Thursday, January 26, 2012

Audrey Scott and the Gas Tax Increase

Two of my fellow bloggers, Red Maryland and Monoblogue, have already reported on the controversy regarding former MD GOP Chairman Audrey Scott’s participation in a gas tax rally last week in Annapolis

The latest development is that Mrs. Scott, a candidate for Republican National Committeewoman, has sent an email message to the entire GOP State Central Committee claiming that there is an “effort underway to discredit and misrepresent” her participation in the event.

I’m reluctant to blog about anything having to do with the National Committeewoman’s race because Mrs. Scott’s opponent, Nicolee Ambrose, is a friend of mine. Consequently, anything I write may feed the false perception that I’m doing it at Nicolee’s request.

In fact, Nicolee has asked me to avoid blogging about the race for that very reason, and will probably not be happy that I’m doing it anyway.

Mrs. Scott accuses people with questions about her participation in the rally – including bloggers – of unduly attacking her. She made comments to that effect during an appearance before the Montgomery County GOP Central Committee last Tuesday, and her email message to the entire State Central Committee reinforces similar themes.

In an attempt to rebut these phantom attackers, Mrs. Scott misrepresents the purpose of the rally in her email message (reprinted in its entirely by Red Maryland), where she states that the purpose of the rally was “to protest the perpetual raiding of the Transportation Trust Fund.”

According to an Associated Press article appearing in the Washington Post, the rally was organized by “members of a coalition backing new revenues for transportation” in order to “launch a tough battle for tax increases.” It also noted that some rally participants took to
“(s)haking gas cans with only a dime inside” to spell out the event’s purpose to anyone who still harbored doubts.   

A variation of the same AP story appeared on the WBAL Radio website. The story notes that the rally’s organizers – the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce – “have been advocating a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax for the last three years.”

Further, a news item on the GBC website bears the headline, Advocates show spirited support in Annapolis for more transportation funding.” The accompanying article states:

“The rally was conducted by the Statewide Alliance for Restoring the Trust (START). The coalition is comprised of the GBC, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, more than a dozen county and local chambers of commerce, and more than 50 organizations and businesses. It seeks to convince members of the General Assembly to adopt recommendations made by the state's Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding to increase annual revenue to the transportation fund by $800 million.”
Simply put, the purpose of the rally was to generate support for a proposal to boost the gas tax by 64 percent.

This takes us back to the original question: Why would any self-respecting GOP activist, let alone one who wants to represent Maryland on the Republican National Committee, be anywhere near that rally?

In her email message, Mrs. Scott characterizes her participation as solely “to support the Republican Trust Fund legislation,” while disavowing any support for the gas tax increase which was the marquee theme of the event. 

It may also be worth noting that, according to the AP/WBAL story, many of those attending the rally “were executives and workers at several contractors who work on road and bridge projects.”

Among those executives with ties to the transportation industry present: Audrey Scott herself.

After serving as Secretary of Planning in the Ehrlich Administration, Mrs. Scott became General Manager of Land Planning at Chaney Enterprises, a cement manufacturer, after leaving state government. According to her public LinkedIn profile, she still holds this position.

A hike in the gas tax translates into a lot of potential cement sales for Mrs. Scott's employer. Perhaps this is why she did not disclose her business relationship with Chaney in her email message to the State Central Committee.  

Regardless of her motivations, by participating in the rally Mrs. Scott became a cog in the Democratic message machine. When she showed up in Lawyers’ Mall, she handed its supporters the opportunity to claim “bipartisan” support for one of the most controversial proposals of the 2012 legislative session.  

Indeed, the AP story states that the rally “drew Democrats and Republicans,” then goes on to quote one of each: former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, who supports the gas tax increase, and Mrs. Scott – identified as a former state GOP chair – who speaks to the importance of protecting the Transportation Trust Fund but did not specifically critique the gas tax proposal itself in her published comments.

Joseph P. Kennedy once famously stated, “It’s not who you are, but who people think you are, that counts.” As Mrs. Scott rebuts the perception, if not the outright reality, that she is a former GOP chair who rallied with Democrats in support of a gas tax increase, I hope she takes this lesson to heart.

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