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June 30, 2009

Kratovil pays FEC fine

Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland has been fined $3,860 by the Federal Election Commission for failing to report more than two dozen last-minute donations to his successful House campaign last fall.

The FEC assessed the penalty under its administrative fine program. The commission uses the program for less serious violations of federal election law, especially the late filing of disclosure reports.

A Kratovil spokesman, Kevin Lawlor, blamed an “administrative backlog” for the failure to disclose 26 contributions within 48 hours after they were received, as required by FEC regulations. Lawlor said the campaign made on-time disclosures of contributions totaling more than $200,000 in the weeks leading up to the November, 2008 vote.

“There was such a large amount of donations coming in at that time. There was an administrative backlog and not all of them were filed on time,” he said.

The unreported donations included $5,000 from the Congressional Black Caucus, $2,000 each from the campaign accounts of Democratic House candidate Ben R. Lujan of New Mexico and Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle’s political action committee and $1,000 each from Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York and Illinois Rep. Mellissa Bean's PAC, the Boilermakers union, Washington lobbyist Thomas H. Boggs Jr. and the U.S. Sugar Association’s political action committee.

Kratovil’s campaign did not contest the FEC enforcement action. It paid the fine in late April. The FEC announced the enforcement action in its more recent weekly report.

In the 2008 campaign, Kratovil raised and spent nearly $2 million to win one of the closest House races in the country. He defeated Republican state Sen. Andy Harris of Baltimore County.

Harris, who unseated moderate Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in last year's primary, spent almost $3 million and is seeking a rematch with Kratovil in next year's election.

Kratovil, a former Queen Anne's County state's attorney, "campaigned on his rule-of-law credentials, then got caught violating campaign finance rules," said Andy Seré, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. "It’s a bit like campaigning as a Blue Dog, then voting like a lap dog for the National Energy Tax and the so-called ‘stimulus’ plan."

Kratovil, of Stevensville, is the first Democrat in 18 years to represent the First Congressional District, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore, plus portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

The Baltimore Sun previously reported that Kratovil, who campaigned as an outsider, attracted more than $20,000 in post-election campaign donations from political action committees representing some of the nation's most powerful interests. They included the banking industry, pharmaceutical manufacturers, broadcasters, Realtors, dairy farmers (Kratovil was given a seat on the Agriculture Committee) and companies such as Verizon, Microsoft and Disney.

Posted by Paul West at 11:10 AM | | Comments (0)

June 29, 2009

Scorecards Part Deux: Lawmaker ratings on friendliness to business hit new low

Maryland Business for Responsive Government released this month the 2009 edition of its Roll Call, which measures the voting records of state lawmakers on a number bills that affect business. The nonpartisan group does political research and aims to improve Maryland’s business climate.

The General Assembly has a reputation for being decidedly un-friendly to the corporate world, and this year lawmaker scores were the “lowest on record,” according to the group. In the study, MBRG authors describe “an attitude by lawmakers that suggests the irrelevance of business.”

Particularly troublesome, the group contends, was passage of legislation giving the state eminent domain rights over the Preakness Stakes. State officials worried the bankruptcy of owner Magna Entertainment Corp. would imperil the horse race’s future in Maryland, and quickly stepped in. MBRG authors said they hadn’t seen anything like it. The bill sets an “extraordinary precedent” by asserting a right to take the private property of a specific corporation and interferes in a bankruptcy, they said.

Republicans generally scored well in the MBRG scorecard. But only two Democrats voted 70 percent or better on the business-related legislation that’s highlighted — Sen. Rona E. Kramer of Montgomery County and Sen. James E. DeGrange of Anne Arundel County. Fifteen years ago, 84 Democrats voted at least 70 percent favorably on business-related issues.

The full report can be found here.

Despite this year’s Roll Call, Robert O.C. “Rocky” Worcester, MBRG’s president, is hopeful that his group can address what he calls a “paucity of leadership” in the business community and in Annapolis. That’s because he has enlisted as the group’s co-chairs former Gov. Marvin Mandel, a Democrat, and Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a two-time Republican gubernatorial candidate who was appointed ambassador by President George W. Bush. Mandel pledged in a statement to expand and grow MBRG’s influence.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 9:00 AM | | Comments (0)

June 26, 2009

Maryland congressmen break along party lines on cap-and-trade

Maryland lawmakers voted along party lines as the House of Representatives narrowly approved a massive energy and climate-change measure this evening.

The vote was 219-212, with 44 Democrats opposing the legislation and 8 Republicans providing the support that Democrats and President Barack Obama needed to send the legislation on to the Senate, where its prospects are cloudy.

The legislation, which includes a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is the first of its kind ever to gain approval in either house of Congress.

Democrats opposing the measure included rural conservatives and liberal mavericks. The Republicans who backed the bill included moderate Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and Mary Bono Mack of California. The votes of all House members can be seen here.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the state's lone Republican, whose district takes in northern portions of the Baltimore metro area and extends to the state's western border, was the only Marylander to vote "No." The remaining congressmen, all Democrats, voted "Aye."

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, in supporting the legislation, prepared the following floor speech:

“This is a transformative moment. This is a moment to build a clean energy future for our country. This is a moment to create jobs. This is a moment to take on, at long last, a defining challenge of our time: global warming. I know that my colleagues can seize this moment; I know they can look back from a future in which America is independent of foreign oil and leading the fight against climate change and be able to say that, on this day, they were on the right side of this vote.

“This bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, is a true turning-point. It is a complex bill, but we can sum up its outcomes simply: new American jobs, less dependence on foreign energy, and a reduction in the carbon pollution that causes global warming.

“How does this bill accomplish those goals? Among its most important provisions are a requirement that utilities meet 20% of electric demand through renewable sources and energy efficiency by 2020; significant new investments in renewables, carbon capture and sequestration, electric vehicles, and cutting-edge energy research; and energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry. This bill also creates a Clean Energy Bank to fund promising energy projects across America; and it invests in high-tech transmission lines to build the essential foundation for a more efficient grid. New transmission lines, comprised of superconducting cable and other efficient wires, will carry more power within existing rights-of-way, with less land use. The result will be a more secure, environmentally-friendly grid. I worked with the Chairman and Rep. Inslee to ensure that those transmission provisions were included, because they are such an important part of a more cost-effective, energy-efficient future.

“Of course, the bill also includes the reduction of our carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and more than 80% by 2050. We can fight global warming with the same kind of market-based, cap-and-trade solution that was so effective at combating acid rain at minimal cost in the 1990s. Global warming threatens every one of us; it will affect the kind of lives our children will lead and the kind of prosperity our country, and our world will enjoy.

“To those who complain about the cost of this bill, I answer that we are all paying the cost of carbon emissions already. The longer we wait to act, the more we will pay every year. But if we take action now, we can get jobs, growth, clean energy and energy independence for less than the price of a postage stamp a day, for each of us, according to the EPA. And with this bill passed and signed, the United States will finally be able to argue persuasively and credibly for global action on a challenge that knows no borders.

“At the same time, action on global warming will send a powerful, job-creating price signal to the private sector, spurring innovation in every part of the renewable energy economy. That is one of the reasons why the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a business coalition dedicated to fighting climate change, has argued that ‘the way we produce and use energy must fundamentally change, both nationally and globally’—and that this coming change represents an excellent opportunity for economic growth.

“And that is why another coalition of 19 businesses, including the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Duke Energy, National Grid, H.P., Starbucks, and Nike, wrote to President Obama that this bill ‘will drive investment into cost-saving, energy saving technologies…create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy…[and] will provide the predictability we need to plan for future business success.’

“It’s long been understood that acting on global warming is a moral necessity—but now, more and more of us are realizing that it makes powerful economic sense, as well.

“Madam Speaker, a future of clean energy is well worth the price. My children, my grandchildren, and the generations to come will be either the beneficiaries of our stewardship, or the victims of our neglect. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill and put themselves on the side of progress and responsibility.”

Bartlett, who has crusaded for years on the energy issue, issued the following statement:

“I’ve never voted for a tax increase and that is the main reason why I could not support this bill. The Congressional Budget Office found this bill would force a massive redistribution of $1 trillion and increase federal government revenues by $24 billion. My constituents clearly understood that the cap and trade system in this bill is a gigantic hidden tax that they would end up paying. That’s why they were overwhelming opposed to it.‬‪

“I’m a scientist and I’ve studied this issue very carefully. I agree that emissions from burning fossil fuels pose a threat to our global environment by contributing to climate change. However, our dependence upon oil, especially imported oil poses a far graver and urgent threat to America’s economic prosperity and national security.

“It is a shame that the House majority chose to pursue a purely partisan process that produced a complex, convoluted, monstrosity of a bill. It grew by 600 pages in the past three days alone. It deserves to die from the weight of the games and back room deals. This bill is a monument to everything Americans hate about business as usual politics in Washington, DC.”‬‪

Actually, the CBO, whose analysis Bartlett cited, determined in a recent report that the House cap-and-trade legislation would cost the average American family about $165 a year.

The nation's wealthiest families would pay more. The nation's poorest families would actually benefit from the measure, by $40 a year, according to the recent CBO analysis.

Bartlett, of Frederick, is a leading spokesman for the "peak oil" movement, which maintains that most global petroleum supplies have already been tapped, or will be shortly. He is promoting a "green energy" event Monday in his district.

Posted by Paul West at 7:57 PM | | Comments (13)

Where in the world is Martin O’Malley, Kathy Griffin asks

Kathy Griffin, the trash-talking comedienne, took the stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion Thursday night and had a scintillating question for the audience: “Do you know where your governor is tonight?” As it turns out, the attendees might not have known, the governor isn't in Annapolis but on vacation.

And no, he’s not in Argentina or hiking the Appalachian Trail — he’s in the Adirondacks. O’Malley has been on a fishing trip with his 12-year-old son Will since Father’s Day, according to his press office. The duo has been throwing lines into Cranberry Lake in New York's Adirondacks State Park for their annual bonding retreat, spokesman Shaun Adamec said.

O’Malley’s press office has fielded several calls from the media in recent days about the governor’s exact whereabouts in light of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s disappearing act that sparked a national scandal. Adamec said most inquiries about O’Malley have been “tongue-in-cheek.”

Maryland's governor returns Saturday — just in time for another trip to a vacation spot, Ocean City. This time, O’Malley will be traveling for work to attend the Maryland Municipal League conference, an annual gathering of local leaders from around the state. Though, aides say, he also will get some beach time with this family. Ahhh, summer.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 11:17 AM | | Comments (6)

June 25, 2009

Michael's Steele's latest poll numbers are a positive surprise

Lee Atwater, a master of attack politics and onetime Republican national chairman, had this rule of thumb: Drive up your opponent's negative poll ratings high enough and you make that person unelectable.

So the following question might be particularly relevant as a severely battered Republican Party looks for someone who might be electable in 2012:

Which nationally known Republican has the lowest negatives in the latest Pew Research Center opinion survey: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michael Steele or Mitt Romney?

The answer: Maryland's Mike.


Okay, what if we narrow the focus and take the temperature of Republican voters only?

Palin goes from polarizing to highly popular. Her negatives drop sharply. Only 17 percent of Republicans rate her unfavorably, compared with 44 percent of all voters.

And which of our quartet of nationally known Republicans has the lowest negatives among Republican voters?

Once again, it's the Chairman.

But wait. These are trick questions, or misleading ones at best.

Let's look at the other half of the picture, the "favorable" ratings of the same nationally known politicians.

This time, Palin comes out on top. Steele, on the other hand, winds up in last place.

And that's the catch. Steele isn't nationally known. At least not very much.

Almost two out of three people aren't familiar enough with his name to venture an opinion

A majority of Americans (51 percent) said they'd never heard of Steele. Another 12 percent said they couldn't rate him.

Even among Republicans, a clear majority (58 percent) didn't know the man or couldn't rate him one way or the other. That's a useful reality check for close followers of politics (and cable TV news) who have this crazy idea that Michael Steele is a household name.

For the record, Steele got a favorable rating from 23 percent of all adults and 28 percent of Republicans.

Among all independents, Steele has two-to-one positives to negatives (26 percent favorable to 13 percent unfavorable). And even Democrats are no worse than evenly divided (19 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable).

But among Republicans, Steele's positive-to-negative ratio is weaker than that of either Gingrich (55-22), Romney (57-18) or Palin (73-17). Only 10 percent of Republicans, incidentally, didn't know Palin or couldn't rate her.

Younger voters and blacks are slightly more likely to be able to identify Steele, according to Pew. And conservative Republicans view the former Maryland lieutenant governor more positively (31 percent favorable versus 14 percent unfavorable) than moderates do (23-13).

By comparison, Palin got a thumbs up from 45 percent of all Americans and 73 percent of Republicans. But Romney got the headline in Pew's analysis because his image has improved since earlier this year, and now is net positive by 12 points among voting-age Americans.

Perhaps Steele's relative anonymity is why he wants to get together with the leader of the other party at the White House. That might help raise his profile. Steele's, that is.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at today's White House daily briefing about Steele's ambition to meet with the president. Steele wants to talk "about health care and a whole host of issues, especially since this administration has had such a wonderful Republican outreach. He wants to be one of those that the public and the President reaches out to," a reporter informed Gibbs.

Responded the Obama spokesman: "You know, I think the president has Republicans here at the White House today. I'd be interested to know what -- whether Mr. Steele believes that we can make progress working together or if the tone of his rhetoric is something that might prevent him from working constructively with the President of the United States."

Posted by Paul West at 4:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

Maryland nearly flunks disclosure of state lawmaker finances

Maryland still rates a “D” and when it comes to financial disclosure requirements for members of the General Assembly, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a national watchdog group. The Old Line State hasn’t improved its grade in the last several years.

The center has been reporting on disclosure in state legislatures since 1999, using a 43-question survey that measures public access to information on lawmakers’ employment, investments, personal finances, property holdings or other activities outside the legislature. Maryland has a citizen legislature, so most members return to their regular jobs when the 90-day regular session ends in April.

Maryland scored a 68.5 on a 100-point scale and ranked 23rd out of 50 states. That represents a slipping in the rankings from 2006 when Maryland was 21st. One aspect of Maryland’s disclosure laws that has irked watchdog groups is the requirement that citizens appear in person at the State Ethics Commission to obtain copies of financial reports. Some states offer the forms online.

Responses from Maryland to the center’s survey questions can be found here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)

Husband of blog post author comparing Obama to Hitler defends wife's views

The husband of an Anne Arundel County Republican woman who wrote a blog plosting comparing President Obama to Hitler said his wife's comments have been misunderstood, and that criticism is piling up.

Responding to a message for comment, Charles Thomann, the husband of Joyce Thomann, the president of the Anne Arundel County Republican Women's Club, said his wife was in Denver caring for her ailing 96-year-old mother and could not immediately comment.

A Republican member of the five-person Maryland State Board of Elections and an adjunct history professor at Anne Arundel Community College, Charles Thomann, speaking on behalf of his wife, defended the online letter comparing Obama and Hitler and said "It wasn't meant in the way people are taking it."

Thomann conceded that "maybe she wasn't as artful as she could have been," referring to his wife's comments, but said he and his wife view Obama's push of what they deem socialist programs similar to the way Adolf Hitler spread the Nazi ideals in Germany.

"The methods that [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [President] Obama are using to get the socialist view point across, is similar to what Hitlder did. And the German people regretted it. I just happen to be up on it. I happen to be a history teacher."

Thomann said his wife's email inbox is piled high with messages and he has been fielding angry calls from the public since news of the letter broke online. It has been linked from the Huffington Post and other outlets.

"We've gotten a lot of calls," Thomann said. "The liberal Democrats have really been pushing it. Most of it is very vitriolic. I think it's been completely misunderstood ... Once black woman, who said she was black, called and said, 'I really resent this because you're racist.' I told her we're not racist. We're delighted to have a black president. Heck, we'd like to see a woman president, too."

Kory Blake the chair of the Anne Arundel County Democratic party, said "That they would compare the president of the United States to the worst mass murderer in the history of the world, it's uncalled for and it's unncessary. It enforces, for me, the belief that the Republican party has been overtaken by an ideology of hate and they will do anything to try to discredit this president. Unfortunately, they carossed the line on this comparison. People all around the country are looking at Anne Arundel County and scratching their heads. It's appaling."

-- Nicole Fuller

Posted by David Nitkin at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)

June 24, 2009

GOP Women's Group in Anne Arundel County Compares Obama to Hitler

A letter posted online by a GOP women’s group from Anne Arundel County compares Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and criticizes the president’s push for health care reform. The letter from the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County is now bouncing around the blogosphere after being picked up by Think Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the lobbying arm of a think tank founded by longtime Democratic adviser John D. Podesta. The Huffington Post has since picked up the story.

The letter reads in part:
Dear Friends,
Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common in my view. Obama and Hitler use the “blitzkrieg” method to overwhelm their enemies. FAST, CARPET BOMBING intent on destruction. Hitler’s blitzkrieg bombing destroyed many European cities – quickly and effectively. Obama is systematically destroying the American economy and with it AMERICA. First the banking/investment industry, next private enterprise (GM and Chrysler) and now HEALTH CARE. And he is working on grabbing more of the American economy with his environmental extremism!
We too CAN fight back. Contact everyone you know. Start a blitzkrieg of our own. Shut down the Capitol switchboards and the White House switchboards! Say NO to the Obamination of Obama Care!

The GOP group then lists phone numbers and addresses for Congress and the White House, reminding readers that if they send snail mail, the letter “will first go to a decontamination area to make sure you aren’t sending anthrax or something else dangerous.”

An email to the contact address on the Web site was returned as undeliverable. The letter is posted at

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 12:19 PM | | Comments (18)

June 23, 2009

Batter Up: Lawmakers scored on various agendas

'Tis the season for scorecards. And I’m not talking about baseball. Around this time of year, after lobbyists and special interest groups have had time to regroup from the General Assembly session, they begin to assess how their agendas fared. Or rather, they rate how well state lawmakers did in enacting those agendas.

The Progressive Maryland Education Fund released its report Tuesday, scoring lawmakers using votes on nine bills, including public campaign financing, labor union service fees, mandatory shift breaks, and stronger regulation of energy markets. The fund is an offshoot of Progressive Maryland, a coalition of unions, community groups and clergy members that champions causes they deem important to working families.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the House of Delegates rated as more "progressive" than the Senate. But surprisingly, the group singled out Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, considered a more conservative Democrat than some of his liberal colleagues, as a "hero" for throwing his support behind public funding for political campaigns. House Speaker Michael E. Busch fell just shy of the score needed to be a hero.

To see the scorecard, click here.

Other groups that have released similar rankings include Equality Maryland, the leading organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Equality Maryland found the House of Delegates to be more gay-friendly on a range of legislation, from a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and a constitutional amendment banning it -- neither of which passed -- and other measures that confer certain spousal rights to same-sex couples. In the Senate, 14 of 47 members scored a zero, including one Democrat, Sen. James E. DeGrange of Anne Arundel County.

The gay-rights scorecard can be found here.

In keeping with the theme, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters also found the House to be a more receptive lot. A majority of delegates scored 80 percent or better, while a majority of senators scored less than that. The league tracked votes on a climate-change bill that passed and calls for 25 percent reduction in global-warming pollution by 2020 as well as measures that addressed stormwater runoff, septic tanks, energy efficient buildings and water pollution penalties.

That scorecard can be found here.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:47 PM | | Comments (4)

June 18, 2009

O'Malley vs. Constellation: Video blast reminiscent of campaign ads

In his latest offensive against Constellation Energy Group, Gov. Martin O’Malley has recorded a video message that was blasted via e-mail to tens of thousands of constituents and posted on his official Web site. The governor declares in the video: “We did not go looking for this fight.”

But he and the company have been at loggerheads for years. His video message evokes the Democrat’s campaign commercials from three years ago when he pledged to fight steep electricity rate increases by Constellation’s Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. Only this time the issue is a bit more nuanced.


This latest dust-up is related to Constellation’s proposal to sell half its nuclear assets to a French utility, Electricite de France. The state’s top energy regulator has asserted jurisdiction and begun hearings to determine if the deal is in the public’s interest. Constellation has cried foul, arguing that the intervention goes against an agreement it struck with state officials last year.

Meanwhile, O’Malley is trying to broker a settlement with Constellation and has taken particular aim at CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III’s employment contract that includes an $87 million golden parachute. While O’Malley calls the potential payout “outrageous,” Constellation has insisted it wouldn’t be triggered by the EDF deal and may never be paid out.

O’Malley was unable to stop the rate increases. The winner of this round remains to be seen.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 4:02 PM | | Comments (24)

Davis in holding pattern

U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis of Baltimore has waited almost a decade to move up the federal court ladder to the 4th Circuit appellate bench in Richmond, Va.

Looks like he'll have to wait a while longer.

Davis was nominated for the "Maryland" seat on the appeals court by Democrat Bill Clinton back in 2000, during the final months of his presidency. The nomination died when Republican George W. Bush moved into the White House.

This year, President Barack Obama revived the Davis nomination, and recently the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the 60-year-old judge for a confirmation vote by the full Senate.

And there his promotion is likely to sit, at least for several weeks, perhaps for months. Word from the Hill is that Republicans will block all federal judge nominations from coming up for a vote until the Senate is finished dealing with Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

That could take a while. Democrats would like Sotomayor to get confirmed before Congress heads out of town for its August recess. But the smart money says it will be September before there's a confirmation vote.

Historically, the 4th Circuit is considered the most conservative federal appellate court.

There are currently four vacancies on the 15-member court, including the seat that has historically gone to a Marylander. It has remained open for almost nine years, since the death of Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in August, 2000.

When Davis, a former Murnaghan clerk, was nominated by Clinton for the seat, he would have been the first African-American to serve on the Fourth Circuit. Since that time, two black judges have been nominated and confirmed, including Judge Roger L. Gregory, a Clinton nominee who was renominated by Bush and who became the first to break the color barrier.

Posted by Paul West at 11:54 AM | | Comments (0)

June 17, 2009

Sarbanes, Hucker, Mizeur get some Obama love

Former Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland and state legislators Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur were named to a pair of White House advisory panels yesterday.

President Barack Obama appointed Sarbanes, who retired after the 2006 election, to the 28-member President's Commission on White House Fellowships.

The group will meet in Washington this week to select the annual crop of White House fellows, the governmental equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship for talented, upwardly mobile young leaders. (Sarbanes is just one of several actual ex-Rhodes Scholars named today to the commission by Obama).

Winners--less than 20 out of more than 1,000 applicants--will get a high-level job at the White House or other executive branch offices and a priceless entry for their resume.

The Maryland Democrat is in distinguished company as a new commission member. Included are retired Gen. Wesley Clark (an alumnus of the program from 1975-76 and a commissioner during Bill Clinton's presidency), retired TV news anchor Tom Brokaw, retired Sen. (retired involuntary, unlike Sarbanes) Tom Daschle, public radio host John Hockenberry, sculptor (and creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington) Maya Lin, fellow Marylander John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management (actually, he defected and lives in DC now) and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe.

But by far the most interesting person to get picked was Maya Soetoro-Ng, who has taught multicultural education and educational theory at the University of Hawaii. She will soon publish "Ladder to the Moon," a children's book, and is at work on another book, about high school, called "Peace Education." Oh, and she also happens to be the president's half-sister.

Dels. Hucker and Mizeur, who came all the way from the Maryland suburbs, not Hawaii, to attend a White House meeting today about health care reform, got named to a brand new panel for their troubles.

It's called State Legislators for Health Reform, and its task will be to sell Obama's plan for overhauling the nation's health care system. Or, as the White House put it, they "will educate their communities on the need for health reform this year." They are to "host public events, author opinion pieces in local publications and use their established networks to organize constituents in support of health reform."

Considering the decidedly liberal leanings of their Montgomery County districts, that shouldn't be a heavy lift for Tom and Heather.

Posted by Paul West at 6:23 PM | | Comments (0)

June 16, 2009

Bartlett, Edwards reject war supplemental

Conservative Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick and liberal Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince Georges County--the ideological bookends of the state's congressional delegation--were the only Marylanders to vote against a $106 billion measure to insure continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The measure was approved relatively narrowly this evening, by a vote of 226 to 202. House leaders scrambled to persuade reluctant Democrats to support it, after Republicans defected en masse.

Edwards' "no" vote was consistent with her earlier opposition to the measure when it came before the House several weeks ago. Elected as an antiwar candidate, Edwards has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's policy in Afghanistan.

The measure provides about $80 billion for defense activities in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of September.

Bartlett, like most House Republicans, flip-flopped, joining 32 Democratic liberals in opposing the measure. Only five Republicans voted "yes" today, while most opposed a measure that they had supported last month.

Bartlett, who prizes himself on political independence, was snubbed last week by party leaders in the House. They passed him over for a powerful Armed Services Committee position in favor of a fellow Republican with less seniority that some leaders saw as a better spokesman for their party.

The Republican who got the leadership post Bartlett had sought, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of Los Angeles, contended that Democrats were endangering troops by shifting money to create room for a "global bailout loan program" in the supplemental spending measure that won approval today.

Republicans voted against legislation that primarily went for national defense. It contained funding for uniformed troops in combat zones, $534 million in bonuses for military personnel whose enlistments have been involuntarily extended and $2.17 billion for eight C-17 transport planes. In addition, there was $7.7 billion for Swine Flu preparations and $1 billion for a "cash-for-clunkers" plan.

The main reason for Republican opposition: the revised measure also contained $5 billion in International Monetary Fund aid to poor countries.

Republicans also objected to the removal of a provision that would prohibit the release of pictures that show U.S. troops abusing detainees. Obama has promised he would not allow the photos to be made public.

Congress added the IMF money, at Obama's request, in order to make good on the president's pledge, on his first overseas trip, that the United States would contribute to the global anti-recession fund.

Bartlett opposed the measure because the provision dealing with detainees photos had been removed and because "more than $28.7 billion of non-war spending" was included that was not offset by spending reductions elsewhere, said Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman. "Overall, the legislation exceeded the President's original request by $20.9 billion or 24.6%."

Most of that money was added at Obama's request, however, for the IMF and to prepare for the Swine Flu pandemic.

Democrats, using the sort of language that Republicans employed during President George W. Bush's administration when the shoe was on the other foot, attacked the national-security credentials of Republicans who voted against the emergency funding legislation.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, in a floor speech near the close of debate, said that Republicans "have attacked the IMF with arguments that are downright demagogic—arguments that, if taken seriously, would leave the world a much less stable place.

“They are wrong to argue that this money could go to Iran, Venezuela, Burma, Zimbabwe, or even Hezbollah. Iran, Venezuela, Burma, and Zimbabwe do not currently borrow from the IMF, and they have not borrowed recently. Zimbabwe even had its IMF voting rights suspended. And the IMF stated categorically that it has not negotiated with Hezbollah on a loan—an outcome that is, in any case, even less likely after this week’s election in Lebanon. Further, if the IMF were even to consider a loan to one of those unsavory states, the United States and its allies could block it. The U.S. alone controls more than 17% of all IMF votes, a number based on our contributions to the IMF. And legislation like this only strengthens our influence there."

Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County said that Obama and the Democratic-led Congress "are committed to providing for our troops and their families." He noted that the measure approved by the House today "allows the extension of the new GI-Bill benefits to children of members of the armed forces who die while on active duty."

Added Van Hollen, in a statement released after the vote, "Congress is working with President Obama every day to keep our nation safe – the Supplemental Conference Report passed today is a key piece of that effort. We urge Republicans to join us in this effort instead of just saying no.”

Aside from Edwards and Bartlett, the House members from Maryland, all Democrats, voted in favor of the war funding bill today, as they did in May.

Posted by Paul West at 7:06 PM | | Comments (2)

Archdiocese planning rally for immigration reform

The Revs. Robert Wojtek and Joseph Muth will lead a rally for comprehensive immigration reform Wednesday in Baltimore before leading a pair buses to Washington for an interfaith prayer vigil with members of Congress and faith leaders from throughout the country.

The Baltimore rally is set for noon in front of St. Patrick Church at the intersection of Bank Street and Broadway in Fells Point. Wojtek and Muth will speak on behalf of Archbiship Edwin F. O’Brien and the Archdiocesan Immigration Coalition; the buses will leave for D.C. at 12:30 p.m.

In a 2007 letter, the top bishops of Baltimore, Washington and Wilmington, Del. – the three dioceses that operate in Maryland – urged Catholics “to consider prayerfully the question of immigration, including illegal immigration.”

“The rule of law must be respected,” they wrote. “The discussion, however, cannot end there. Undocumented immigrants are persons with dignity — a reality that obliges us to learn about the immigration system, understand the motivation for migration, and consider the needs of individuals and families. Our American ideals call us to participate in the public debate; our Catholic faith urges us to do so with charity.”

Read more on Catholic teaching on immigration from the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:17 PM | | Comments (0)

Top Baltimorean in Obama Admin officially joins today

Gary Gensler, a Democratic fund-raiser and policymaker from Baltimore, will be sworn in today as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Vice President Joe Biden will do the honors this afternoon in a private ceremony.

Gensler's agency oversees trading in everything from farm products, like soybeans, to some of the once-obscure financial instruments that have been widely blamed for touching off last year's financial market collapse. His nomination was held up for weeks by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who opposed Gensler because the Marylander helped prevent regulation of those financial products when he worked at the Treasury department during President Bill Clinton's administration.

There had been speculation that Gensler's tenure at the CFTC would be short-lived. Reformers have long wanted to see the agency folded into the Securities and Exchange Commission, to simplify regulation of the markets, and expected President Barack Obama to finally make it happen.

Instead, in a shocking development, Washington politics of the most basic sort blocked the reform effort.

The CFTC is overseen in Congress by the Agriculture committees. The SEC is the responsibility of different committees (Senate Finance and House Ways and Means). That means Agriculture committee members would lose a lucrative source of campaign contributions if the CFTC went out of business.

According to various media accounts, the Obama administration decided that it didn't want to fight another battle with Congress at the same time it was attempting to overhaul the health care system and impose a cap-and-trade system on the energy sector of the economy. So when Obama announces his sweeping financial reform package on Wednesday, there is expected to be no change in the CFTC's status.

Gensler, a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, advised Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes during the early years of the last Bush administration when the Democratic senator was drafting a broad new accounting law that came to be known as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Before entering politics, Gensler was a successful investment banker, becoming a partner at Goldman Sachs at age 30.

Posted by Paul West at 9:57 AM | | Comments (0)

June 12, 2009

O'Malley on the go and the taxpayer cost

Gov. Martin O’Malley is home from his European tour after traveling from the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day Anniversary to Bosnia and Estonia for a cultural exchange and to Sweden on a trade mission. The trip begs the question — as all international travel done in the name of state business does — what’s the taxpayer tab for the governor’s travel, meals and other expenses?

The answer from O’Malley’s office: about $8,000.

And that could be a bargain, says spokesman Shaun Adamec. “It could easily pay for itself,” he said. Consider that the governor spent part of his time in Sweden with Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson discussing an international partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, Sweden’s Energy Agency and Volvo to advance hybrid technology. Much of the research and development is slated to take place at Volvo’s Hagerstown facility, Adamec noted.

O’Malley also met with about 20 Swedish clean technology companies looking to expand in the United States, including a company that’s using poultry manure as a fuel source. (There’s plenty of chicken poop on Maryland’s poultry operations.) And he had breakfast with officials from the biotechnology industry, laying the groundwork for Swedish delegation to visit Maryland later this year. So these travels may yield jobs in Maryland, the governor’s office contends.

NOTE: As of this time last year, O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown had spent more than $172,000 in taxpayer dollars since taking office on trips for state business and political events around the county, and to foreign locales from Ireland to China, according to records obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 2:11 PM | | Comments (4)

June 9, 2009

Republican Bartlett gets vote of no confidence

House Republicans passed over Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland this afternoon in choosing the new top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

The powerful post of ranking Republican went, instead, to Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California, who came to Congress the same year as Bartlett but is a more junior member of the committee.

The closed-door decision was a vote of no confidence in Bartlett by House Republican leaders, who usually follow seniority in assigning top committee positions.

Bartlett reacted bitterly to the defeat.

“Not for the first time, big state and big money politics trumped experience, independent judgment and dedication to the legislative work of a committee," the western Maryland congressman said in a statement. "My priorities are unchanged. I remain focused and committed to protecting our country and our men and women in uniform.”

Bartlett's complaint about "big money" was a reference to House Minority Leader John Boehner's history of promoting junior House members who have raised more money for the party over those with more seniority, said Lisa Wright, a Bartlett aide.

One House Republican insider said Bartlett was never a serious contender in the three-way contest. The western Maryland representative is regarded as eccentric by colleagues, he said, and has not always been in step with his party on key national security issues in recent years.

The congressman from Frederick was one of just seven Republicans to oppose a 2006 measure, supported by the Bush administration and passed by the Republican-led Congress, that allowed the U.S. to suspend habeas corpus rights for detainees.

Bartlett began his campaign for the committee leadership job last week, after Democratic President Barack Obama unexpectedly chose Republican Rep. John McHugh of New York to be the next Secretary of the Army.

McHugh was the top-ranking Republican on Armed Services, a position that controls a number of committee perks and is a high-profile perch for a member of the loyal opposition.

Based on seniority, Bartlett was next in line to McHugh and the Marylander based his case on the seniority issue.

In a statement last week, Bartlett said: "I have great confidence that the House Republican Leader John Boehner and my other colleagues will recognize the importance of ensuring continuity and pay close attention to my 17 years on the House Armed Services Committee and my leadership the last six and a half years, as Chairman or Ranking Member of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and the Air and Land Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee."

Seniority, however, did not turn out to be the controlling factor.

Two other Republicans competed for the job--McKeon and Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas. McKeon is currently the top-ranking Republican on a less prestigious panel, Education and Labor, and like Thornberry, a member of Armed Services for 14 years, three less than Bartlett.

The three candidates delivered pitches for the job this afternoon at a closed session of the 27-member House Republican Steering Committee, which is controlled by Boehner and his top leadership team.

Thornberry's main argument revolved around his more active role as a member of Armed Services (in contrast to McKeon), his opposition to earmarking (in contrast to McKeon and Bartlett) and his contention that he would be the most effective Republican advocate on defense issues.

Bartlett, 83, is the oldest member of the Maryland congressional delegation. He is also the lone Republican.

He's already said he'll seek another term from his western Maryland district next year. First elected in 1992, Bartlett is expected to have little trouble fending off a Democratic challenge.

Posted by Paul West at 4:40 PM | | Comments (3)

PAYGO a MEGO but Obama, Hoyer on board

With voters and financial markets increasingly worried about an explosion of federal debt, President Barack Obama will stage an event at the White House this afternoon. The purpose: to advertise his concern and let the public know he intends to do something about it.

Actually making a difference, however, won't be easy.

Obama will be promoting pay-as-you-go budget rules in new spending and tax measures, known as PAYGO for short.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer will be among a group of 40 lawmakers, including centrist and conservative Democrats, attending the event. The Maryland congressman said today that he'll be the main sponsor of Obama's proposal in the House.

PAYGO is a MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over)--a classic, processy Washington deal, lacking in sex appeal. In other words, it's something that most voters know little, if anything, about and could care less. Which means it just might be one of those things that could have a big impact on peoples' lives.

The theory behind PAYGO is (deceptively) simple: Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere.

Hoyer, at his weekly press conference today, made the argument for why people should care. Obama will elaborate this afternoon.

PAYGO, a Republican invention, requires Congress to approve new taxes or spending cuts to pay for any new benefit programs. The idea has been credited with helping restrain deficit spending in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president (and the last time the federal government ran a surplus). Under PAYGO if Congress doesn't act to offset the expense of any new benefit, benefit programs are automatically cut.

Hoyer blames Republicans, who controlled the White House and Congress for much of the George W. Bush era, with abandoning fiscal restraint because, otherwise, "they could not afford their tax cuts."

The Marylander has been on a fiscal responsibility crusade lately, arguing that Washington needs to start moving on the looming tsunami of red ink, in the form of steadily rising costs of government benefit programs, which will be aggravated by the retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

PAYGO, he said, "is not the answer" to reducing the deficit. "It is only one tool in the fiscal responsibility toolbox."

The Obama/Hoyer plan, which is intended to make PAYGO the law of the land (and not merely a procedural rule), faces several problems: First, implementing it. Second, preventing it from becoming shot full of holes, to the point that it would be little more than a fig leaf for Washington to keep spending money it doesn't have.

It starts out with loopholes for the future costs of some of the most expensive items in Obama's stimulus package--including the annual fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax, designed to protect many in the middle class, and Obama's own middle-class tax cut. Also getting an exemption: Medicare payments to doctors and estate tax provisions of the Bush tax cuts.

Those loopholes highlight the ultimate weakness of PAYGO--Congress can, and does, regularly approve exceptions (waivers), which weakens its effectiveness. Blue Dog Democrats--those on the conservative end of the liberal House Democratic caucus--are among those who object to those loopholes (some Blue Dogs will also be among the guests at the White House ceremony).

Hoyer pointed out that the House leadership has said it would not accept any measures for final approval that contain Senate provisions which don't comply with PAYGO rules.

Which raises another significant hurdle: there is no indication at this point that the Senate is willing to go along with the plan to write PAYGO rules into law. Exactly one senator, freshman Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri, was on the White House list for today's ceremony.

Hoyer indicated that it would be up to Obama to use his bully pulpit to bring reluctant senators along.

The president seems motivated to act--by slippage in his poll numbers. Today's event is the second in two days to focus on rising public discontent with his economic policies (on Monday, he talked about ramping up the implementation of stimulus spending this summer).

A number of recent public opinion surveys show that the public gives Obama his lowest marks on handling the economy (even as they become more optimistic about economic trends), though his popularity and overall job approval ratings remain high.

"Americans have become increasingly less positive about Obama's handling of the economy in recent months, and are most negative when asked to say whether they approve of his handling of the federal deficit and federal spending," according to Gallup.

Republicans were quick to underscore that point.

“It seems a tad disingenuous for the President and Speaker Pelosi to talk about PAYGO rules after ramming trillions in spending through Congress proposing policies that create more debt in the first six months of this year than in the previous 220 years combined," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a statement. "It’s as if the Administration and these Democrat leaders are living in an alternate universe. The quickest way to save money is to stop recklessly spending it. The Administration's sudden focus on PAYGO seems more driven by polling and PR strategy than a serious commitment to fiscal discipline."

Translation: Don't expect Republicans to go along with this particular plan.

Posted by Paul West at 11:57 AM | | Comments (3)

June 8, 2009

C Day looms for Roscoe Bartlett

D-Day was last Saturday, June 6. But for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the only Republican left in the state's congressional delegation, "C Day" -- for "Committee"-- is Tuesday.

That's when the Republican steering committee is expected to decide who gets the top Republican spot on the House Armed Services Committee.

Bartlett, as "Maryland Politics" reported last week, is angling to replace Rep. John McHugh of New York as the ranking Republican on the panel. McHugh is President Barack Obama's pick for Army secretary.

But two other Republicans have emerged as rivals for the post, and it's by no means clear that Bartlett's seniority will be enough to land him the powerful seat at the top of the minority side of House Armed Services.

Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas and Rep. Buck McKeon of California also have their sights on the job.

The senior seat on the panel brings with it a number of perks, including the right to decide who gets to sit on which subcommittee and who gets some key staff jobs. It also makes the holder of that chair a leading Republican voice in opposition to the Democratic majority, as Politico reports.

McHugh, first elected to Congress the same year (1992) as Bartlett, was the preferred pick of House GOP leaders for the job when the current session began.

The 83-year-old Frederick Republican is already running for another term. The outcome of the tussle for the committee post won't have much impact on that contest (he's considered a shoo-in).

But if he gets aced-out, it would be a very public blow to his status in Congress. At the very least, that would provide his Democratic opponent in 2010 with some useful talking points on the campaign trail.

Posted by Paul West at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)

June 5, 2009

Martin O'Malley and Gary Hart: Together again

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who got his start in politics as a 20-year-old volunteer for Gary Hart, is joining the former presidential candidate as a member of a Department of Homeland Security advisory panel.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new members of her advisory council at a meeting today in Albuquerque, N.M. Former CIA and FBI Director William Webster chairs the group and Hart is vice-chairman.

Legend has it that Hart bought O'Malley his first legal beer at age 21, and it's fair to say that, a quarter-century later, the Maryland governor may have more of a future on the national scene than Hart, who co-chaired a national commission on terrorism under President Bill Clinton and now makes his contribution largely as a writer on policy matters.

O'Malley recently attended a White House session with President Barack Obama on cyber-terrorism, in his role as chairman of the National Governors Association homeland security committee. Since his days as Baltimore's mayor, O'Malley has sought to carve out a role for himself on homeland security and terrorism issues in the post 9/11 environment.

The federal homeland security advisory council has met several times annually in recent years. The current group includes a wide range of individuals, including President George W. Bush's former counter-terrorism advisor, Frances Fragos Townsend, and Lee Hamilton, who co-chaired the 9/11 commission and also served on Hart's commission back in 1998.

Here's a complete list of the council members, as provided by the Department of Homeland Security:

William “Bill” Webster (Chair) is a retired partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP. Judge Webster previously served as Director of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Gary Hart (Vice Chair) is Chairman of the American Security Project. The former senator from Colorado served on the Hart-Rudman Commission and is an advisory board member for the Partnership for a Secure America.

Norman “Norm” Augustine is a retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. Augustine served as chairman and principal officer of the American Red Cross. He was a member of the Hart-Rudman Commission and has been honored five times with the Department of Defense’s highest civilian decoration, the Distinguished Service Medal.

Leroy “Lee” Baca is Sheriff of Los Angeles County. He serves on the boards of directors for the Optimist Youth Homes and Ranch, Puente Learning Center, Buena Nueva Foundation, EMEK Hebrew Academy, and Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, and as well as the University of Southern California Alumni Association board of governors.

Richard “Dick” Cañas is Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Cañas has served as Director of the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), Special Assistant to the CIA’s Latin American section, and on the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Kenneth “Chuck” Canterbury is National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. Prior to his service as President, Canterbury spent 25 years with the Horry County Police Department of Conway, S.C.

Jared “Jerry” Cohon is President of Carnegie Mellon University. Cohon served as a Legislative Assistant for energy and the environment for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

Ruth David is President and CEO of ANSER. Previously, David served as CIA Deputy Director for Science and Technology and represented the CIA on numerous national committees and advisory bodies, including the National Science and Technology Council and the Committee on National Security.

Manny Diaz is mayor of Miami and President of the United States Conference of Mayors. Diaz is also a partner in the law firm of Diaz & O’Naghten, L.L.P.

Clark Kent Ervin is Director of the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Program. He served as the first Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Louis Freeh is Senior Managing Partner of Freeh Group International. He served as the FBI Director and as a Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Ellen Gordon is Associate Director and Faculty for the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Gordon previously served as the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administrator for the state of Iowa.

Lee Hamilton is President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Hamilton spent 34 years in Congress, representing Indiana's Ninth District and served on the Hart-Rudman Commission and as vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission.

Raymond Kelly is the Police Commissioner of the City of New York. Kelly formerly served as Senior Managing Director of Global Corporate Security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. Previously, he served as Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service and as Under Secretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department.

John Magaw is a Domestic and International Security Consultant who most recently served as the Under Secretary for Security at the Department of Transportation. Magaw has served as Acting Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and Director of the U.S. Secret Service.

Jeff Moss is Founder and Director of Black Hat and DEFCON Computer Hacker Conferences. Moss has also worked for Ernst & Young, LLP in their Information System Security division.

Martin O’Malley is Governor of Maryland. Governor O’Malley previously served as Assistant State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, as a member of the Baltimore City Council, and Mayor of Baltimore City.

Sonny Perdue is Governor of Georgia. Previously, he was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, a member of the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board and a member of the Georgia State Senate.

Harold Schaitberger is General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. He also serves as a vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and on the AFL-CIO Executive Committee, where he is a vice president of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.

Joe Shirley, Jr. is President of the Navajo Nation. He also served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the President's Commission of Sustainable Communities in Washington, D.C.

Kareem Shora is National Executive Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). In 2008, he was selected by the Ford Foundation as a member of the Foreign Policy Task Force.

Lydia Thomas is a trustee of Noblis, Inc. She is a member of the Virginia Governor’s Commission on Climate Change and serves on the Board of Directors of the Cabot Corporation, the United States Energy Association, and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Frances Fragos Townsend is a partner at Baker Botts, L.L.P. She previously served as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Assistant District Attorney.

Chuck Wexler is Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum. Wexler was an assistant to the nation’s first Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Operations Assistant to the Boston Police Commissioner.

John “Skip” Williams is Provost of The George Washington University (GWU) and serves as Vice President for Health Affairs at the GWU Medical Center. In 2002, the Republic of Panama bestowed the Order of Vasco Nunez de Balboa on Williams for his efforts to create the International Center for Tropical Diseases and Genomic Studies.

Ex Officio members:

Edward Mueller is President and CEO of Qwest. Mueller previously served as CEO of Williams-Sonoma and currently serves as a Director of The Clorox Company and McKesson Corporation.

Erle Nye is Chairman Emeritus of TXU Corp. Nye served on the advisory committee to the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection and on the U. S. Department of Energy’s Electric System Reliability Task Force. He is also a member of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.

Posted by Paul West at 6:16 PM | | Comments (2)

June 3, 2009

Anne Arundel GOP picks Reilly to replace Greenip in Maryland Senate

Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Edward R. Reilly has been tapped to replace retiring Maryland Sen. Janet Greenip by the county Republican Central Committee.

Reilly, a Crofton resident and insurance agent, told Sun reporter Nicole Fuller that he owed his victory to Greenip, who endorsed him, and to former state Del. David G. Boschert, who bowed out during the voting process and threw his support to Reilly. The committee’s choice will be sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will officially make the appointment.

“On the county council, we do 90 to 95 bills a year,” Reilly said. “In one legislative session, they do a thousand bills. Luckily, they break it down to committees. Luckily, for me, Janet will be available for consulting. I have someone I can rely on.”

Once Reilly resigns from his current post, applicants will be sought and voted on by the council.

The central committee voted 8-5 late Tuesday for Reilly over a number of candidates, including state Del. James J. King, another Anne Arundel Republican looking to move from the people’s house to the more exclusive Senate chamber. A high school teacher and another insurance agent also applied.

Alan Rzepkowski, the county’s Republican Central Committee chairman, said: “All of the candidates were very well-qualified, and it was a tough decision.”

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 4:14 PM | | Comments (1)

Cardin on Sotomayor: Mark him down as a "yes"

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, on her second day of courtesy calls on Capitol Hill, met today with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.

The Maryland Democrat, a member of the Judiciary committee, went out on a limb and described the Appeals Court judge from New York as "very impressive," with an "incredible" resume.

He did not say, of course, how he'll vote after the Judiciary committee holds its confirmation hearing sometime this summer. Otherwise, why bother to have that session, with its intense media coverage, quotes in the paper, pictures on the TV news, cable chat appearances, and so on?

But it's safe to assume that Cardin (and the rest of the panel's Democrats) will give her a big thumbs up, unless someone uncovers a murder weapon with Sotomayor's fingerprints on it sometime in the next few weeks.

"Our conversation was very forthright. We talked about a wide range of issues including the protections found in the Constitution. I found her responses to be very frank and open," the Democratic senator said.

In the prepared statement, released after the meeting in his office (though it could have been written in advance), Cardin said he was "impressed by her candor and willingness to answer my questions about how she would go about deciding constitutional issues that might come before her, should she be confirmed."

Should she be confirmed, Sotomayor would, be the first Hispanic justice, only the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court and the first selection by a Democratic president to join the conservative court in more than 15 years.

Cardin didn't say whether he and Sotomayor discussed her views on abortion (highly unlikely). But he did, in general terms, describe what his own litmus test would be: "ensuring that the next Supreme Court justice is a leader who holds a passion for the protections found in our Constitution and wioll uphold the precedents of the Court.

"I want the next justice to have a clear record of standing up for civil rights and civil liberties, as the court is the last refuge for the individual to stand up for abuses of government power."

Plenty of maneuvering room there for Sotomayor (or just about anybody else that Obama would be likely to send up) to win Cardin's approval. And no word on either the senator or the judge touched any of the cookies that were thoughtfully laid out for their tete-a-tete.

Posted by Paul West at 2:39 PM | | Comments (3)

Bartlett makes his pitch for a promotion

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland is in line to be the top-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, thanks to President Barack Obama's decision to pluck Republican Rep. John M. McHugh from the ranks of Congress to be his Secretary of the Army.

Bartlett, who is second in seniority to McHugh among committee Republicans, would be the logical choice to replace the New Yorker as the ranking member of the panel, since seniority typically determines who gets such leadership positions. But a promotion isn't automatic.

The House Republican steering committee, which is under the control of Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, will make the decision.

Were Bartlett to be passed over, it would be a severe blow to his status--a tacit acknowledgment that, for whatever reason, his Republican colleagues considered him unqualified for the job.

The job of ranking minority member on House Armed Services is a significant power slot. The committee is among the most influential on Capitol Hill,where the Democratic majority has ultimate control.

Among the perquisites of the ranking Republican member is the right to decide which committee Republicans serve on the various subcommittees of Armed Services. The ranking member also has the right to sit as a member of any or all subcommittees and holds sway over the minority committee staff.

Bartlett, in a statement released by his office, delivered a blunt pitch for the job:

"With an ongoing war against terrorism on two fronts in Iraq and
Afghanistan and the imminent beginning of markup of the annual Defense
Authorization bill, I have great confidence that the House Republican
Leader John Boehner and my other colleagues will recognize the
importance of ensuring continuity and pay close attention to my 17 years
on the House Armed Services Committee and my leadership the last six and
a half years, as Chairman or Ranking Member of the Seapower and
Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee and the Air and Land Subcommittee of
the House Armed Services Committee," Bartlett said.

"In addition, my 20 years of
experience in research and development for the military with 19 military
patents, and my advocacy for entrepreneurial innovation are well known
and respected," the Frederick Republican added.

Bartlett, who marks his 83rd birthday today, is the last Republican left in the state's congressional delegation. He recently confirmed that he will seek a 10th term in Congress next year. Given his western Maryland district's conservative Republican tilt, he is regarded as a virtual cinch for re-election.

Bartlett praised McHugh's selection to be Army secretary.

"John and I worked together on the House Armed Services Committee since
we were elected to the Congress," he said. "John's knowledge and dedication to our
soldiers was unmatched in his years of leadership on the Personnel
Subcommittee. I fully expect that our colleagues in the Senate will
confirm him quickly.

Posted by Paul West at 8:10 AM | | Comments (0)

June 2, 2009

Franchot pledges to tweet Board of Public Works -- but not while he does his job

Never one to miss an opportunity to be in the public eye, Comptroller Peter Franchot has been an avid Tweeter in recent weeks, posting thoughts about hockey, his dog’s looks and his son’s birthday on He also uses the popular social-networking tool, which allows users to broadcast thoughts in 140 characters or less, to discuss his job.

In that vein, Maryland’s chief tax collector announced Tuesday that he would be tweeting about the Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday. He said in e-mail to supporters: “I believe it's critical for people to be connected with their elected officials, and it's why I'm using Twitter to reach out. So, please, follow us at tomorrow!”

It didn’t take long for a Twitterer named technosailor, or Aaron Brazell from Bethesda, to point out that Congress caught a lot of flak for tweeting during President Obama’s State of the Union address. And it didn’t take long — a matter of minutes — for Franchot to respond that he wouldn’t be multi-tasking during the Board of Public Works, which has purview over state contracts. Rather, he and his staff would be doing the tweeting before and after the meeting.

So goes today’s real-time public policy debate.

Posted by Laura Smitherman at 5:32 PM | | Comments (0)

June 1, 2009

Roscoe Bartlett going for a tenth term

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the lone Republican in the state's congressional delegation, confirmed Monday that he is running for a tenth term in 2010.

Bartlett, also the oldest Marylander in Congress, said through an aide that he wants to keep the seat he first won in 1992.

A formal announcement will come "some time in the future," said spokeswoman Lisa Wright.

Bartlett had already begun raising money for a re-election run. He is considered a heavy favorite to win his largely Republican district, which extends along the Mason-Dixon line from northern Harford and Baltimore counties through all of Western Maryland. Last fall, Barack Obama lost the district badly to John McCain while carrying the rest of the state by roughly two-to-one.

The Frederick congressman confirmed his plans in response to an expected announcement Monday evening by Andrew Duck, a Democrat, that he wants a rematch with Bartlett. In 2006, Duck drew 38 percent of the vote after getting outspent two-to-one by the incumbent.

Duck, a career Army intelligence officer, lost the 2008 Democratic primary by about 4,300 votes to Jennifer Dougherty, a former Frederick mayor. She went on to lose the general election to Bartlett, who received almost 58 percent of the vote.

Bartlett, who turns 83 on Wednesday, had $325,939 in his campaign account as of March 31, the most recent date for which Federal Election Commission data is available.

That's considerably more than he spent in his entire 2008 re-election campaign.

Bartlett's spending last time was unusually modest for an incumbent in a contested race--just over $200,000. His low-budget election victory was a reflection of his popularity in the conservative district and a clear sign that Duck or some other Democrat faces a very steep challenge in trying to unseat him.

Posted by Paul West at 4:48 PM | | Comments (2)
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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