 24 various State's Attorneys are elected officials themselves, individuals who are inherently partisan and wear their partisanship on their sleeves.

Given the political nature of his tenure as Attorney General, does anybody truly think that Doug Gansler would have prosecuted corruption in an independent and fair manner?

Gansler's idea to seek elimination of the State Prosecutor seems to have little to do with efficiency in government and everything to do with covering the backside of Democrats in Annapolis. Gansler has never been the type to go along to get along with the Democratic establishment, but this certainly seems like a way to inoculate himself with those folks in a way that allows everybody to have their backsides protected. Nobody can realistically argue that there aren't better ways to save $1.2 million than by eliminating the one office in State Government that is dedicated to rooting out the corruption that has run rampant in State Government.

I look forward to hearing Doug Gansler's explanation as to why he wants to make life easier for those in offices of public trust who want to engage in corruption in our state.

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Conservative Refuge #4

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Another jam-packed episode of the Red Maryland Network's new hit show, the Conservative Refuge.

On this installment

  • Follow up and analysis of Thursday's GOP Candidate Debate and the state of the race for Governor
  • Some high profile endorsements this week in key primaries. I break them down.
  • I offer a "Pep Talk" to GOP candidates as they head toward the June 24th primary.
  • Shocker, there are problems already with the new marijuana decriminalization law.  
  • And as spring has sprung, folks are taking to public trails and impeding vehicular traffic.  I invite them to "Get Off My Lawn"
Send us your feedback to , or @redmaryland

Don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes and on Stitcher. 

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Maryland Continues to Lag In Economic Competitiveness

Maryland continues to lag in key indicators of economic competitiveness. 

According to the 2014 edition of the American Legislative Exchange’s Rich States Poor States, Maryland ranks 31st in the nation for economic performance and 34th for economic outlook, and jumped up one spot from 35th to 34th for Economic Outlook.  Economists Art Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Jonathan Williams compiled the report’s data.

Maryland’s Economic Performance was determined by three performance variables: state gross domestic product (18th), absolute domestic migration, (42nd) and non-farm payroll employment (22nd).

Maryland’s low ranking for absolute domestic migration is due to the 123,674 residents, who left the state between 2003-2012.  The migration peaked in the year 2007 and saw a decline until 2010 and 2011, when the trend reversed.  However, the out-migration from Maryland began to increase. 

Laffer, Moore and Williams used 15 metrics to determine the Economic Outlook ranking, which includes, among others: Top Personal Income Tax Rate, Top Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate, Minimum Wage, Estate Tax. 

The report was compiled before the General Assembly approved a phased increase in the minimum wage and a phased recoupling the estate tax to the federal rates. 

Comparing the nine states with the highest and lowest marginal personal income tax rates, the report found that states with lower personal income tax rates had higher rates of gross state product, population growth, tax receipt growth, and job growth.

Maryland joined Ohio, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York as the nine states with the highest marginal personal income tax rates. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

A Welcome Change

The Maryland Republican Party Spring Convention will be next weekend in Bethesda, and one of the key agenda items will be an amendment to the State Party bylaws proposed by Queen Anne's County Central Committee member and candidate for Register of Wills Kevin Waterman.

The proposal has several key components:

  • Eliminate the positions of 2nd Vice-Chairman and 3rd Vice-Chairman, and replaces them with four regional Vice-Chairmen;
  • Establish yearly regional conventions for the four newly created regions;
  • Reduces the number of State Party Conventions from two to one in odd number years.
These proposals are a much needed change for state party organization. If you have ever attended a State Party Convention, you will know that little gets accomplished during the actual business meetings of the State Party. Often, convention business will get whittled down to reports by the officers (some of which may take as many as 15 minutes a piece depending on who is giving them), debate on some pro-forma resolutions, and that's pretty much it. The rest of the time during convention weekend is dedicated to an Executive Committee meeting, hospitality suites, and training sessions.

All in all, having two statewide conventions every year is not a valuable use of resources, particularly the time of those Central Committee who have to participate in them. The only reason to have two conventions in a year is that RNC bylaws require the State Party to have a convention to elect Convention Delegates and the National Committeeman and Committeewoman between the Presidential Primary and the National Convention during Presidential Election years.

Going the regional convention route is a much better way to go about things for any number of reasons, but there are two in particular that I think are important:
  • Resources: Many Central Committee members have to use their time and often times financial resources in order to attend two conventions a year. Regional conventions will likely cut back on the amount of time and money spent by most Central Committee members. Regions will be able to conduct convention business in one day and folks will be able to attend the convention as a day trip instead of over an entire weekend.
  • Localization: We as Republicans believe that the government that governs best is government that is closest to the people. So why not make sure that our party governs that way too? Regional conventions will reduce the cost and time burden on Republican activists and local citizens who wish to attend party events. The party will have the opportunity to have the same speakers and offer the same training closer to home. In addition, regional conventions will offer the opportunity for like-minded conservatives in these particular regions to forge new working relationships across the region to help with the cross-promotion of events and candidates, and allow innovative new ways of attracting new Republicans to our midst.
Creating four new regional Vice-Chairmen to replace the 2nd- and 3rd Vice-Chairmen is also a way to further localize our party. This way, we will be sure that all regions of the Party are represented on the Executive Board of the State Party and that no one region will be able to dominate party leadership. All regions will make sure that their voice is heard.

Kevin Waterman's proposal is one worthy of supporting, and I would encourage you to contact your Central Committee member to let them know your opinion on it. Feel free to read the entire proposal (without some recent minor edits), below.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hogan Outraises All MDGOP Candidates for Governor

After Red Maryland endorsed Larry Hogan, I wrote back in January that the other Republican candidates for Governor failed to report competitive fundraising numbers. Specifically, I wrote in the Baltimore Sun

"Recent campaign finance reports show that the field of 2014 candidates — which includes Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar — is disappointing at best, despite their credentials. Mr. Craig is reported to have only $154,577 cash on hand entering the year and to have raised less in 2013 than he did in 2012 despite running a frenetic campaign. His fellow candidates made a far worse impression, barely amassing more than $20,000 cash on hand between them.

These reports suggest that none of the current Republican candidates appear prepared to effectively challenge any potential democratic nominee."

As we predicted, Larry Hogan would buck this trend and show more robust fundraising prowess and give Maryland Republicans hope that they could choose a candidate who can compete with any Democratic nominee.

The Hogan campaign released this week, in advance of their April 15 campaign finance filing, that in the campaign's first 68 days they raised over $422,000.  As demonstrated in the chart below, this amount dwarfs similar performances by the GOP candidates and ranks Hogan among the leading fundraisers in the race for Maryland Governor.

Equally noteworthy is that this fundraising was the result of contributions from over 1800 individuals and the average contribution to the campaign was well under the $250 threshold to take full advantage of public matching funds.

These results are proof that Larry Hogan is running the most effective Republican campaign for Governor and that he can compete with any of the potential Democratic nominees.

Red Maryland will have much more analysis of the full report once it becomes publicly available.  No doubt it will debunk many of the criticisms of Red Maryland's early support for the Hogan for Governor campaign.

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Red Maryland Network Broadcast of JHU GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum

If you missed it live, Red Maryland Network broadcast Thursday's debate between MDGOP candidates for Governor, Delegate Ron George, Charles Lollar and Harford County Executive David Craig.  Just click below to listen.

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The broadcast also includes bonus coverage with interviews of the candidates, Congressman Andy Harris and the event hosts.  There was also debate analysis from Red Maryland contributors Mark Newgent, Greg Kline, Dennis McIver and Duane Keenan.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

IRS Fed Cummings' Office Tax Data on True the Vote

Members of Elijah Cummings staff asked the IRS for information about the election integrity group True the Vote, calling into question his vehement denials of his involvement in targeting the group. House Oversight and Government reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a stern letter to Cummings demanding an explanation.

According to emails released by the House Oversight Committee, Cummings' office had multiple contacts with the IRS tax exempt division, led by Lois Lerner.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 23-14 to refer Lerner's case to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Emails indicate Lerner personally checked on the status of a January 25, 2013 inquiry from Cummings's office, asking her deputy, Holly Paz, "Did we find anything?" Paz responded "Have not heard yet. We didn't get the request until people had left on Friday and people were late or on unscheduled leave today." To which Lerner replied "Thanks, check tomorrow please."

Lerner's office eventually provided Cummings' office with True the Vote's 990 forms.

During a February subcommittee hearing, True the Vote's attorney Cleta Mitchell, inquired as to whether there was any committee staff involved in putting True the Vote on the IRS radar screen.

Shortly after that hearing True the Vote's founder Catherine Engelbrecht filed a formal ethics complaint against Cummings.  Cummings had sent her three letters threatening Congressional investigations into True the Vote and her other group King Street Patriots.

Here is the text of one of letter dated October 4, 2012, all but accusing True the Vote of a “criminal conspiracy “ to commit voter suppression. Cummings publicized on his website and in a press release.

Here is Cummings not so subtly accusing True the Vote of racism.

Yesterday, Oversight Committee chairman Darrel Issa, sent Cummings a letter stating:

Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, records of communication between your staff--indicate otherwise. As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Mrs. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff's undisclosed contacts with the IRS... 
These documents indicating involvement of IRS officials at the center of the targeting scandal responding to your requests, raise serious questions about your actions and motivations for trying to bring this investigation to a premature end. If the Committee, as a you publicly suggested in June 2013, "wrap[ped] up this case and moved on" at that time, the Committee may have never seen documents raising questions about your possible coordination with the IRS in communications that excluded the Committee Majority. Your frequent complaints about the Committee Majority contacting individuals on official matters without the involvement of Minority staff makes the reasons for your staff's secretive correspondence with the IRS even more mysterious. 
As the Committee continues to investigate the IRS's wrongdoing and to gather all the relevant testimonial and documentary evidence, the American people deserve to know the full truth. They deserve to know why the Ranking Member and Minority Staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, surreptitiously contacted the IRS about an individual organization without informing the Majority Staff and even failed to disclose the contact after it became an issue during the subcommittee proceeding.  
The public deserves a full and truthful explanation for these actions. We ask that you explain the full extent of you and your staff's communications with the IRS and why you chose to keep communications with the IRS from the Majority Members and staff even after it became a subject of controversy.

H/T to The Quinton Report, which also has a piece detailing Cummings' past history with IRS for failing to of pay his personal taxes.

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