Monday, August 25, 2014

Conservative Refuge Radio 8-25-14

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The Red Maryland Network presents another installment of Conservative Refuge Radio.

On tonight's show:

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Anatomy of a Shakedown

When Akron-based First Energy Corp. sought a $4.7 billion merger with Allegheny Energy, which serves Maryland customers through its Potomac Edison subsidiary, in February 2010, it received a taste of Martin O’Malley’s shakedown tactics.

As a condition of approval, the O’Malley controlled Maryland Public Service Commission, in January 2011 placed several conditions on the merger.  One condition in particular mandated that First Energy assist in developing a Tier 1 renewable energy source capable of generating 13,000 megawatts. 

In December 2010, Malcolm Woolf, head of the Maryland Energy Administration—appointed by O’Malley—testified before the Public ServiceCommission in favor of requiring First Energy to support a Tier 1 renewable energy project.  It was the first time Woolf ever testified before the commission since O’Malley appointed him in 2007.

Later, in December 2011, First Energy announced it had entered into a long-term power purchasing agreement with Maryland Solar, which is developing a large, 160-acre solar farm on the grounds of a former state prison in Hagerstown.   The Public Service Commission granted a special waiver to Maryland Solar to allow it to begin construction, without obtaining a certificate of public convenience, in order for the company to access a federal renewable energy grant program before it expired. 

The Maryland board of Public Works, composed of Governor O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and State Treasurer Nancy Kopp approved a very favorable lease agreement for the land to Maryland Solar in July 2011, by a 2-1 vote.  Franchot voted against the deal.

Maryland Solar is a subsidiary of Beowulf Energy, which is overly guarded about information about its operations.   O’Malley’s former chief of staff, Michael Enright is Beowulf’s managing director. 

So here we have a company looking to do business in state of Maryland being shaken down by the O’Malley machine in order to enrich his crony, and assist the Governor achieve a political goal by amassing more renewable energy.

The $550,000 First Energy donated to the O’Malley controlled Democratic Governor’s Association between 2010-2011 didn’t hurt either.  Of course, when the Baltimore Sun looked into the massive amount of cash companies with business interests in Maryland poured into the DGA after he took the helm, O’Malley said there were no connections between the donations his decisions as governor. 

Governor, meet grain of salt.

First Energy wasn’t the only energy company to get a taste of the O’Malley way in 2011.  Chicago-based Exelon, which purchased Constellation Energy, which owned Baltimore Gas and Electric got the same treatment.  After Exelon agreed to $1 billion in extra concessions, O’Malley finally gave his blessing to the merger.  The concessions included Exelon paying $30 million for offshore wind development—a key political goal for O’Malley—, $2 million to state universities to fund wind energy research.  

Maryland Public Policy Institute energy expert Tom Firey described the Exelon deal:

Thomas A. Firey, a Maryland Public Policy Institute senior fellow, said the focus on alternative energy seemed political and counter-intuitive to market forces.

"If a wind farm or other alternative energy project makes sense, it will happen anyway," Firey said. "And, if they don't make sense, then it's really just well-dressed corporate welfare." 
Firey said it seems like the deal was more focused on securing funding for politically popular items like wind farms and poultry litter plants than getting further rate relief or rebates for BGE ratepayers. He also cautioned that there could be fallout from the deal that makes Maryland look unfriendly for businesses. 
"It's a shakedown for which the public really doesn't get much," Firey said. "And, it's yet another red flag for any businesses down the road thinking of doing business in the state not to come here. It's Annapolis machinations at its best."

Maryland has a reputation as state with a dreadful business climate.  It is, unless you’re politically connected.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Air Raid: 8/24/2014

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On this week's episode of The Air Raid, I talk about the threat posed by ISIS and how liberarian foreign policy is a great danger to the inerests of all Americans.

Don't foget The Air Raid airs on Sunday nights at 8, only on the Red Maryland Network.......and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes and on Stitcher.

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Red Maryland News Hour: 8/22/2014

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On the Red Maryland News Hour for 8-22-14, Red Maryland News Director Duane Keenan travelled to Ocean City for the Maryland Association of Counties Annual Convention, and we hear from both Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Politically Connected Regents will decide fate of USM

One of the stories that has gone underrated until recently has been the search for a new Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. Brit Kirwin is leaving the powerful and lucrative ($518,000 yearly salary) position to do something else, and the University System Regents are in the market for a new Chancellor.

This isn't a small deal for taxpayers in the state of Maryland. The 2015 University System Budget shows that the System is a $5.1 billion enterprise that employs almost 29,000 people. The USM budget constitutes 13% of the operating budget, and is responsible for the biggest of our state institutions of higher education. 168,000 students are part of the University System. Everybody either knows somebody who attends a USM school or has their degree from a USM school.

Let's just say that the selection of Chancellor is a big deal.

An article in Thursday's Sun highlighted the challenges that face the Board of Regents in selecting a candidate. It is an unenviable task to be sure. It would appear the the candidate that everybody wants is Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC, and he wants nothing to do with the position:
Hrabowski, who has led UMBC to national prominence in his 22 years as president, said he would not be considered as a candidate for the chancellor's job.

He said he has been wooed over the years by "public and private institutions" with "invitations to discuss possibilities" but that he has long been happy to stay at UMBC, where he earned a salary of $428,800 last year. 
"My decision to not be considered has more to do with my commitment to UMBC than anything else. I think the chancellor's position is a great opportunity," Hrabowski said. "Each person has to decide what's important to him or her. ... It's simply a personal choice."
Notwithstanding a draft effort as suggested by the Sun Editorial Board, that will leave the Regents looking elsewhere. Ultimately it means the Regents will have to decide if the next Chancellor is should be somebody who is an educator or comes from a different walk of life. To me, there are pitfalls to both. Hiring an educator may be bringing in somebody who is familiar with higher education, but not politically savvy or, worse, not open to new ideas in higher education. Hiring somebody outside of the higher education might bring a lot of gravitas, but could bringing forth somebody who is not familiar with higher ed policy or might bring about unwanted attention (like the University of California system hiring Janet Napolitano, for example).
There are a number of issues that the new USM Chancellor is going to have to face, including that bloated $5 billion budget that spends more on staff salaries and benefits than they do on classroom instruction, as well as competition from private for-profit education institutions. And that's what concerns me about the Regents making this selection.

The position of Regent is one of the sexier sinecures that a Governor can hand out to influential supporters. Governor O'Malley is no exception. Members of the Board include donors who have given almost $150,000 to O'Malley, Brown and other Democrats (click here to see a chart of all of the donations). It also includes a former Congressmana former State Senator,  O'Malley's former Deputy Chief of Staff, and prominent Baltimore minister Frank Reid.  That fact is of great concern to me, as it opens up the likelihood that the Regents will select somebody who is an ill-prepared Democratic functionary instead of a qualified educator or qualified business leader.

The Regents selection of Chancellor will have a huge impact on the direction of public higher education for the next ten years. We should all be watching...

More below the fold.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Red Maryland Radio: 8/21/2014

It was other big episode of  Red Maryland Radio comes at you tonight  live at 8 PM on the Red Maryland Network.

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On tonight's show:
This is why you can't afford to miss Red Maryland Radio each and every Thursday night at 8, on the Red Maryland Network.......and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes and on Stitcher.

More below the fold.

Red Maryland Radio Tonight

Another big episode of  Red Maryland Radio comes at you tonight  live at 8 PM on the Red Maryland Network.

On tonight's show:
This is why you can't afford to miss Red Maryland Radio each and every Thursday night at 8, on the Red Maryland Network.......and don't forget that you can subscribe to the Red Maryland Network on iTunes and on Stitcher.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Editorial Prerogative

In a very interesting editorial this morning in the Baltimore Sun, the Sun's editorial board pointed out the lengths to which Martin O'Malley's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation will go to make it look like Maryland has a rosy jobs picture. 

In an ideal world, we'd like to think that the state government would give the straight, unadorned truth about what's going on with the economy. But it is hard to come up with anything but a political explanation for the department's consistently rosy interpretations of the jobs figures. Gov. Martin O'Malley, coming to the end of his two terms and looking to the national stage, has crafted a narrative about his tenure that offers Maryland as a model  for the nation in its focus on education, research and entrepreneurship. A so-so job market, or one with some inconvenient ups and downs, doesn't fit the story.

The Sun's panglossian view of good government, in this instance, clashes with the reality of the Potemkin Village that is Martin O'Malley's record here in Maryland.

Continuing on, the piece picks up on something that we have been talking about at Red Maryland for some time, and that Larry Hogan has harped about during this 2014 campaign; the need to address Maryland's business climate by lowering taxes and rolling back onerous regulations and impediments to business.

[T]he federal government's budget cutbacks are unquestionably having an effect in Maryland, and the state would do well — particularly during a gubernatorial election like the one we're having now — to talk about strategies for diversifying the economy and coping with the likelihood of more government spending reductions in the future. But that won't happen if we let political spin get in the way of a forthright appraisal of the facts.

The editorial went further than that, though. The piece included references to the 2010 incident where the O'Malley Administration set out to cover-up unflattering job numbers during O'Malley's re-election campaign.

Lest you call us too cynical about something so inconsequential as a departmental press release that only a tiny fraction of Marylanders actually read, recall this. In 2010, amid Governor O'Malley's rematch with Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Democrat had been highlighting Maryland's job growth during the first several months of the year. Then, in August, DLLR briefly posted on its website a news release titled, "Maryland's Market Stalls During July." It further noted "declining consumer confidence and spending" and concluded that "Maryland's economic recovery faltered."

Emails released through a Public Information Act request by two Republican leaders in the legislature revealed a scramble at DLLR to pull down a report "diametrically opposed" to the "eventually-approved messaging." At one point, the agency's communications director wrote to other staffers "Whatever we can do to make it disappear, we need to do it. That's coming straight from the top."

It is interesting that the Sun would reference this story, which we covered extensively here at Red Maryland, culminating in Mark's two-part chronology of events regarding the cover-up (Read Part I and Part II). It acknowledges, possibly for the first time in a Sun editorial, that the story presented by O'Malley Administration's doesn't exactly stand up to strict scrutiny, and that every conceivable effort has been made by the Martin O'Malley and Anthony Brown to present a fictionalized version of the truth. It's a refreshing differentiation from the usual defense of the Maryland status quo.

There is, however, a stark contrast between these type of editorials written toward the end of summer when fewer readers (and voters) and paying attention, and the bread and butter editorials of the Fall. Despite the knowledge of the cover-up (among other noted issues) with O'Malley's first term, the Sun endorsed O'Malley in 2010 and doubled-down on the O'Malley years by endorsing Anthony Brown in the Democratic Primary. And this fall, the Editorial Board will almost certainly endorse Anthony Brown over Larry Hogan in the General Election as well.

The Editorial Board of the Sun continues to send mixed messages on these issues. Is the Editorial Board for good government? Or is the Editorial Board content to continue to serve as, in the words of the late Ron Smith, the North Calvert Street Democratic Marching Society? That's something for Andy Green and the rest of the guys and gals on the Editorial Board to decide. It is the editorial prerogative for the Sun to support and endorse whatever ideas and candidates that they see fit. They can choose to on one hand lament the need for the politicization of basic government while simultaneously endorsing the ideology and candidates who engage in that politicization. They can continue to write about the need for change while embracing the status quo. But the cognitive dissonance between the two messages are real, and goes a long way in explaining the diminution in status of the Sun's editorial page and the shrinking impact of their message their readership for some time.

More below the fold.