One aspect of the robocalls scandal which I have not yet explored pertains to the long-term implications for the state’s GOP. In other words, how long will those of us working for the cause of two-party competition in Maryland have to contend with the fallout from this scandal?
When news of the indictments broke, state GOP Chairman Alex Mooney issued the following statement: “The Maryland Republican Party believes in winning all voters. The out of touch Democrat agenda of reckless spending, higher taxes, redefining marriage and many other far left policy proposals gives all voters plenty of good reasons to get out and vote Republican.”
That wasn’t good enough for some in the media, including WBAL’s Jayne Miller. In a June 20th blog posting, she faults Alex Mooney and “the Republicans” for not taking responsibility for the robocall affair.
But I think Mr. Mooney’s response was spot-on. "State Republicans” have no responsibility, not even in a generic sense, for the scandal. The blame belongs solely to the individuals who conceived and planned it.
The indictment makes it very clear that the idea for the robocalls was incubated and hatched by only a few individuals acting on behalf of a single candidate. Save for a handful of senior Ehrlich campaign aides, no one in the outer rings of the campaign hierarchy knew anything about it. Nor did members of the GOP state central committee or any other GOP activists, candidates, or officeholders.
In 1998, a series of scurrilous mailers surfaced in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City accusing gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey of wanting to roll back the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960s. I don’t recall any push by the media to assign the blame for this racially-charged stunt to “state Democrats.”
And, it is also worth mentioning that the two individuals indicted for the robocalls are not even Republicans. In fact, both are registered Democrats.
This fact has gone curiously unreported by the members of the media covering the scandal. Perhaps it is not the magic shield for dodging all blame that some of my fellow Republicans want it to be. After all, these two Democratic pariahs were hired and paid by a Republican candidate’s campaign. But their partisanship is certainly relevant when it comes to assigning responsibility for the scandal, and should therefore be part of the conversation.
So state Republicans, who picked up 40 legislative seats across Maryland last year, should resist pressure by the media and others to veer off message to respond to the misadventures of a few. In the short-term, state Democrats have a juicy talking point with which to play. But as long as Republicans talk about the future and the things that matter to voters – creating jobs, holding the line on taxes, and curbing tuition breaks for non-citizens – it will quickly fade.
In the end, the only lasting consequences for the robocall affair belong to those who caused it.