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Another FBI Raid

by: Eric Luedtke

Mon Sep 15, 2008 at 07:02 AM EDT

First the FBI was looking into Ulysses Currie, then Nathaniel Exum, now it's former Prince George's County Council Member Thomas Hendershot and a fire department figure. The Post says they're looking into zoning changes that allowed for a massive new development near the Greenbelt Metro Station. At this rate, Prince George's County is starting to look like Maryland's version of Louisiana.
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The State of the Slots Debate

by: Eric Luedtke

Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 09:38 AM EDT

The Sun has a good piece on the slots debate heating up. We had a long lull, but now that we're past Labor Day things are going to be moving pretty quickly. The most interesting part of the article, for me, was this:

"I'm a proponent in a major, active way," O'Malley said during a radio appearance last week, explaining his stance on slots. But he added: "I will not demagogue on it. I don't believe, as some have said in the past, that the only way to fund essential government services is through gambling. I don't subscribe to that."But O'Malley, whose job approval rating bounced from a low of 37 percent in March to 45 percent this month in the Gonzales poll, faces a dilemma over whether to become the face of the pro-slots movement.

If the slots measure loses, the failure could be seen as a midterm election loss.

Slots are a lot more popular among Republicans than among Democrats and Independents. In other words, the referendum could easily become an albatross around O'Malley's neck, both in a primary and in a general, the former because angry Democratic voters could revolt and the latter because they could decide that volunteering isn't worth it, handing the race to a Republican Party on the positive end of an enthusiasm gap.

One very smart politician I talk to once told me that he thinks of the Democratic base in Maryland in terms of three groups:

- Dedicated Democrats: white middle to upper class dems mostly west of 95

- Demographic Democrats: black and latino voters, concentrated in Prince George's County, Baltimore City, and a strip of eastern Montgomery

- Dundalk Democrats: white working class voters mostly east of 95

According to his theory, O'Malley feels confident about the first two groups. He doesn't think middle and upper class progressives or the black communities will ever leave the party, so he focuses on the Dundalk Democrats. According to my politician firned: "We are now living under the Dundalk principle. We can only do things that play in Dundalk."

Unfortunately for O'Malley, this is a pretty myopic view. You've got to keep all portions of the base happy, and slots is an issue that deeply divides them. And what's more, on slots, O'Malley is on the wrong side of the enthusiasm gap. It's exactly those dedicated dems, many of them staunchly progressive, and the black church-going voters who most hate the idea of bringing gambling parlors to Maryland. And they're a lot more passionate about the issue than those who like the idea of slots.  

On the other hand, O'Malley's pretty strongly associated with slots. So perhaps ratcheting up that association won't really change much in voters minds. How do I know? If you looked closely at the cross-tabs from the Gonzales Poll, you saw something really interesting. Both Democrats (48-44) and Republicans (53-38) support the referendum, but Independents oppose it by a 14% margin. There are only two reasons I can think of the Damocrats support it despite the more reasoned and reasonable opposition of independents - either the fear-mongering about service cuts has worked or, more likely from my perspective, there are a lot of Democrats who don't feel strongly either way and are simply following O'Malley's leadership. So not only do I think O'Malley is tied to this thing, but I think his association with it is the major thing keeping the referendum afloat right now.

But, form a purely political perspective, there are really four options here for O'Malley at this point:

A. O'Malley supports slots more strongly, and they pass, in which case he gets slots but has still alienated big chunks of his base.

B. O'Malley supports slots more strongly, and they fail, in which case he both alienates his base and looks ineffective.

C. O'Malley backs off on slots, and they fail, in which case the base isn't so annoyed at him but Mike Miller and pro-slots Democrats are.

D. O'Malley backs off on slots, and they pass, in which case Mike Miller may still be annoyed at him, but the base is happier and pro-slots Dems got what they wanted anyway.

I guess you could also make a couple options for whether O'Malley gets the lion's share of blame for the referendum's passage or failure. But that's getting a little complex for a Sunday morning. As to the four options above, though, it seems to me like a fairly obvious choice. Backing off the issue some reduces the political risks considerably. But, then, I'm biased. 

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Why I Now Love the View

by: Eric Luedtke

Sat Sep 13, 2008 at 08:44 AM EDT

The View seems to have finally done the traditional media's job, by calling McCain to account for his lies. It's worth watching:

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Miller, Franchot at Each Other's Throats

by: Eric Luedtke

Sat Sep 13, 2008 at 07:08 AM EDT

 If this were a couple hundred years ago, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Senate President Mike Miller would be meeting some dark night on the Bladensburg dueling grounds. The spat between Miller and Franchot has reached a new, childish low, as the've exchanged a pair of nasty letters. Miller accused Franchot of rank amateurism and of arguing against things now that he has supported in the past. Franchot , for his part, responded to Miller by attacking the fact that he attacked Franchot, and, as the Sun's Jay Hancock points out, used the ancient method of paralipsis - 'I could attack you too for being such a jerk, but I won't' - so that he gets hits digs in on Miller but gets credit for not attacking him.

Fact is, they're both preening for the press, and neither of them is accomplishing anything really useful for the state. It makes you wish there was an adult in Annapolis that could send them to separate corners. Or that they'd just have a fistfight on Lawyer's Mall and get it over with.

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The Gazette, Biased Reporting, and Retribution

by: Eric Luedtke

Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 06:10 PM EDT

I posted yesterday about the Maryland Politics Watch series on the Gazette, which is the most popular story they've had over there in a long time. Adam Pagnucco's a nice guy, and while he criticized their labor policy, he never said anything about their journalism or past accusations about right wing pro-business bias.

So I was a little surprised to read this ham-handed little bit of biased retaliation. Background: Adam Pagnucco works for the carpenter's union, and for a while now his union has been advocating for a prevailing wage law in Montgomery County. This past week, the County Council finally passed the law by an overwhelming majority. But if you read through the Gazette article about it that I linked to above, you'll notice the following:

- It provides information entirely on one side of the issue. It describes a number of different anti-prevailing wage talking points, and only mentions the arguments for the bill in the context of a single quote, buried more than halfway through the article.

- It quotes four opponents, and only one supporter. One of the opponents quoted is Anthony O'Donnell, who doesn't even live in Montgomery County.

- Nowhere does the Gazette even attempt to describe the point of view of the carpenters union, a major supporter of the bill. But it does find the space to print this quote, from the head of Montgomery County's anemic Republic Party, effectively arguing against both the prevailing wage law and any other wage-related laws like the minimum wage, the living wage law, and the equal pay act:

"The marketplace should govern wages and employee and employer relationships,"

In other words, it's what you would expect to see in a press release from the Republican Party or the National Federation of Independent Business, not from a newspaper claiming to journalistic neutrality. I can't imagine it was intended as anything except retribution against Adam and his union for his having had the gall to question the Gazette's business model. Although I guess you could make the case that the Gazette was just biased to begin with, and that the above quote is simply their reaction to Adam's criticism of what they pay their employees. And the stupid part is, it's bad for business. Montgomery and Prince George's County are two of the Gazette's prime markets, and a lurch to the right is not exactly going to boost their readership among the vast majority of people there who are Democrats.

If this continues, it may be time to begin treating the Gazette like we treat Fox News, and demand that Democratic elected officials no longer speak to Gazette reporters.

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Delegate McConkey Violates a Law He Helped Pass

by: PMF

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:21 PM EDT

You won't see Republican bloggers writing about this!!! CP treats politicians equally, regardless of party and this time I relish in telling you about MD Delegate Tony McConkey who was just found guilty of violating state law for buying a woman's house out of foreclosure. But it gets worse....I will defer to The Capital (yes I have to mention the name) which writes that McConkey said that if he violated the Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act, which he voted for in 2005 and again in 2008 when it was amended, then the law is wrong and harmful to people in foreclosure. McConkey went on to say the law was confusing!!!!'s like the child who murders his parents and asks for leniency because he is an orphan....sort of...or maybe like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)who says he didn't pay taxes on rental income from his Dominican villa because he didn't understand the finances. Note: Rangel chairs the House committee that writes US tax law and is a Democrat!!)  

According to The Capital, the plaintiff's lawyer filed court papers claiming "the delegate has spent years perfecting various schemes to con susceptible and vulnerable consumers out of their homes." Hmmm...maybe that's why the law he violated was made so complicated---d'ya think?.

McConkey's lawyer is none other than Gregory M. Kline,publisher of the blog "The Conservative Refuge" which Kline describes as "A safe place for conservative Republicans in Anne Arundel County Maryland to share views, get inside information and plot our way out of the wilderness." A safe place indeed. Seems as if McConkey may be needing a refuge. Visit his blog and draw your own conclusions from his self-serving "About Me" profile.

When Kline unsuccessfully ran for delegate in 2006, this is what he said about McConkey:

"I want to congratulate my running mate Delegate Tony McConkey for being the top vote getter in the race. Despite the nasty attacks on him by cowards who hid in the shadows, the voters on Tuesday recognized what I have known for years, Tony is a principled conservative leader and we are privileged to have him as our Delegate. I was proud to team up with him during this campaign and am honored to call him my friend."

No doubt they honor each other. But I like the part about "cowards who hid in shadows".... indeed!   BOOH!

Wikipedia says Kline "is the former President of the Young Republicans of Anne Arundel County and currently serves as counsel to the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee [CP notes: apparently not any more...]. Kline received his Juris Doctor degree in 1996 from Capital University, a fourth-tier U.S. law school according to U.S. News and World Report. Kline received his undergraduate degree in political science in 1993 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County."

I like that--a "fourth tier law school".....Makes me shed a tear for him....By the way, McConkey was at the Republican National Convention and did not attend the hearing. I am sure he was in good company.

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Baltimore County Democratic Party to Hold Victory Dinner Fundraiser

by: Eric Luedtke

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:11 PM EDT

Baltimore County is one of the swing counties that decide statewide elections, and a number of hot assembly races there in 2010 could be key in keeping our strong Democratic majorities. So the Baltimore County Democratic Party is a key organization. In other words, they're a good place to drop some money:

The Baltimore County Democratic Party will be sponsor its Second Annual Victory Dinner, on Tuesday, October 7, at Martin's West, 6817 Dogwood Road, Baltimore, MD 21244.

Governor Martin O'Malley, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and Congressmen Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, and John Sarbanes are all scheduled to attend...

The dinner will begin at 7 p.m., and tickets are $75.00 per person...

To purchase tickets, send checks payable to the "Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee" to Martin-Lauer Associates, LLC, 1010 Hull Street, Suite 202, Baltimore, MD 21230.  Online registration and payment is also available soon at  Interested sponsors should contact Sophia Silbergeld at 410.547.8884 or [email protected].

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First Up in New Round of Budget Cuts: Transportation

by: Eric Luedtke

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:52 PM EDT

The first round of serious cuts in the budget following the new budget numbers are coming in transportation funding. Not to be melodramatic, but this is only the beginning. Before this is over, a lot more than a few intersection improvements will probably end up on the chopping block.
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What's Going on at the Gazette?

by: Eric Luedtke

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:49 PM EDT

Adam Pagnucco over at MPW has another great investigative blogging series up (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Follow-up on salaries), this time about financial problems and consequent staffing cuts at the Gazette newspapers. The Gazette is the dominant local paper in Montgomery, Prince George's, Frederick, and Carroll Counties, and as such is a fairly influential media outlet. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably followed a link from one of my postings to a Gazette story. So it hurts the community when a key news source is being downsized, and Adam documents the specifics about the economic problems at the Gazette, and how they're trying to balance their books on the backs of their reporters.

It's caught the attention of someone in the Gazette management, though, because they've starting commenting anonymously about how great a workplace the Gazette really is, and about how bloggers are all biased buffoons. Fact is, the way news is delivered IS changing. Blogs have provided a new source of news, one which is much more responsive to the needs of readers. The Gazette can't be a portal for discussion of state and local politics from both the liberal and conservative perspective. Which is why sites like Red Maryland, Free State Politics, and Maryland Politics Watch exist. And as a newspaper with two releases a week, it can't respond to stories as rapidly as the blogs. But the Gazette and papers like it are still essential for their teams of full-time employees who can seek out stories in a way that local bloggers can't, because we have full-time jobs of our own. So it'll be sad if mismanagement, mistreatment of workers, or market forces lead to a further weakening of the Gazette, whether or not the editorial page continues to align itself with the business wing of the Republican Party.

That said, it begs pointing out the irony that in saying that blogs don't report real news, the anonymous Gazette management commenter was insulting his or her own parent newspaper, the Washington Post. The Post runs a huge number of successful news blogs on its website, including blogs on local and state politics, like Maryland Moment, and prominent national blogs, like Chris Cillizza's The Fix.

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Politicker: Al Wynn is an Asian Man

by: Eric Luedtke

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 05:37 PM EDT

PolitickerMD has a link up to a useful collection of congressional fundraising profiles on their parent site. The funny part is, according to the bio on Al Wynn, since his primary loss to Donna Edwards, Wynn underwent a radical transformation, to this:


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