Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Derek Hunter Said What?!?!?!

So I pride myself on being a pretty laissez faire kind of guy. And I understand that talk radio is a vehicle for controversial, sometimes incendiary opinions.

And, while I agree with much of what he says from a philosophical basis, I found myself getting a bit annoyed by WBAL’s Derek Hunter and his playful critique of the Baltimore Orioles’s longtime theme song, Orioles Magic.

Hunter began his segment by asking if listeners had “heard of” the song, a staple of the Orioles 1979 and 1983 periods of glory. 

Yes, Derek, we know it well. 

He portrayed the song as a gaudy mix of 1970s polyester kitsch and a Ken Burns PBS documentary soundtrack, and then argued that it needed to be updated significantly.

Now, I get that Hunter was being deliberately provocative, and I respect that. I also know that he’s from Detroit and that – not having grown up in Baltimore – he wasn’t exposed to the song and its attendant fond memories the way home grown Orioles fans like me were.

And yes, I agree that the song is a little hokey. But Hunter is missing a valuable point: Most sports team theme songs are. 

Have you heard “Hail to the Redskins” lately? The old Colts fight song is a strictly retro production, too.  How about all those the times when Harry Carey used to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame?” 

Their kitsch is their charm.

The anachronistic nature of Orioles Magic helps some of us connect with past team traditions, glories, and memories. It serves the same cultural purpose as the statues which now dot the sports complex.

Perhaps a more modern song will emerge as the anthem of the moment, like “Who Let the Dogs Out” did for the Ravens in 2000. I hope that happens. 

But there will always been room for Orioles Magic and, for that matter, Thank God I’m a Country Boy in the Orioles’ musical universe. 

Could the song lyrics be updated to reflect the team’s 2014 roster and players? Sure. But let’s not change it too much.  Let’s celebrate the present, but we can do that and leave our past alone.

Go Os!!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ehrlich and New Hampshire: Part II

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa wrote this blog piece about the Ehrlich campaign trip to New Hampshire.

You know, a bunch of us have for years been joking about a phase of the never ending Ehrlich comeback saga which featured a quixotic bid for the presidency. We even joked about poor ol’ Greg Massoni loping alongside Ehrlich across the Granite State’s landscape, playing the dutiful Sancho Panza to Ehrlich’s Don Quixote.

So, I was especially amused by this portion of Costa’s piece:

"Greg Massoni, a longtime Ehrlich confidant and political adviser who once served as Ehrlich’s gubernatorial spokesman, accompanied him from stop to stop."

So what’s happening here?

I think Ehrlich misses the political game.

I think it’s been difficult for him to watching the party nominate another gubernatorial standard bearer – one who, depending on which poll you believe, seems to be waging a competitive campaign. Since 2010, Ehrlich has asserted that, if he could not win back the governor’s mansion, no one can.

And, I think that Ehrlich and some of the people close to him dreamed up this New Hampshire jaunt as something of a consolation prize for him - kind of like giving a restless retiree something to do.

I respect Ehrlich wanting to have a national voice – every ambitious, competitive politician does. I just don’t think you need to go to New Hampshire to do it. The mere act of going there overshadows whatever message you hope to convey.

In 2010, I stated that candidate Ehrlich reminded me of Joe Louis during the final phase of his career, when he was past his prime and knocked out by Rocky Marciano. This New Hampshire trip evokes memories of Joe Louis when he was a greeter at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, now a curiosity rather than a contender.

Anyway, I’ll take a little credit for my prescience, even if it was borne out of an attempt to be funny. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bob Ehrlich's High Hopes

Yesterday, the Ray Rice story, and the seismic impact the so-called elevator video has had on the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, and the national conversation regarding domestic violence, dominated the news.
Among the overshadowed stories: This tidbit from the Washington Post about former Governor Bob Ehrlich.
According to the Post piece:
“Ehrlich is booked as the keynote speaker at a Steak Out in Nashua (New Hampshire) on Sept. 12 being hosted by the Nashua Area Republican City Committee. He is also expected to attend the New Hampshire Young Republicans Lobster Bake and Straw Poll in Laconia the following day.
“Ehrlich’s travel plans were first reported last month by WMUR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Manchester. Ehrlich could not be reached for comment Friday.”
New Hampshire, eh?
As in the state which traditionally hosts the first presidential primary election, and where Governor Martin O’Malley has been spending a lot of time in the service of his own presidential ambitions?
I heard rumblings of “big news” coming from the ex-governor’s camp – or what’s left of it -
from a former Ehrlich world colleague of mine. So far, however, no one on Team Ehrlich has publicly commented as to the purpose of the trip to the Granite State.
So before we jump to conclusions, let’s tick down all the possible reasons Ehrlich may be headed north.
1) He’s going to campaign for GOP senate nominee Scott Brown:  Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is now challenging incumbent Democratic New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Polls now have the race statistically tied. Could Ehrlich be lending support to his fellow GOP moderate? This is plausible, but one wonders why such an announcement didn’t come directly from the Brown campaign.
2) He’s performing “truth squad” activities against O’Malley:  Governor O’Malley has been aggressively stumping in New Hampshire, Iowa, and other key primary states. Did the RNC or some other partisan entity dispatch Ehrlich to the "Live Free or Die" state so he can poke holes in O’Malley’s campaign trail bombast? Again, this is plausible, but Ehrlich is perhaps not the best choice for this assignment. Democrats would likely attribute Ehrlich’s motives to sour grapes coming from a sore loser. There are at least half a dozen other GOP officials and legislators in Maryland – including Nicolee Ambrose, Kelly Schulz, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, and Joe Cluster, just to name a few – who could ably perform this same assignment minus Ehrlich’s baggage.
3) Ehrlich is there to sell books: The former governor has been peddling his latest book – America: Hope for Change – at political fundraisers for GOP candidates across Maryland. Could he now be taking his book tour to other states? The book in question was released in November 2013, and, according to Amazon.com, it’s currently ranked #1,236,783. What kind of readership can he possibly expect to find outside of Maryland?

4) Ehrlich is sticking it to O’Malley:  The disdain that Bob and Kendel Ehrlich have for the man who ended Bob's political career is well documented. With O’Malley spending so much time up in New Hampshire in furtherance of his own longshot presidential hopes, could this be a stunt by the Ehrlichs to gain payback by infringing upon O'Malley's limelight? Given the level of enmity that has historically existed between these two pols, anything is possible. Nonetheless, I think O’Malley is more focused on Hillary Clinton’s plans rather than the vengeful exploits of a long-vanquished foe.  But if the Ehrlichs are doing it to have a little fun, more power to them.
6) Ehrlich is testing the waters for a possible presidential bid: This is the most fun, if also the silliest, of the options listed. As a former Republican governor of a deep blue state, Ehrlich would get some measure of attention from the media and GOP activists in New Hampshire, due largely to the as-yet undefined nature of the 2016 GOP presidential primary field. But it defies reason to assume that a pro-choice Republican who was the only governor in the country defeated for reelection in 2006, whose comeback bid in 2010 yielded an even bigger margin of defeat as well as a black voter suppression scandal, would gain any traction whatsoever.
That said, the notion of those signature blue and white Ehrlich signs dotting places like Nashua, Derry, and Dixville Notch makes me chuckle.
This New Hampshire push is part of Ehrlich’s continuing quest to stay relevant. It’s another phase of the comeback story that never ends but never seems to go anywhere, either. It’s the latest attempt to resurrect a once promising political career that some feel ended too early.
Anyway, if an Ehrlich for president bid does launch, here is one possible campaign song:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Re-Schurick-tion, Part II

So, my most recent Paul Schurick blog drew the attention of a reader who alerted me to something very interesting.

If you go onto the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site (you can plug in Schurick’s name for yourself if you want to verify what I mention here) and click on the file stemming from the robocall-related charges, you’ll see this:

In other words, it looks like the robocall-related convictions were stricken from Schurick’s record last April. Next to the notation in the file is “PBJ,” which I take to mean “probation before judgment.”

I’ve not seen this reported anywhere, so I figured it deserved a mention here.

So it looks like Schurick is free to assume his new career as the mollusk whisperer unencumbered by his past transgressions.

There’s something very Cameron Poe-like to the ending of this story (that's a Con Air reference, folks).

Of course, when a conviction is stricken from the court record, that doesn’t expunge it from the public record. Google “Paul Schurick” and the first items to pop up are some of the many news articles about his conviction and sentencing.

Unfortunately, a verdict rendered by the court of public opinion is more exacting, damaging, and enduring than one rendered by the courts.

A Poll Is a Poll Is a Poll

I was very amused by one commenter to the story, who dismisses me as a “tea party” Republican because this piece includes some gentle criticisms of President Obama (even as I question the usefulness and validity of a poll which found him to be the worst president in the post-World War II era).  

I’m not going to go line by line though this rant, but I did want to make a few points.

First, I am now “Unaffiliated,” having changed my registration back in April 2013.

Second, in the past I have been called a “RINO” by people of the tea party persuasion, which tells me that I must be doing something right if both liberal and conservative extremists find offense in what I write.

Third, the commenter does what a lot of people on the left do: Cast aspersions on the intellectual depth or substance of someone with whom they disagree. This is a common tactic employed by people who are so blinded by partisan loyalty that they have lost the ability to hear the other side’s arguments. In other words, if they can’t hear it, the person making it must be intellectually deficient or incoherent.

Five hundred words isn’t a lot of space with which to make an argument, so – as far as the ranking of presidents is concerned – here is my top ten. My assessments have not changed since I made this list.

Paul Schurick: A Pearl Among the Oysters?

So, for me, a familiar name recently popped up on LinkedIn: Paul Schurick.  

It seems the erstwhile political honcho and former Schaefer/Ehrlich aide is now ensconced at the Oyster Recovery Partnership in Annapolis, where he has worked as its “Director of Partnerships” since last January.

"Paul works with businesses, organizations and individuals to build partnerships to increase the environmental, economic and cultural importance of oysters. He has more than 30 years experience in policy, communications and partnerships. He has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in economics from the West Virginia University. He served as chief of staff for Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and director of communications for Gov. Robert Ehrlich. In his free time, Paul enjoys kayaking and cooking. He lives in Annapolis."

Stephan Abel, the Partnership’s Executive Director and Schurick’s boss, was previously Communications Director at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he once reported to…Paul Schurick.

Hey, they call it “Smalltimore” for a reason.

Missing from his biography is the fact that Schurick was found guilty of four charges – including election fraud – related to the infamous robocall scandal which occurred during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The alleged purpose of the robocall was to trick black voters into not voting. At the time, my old boss, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, denounced what he called “the decision from a Baltimore City jury” (in other words, a jury made up of black people). Schurick’s co-conspirator Julius Henson was separately tried and convicted of a charge stemming from the same incident, and later served time in jail.

Before devoting his career to the betterment of bivalves, Schurick was CEO at Visitors TV Network, an Easton-based start up company that made those travel videos you see when you’re watching TV in your hotel room. Before that, Schurick made serious coin as a crisis communications consultant at the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice (where some members of Team Ehrlich temporarily landed after the governor’s 2006 loss) and at the doomed Ehrlich political comeback effort in 2010 (there he made $15,000 a month at one point, an unheard of amount for a campaign aide).

Hey, I think the idea of Schurick re-purposing as an environmental crusader and steward of the mollusks is certainly amusing, but I guess everyone deserves a second chance – including the one-time Henry Gondorff of Maryland politics (that's a reference to The Sting, folks).

Congratulations, Paul, upon your successful rehabilitation. Perhaps a crab or - better yet - sushi advocacy role is in your future. In the meantime, it's my pleasure to play you a song.

Monday, July 21, 2014

RJC's Top Ten Favorite Movie Scenes

When I started this blog I promised it would have a pop culture as well as a political component. And, while pop culture references are frequently interwoven into my political observations, it’s been years since I did an entry centered on pop culture.

Well, today, that changes….

Here is the definitive list of my all-time favorite movie scenes. For the longest time, not all of them were available on YouTube. But now I managed to find them all, which I post here for your review and perusal.


10) "Go home and get your shine box" – Goodfellas (1991)

9) Roy Hobbs destroys the clock - The Natural (1984)

8) Batman returns after an 8 year absence - The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

7) The Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

6) Ferris Bueller “sings” Twist and Shout  - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

5) Hit Girl kills drug dealers - Kick Ass (2010)

4) The Bride versus O-Ren Ishii - Kill Bill Vol. One (2003)

3) The Barrow Gang robs a bank - Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

2) Michael Corleone confronts his treacherous brother in law - The Godfather (1972)

1)    Hannibal Lecter escapes - The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Primary Season: Five Disappointments, Three Blessings

I have been pondering the results of the 2014 primary elections here in Maryland. So much has been said about it already that I questioned whether I wanted to enter the din myself.

I had lunch with two connected Democrats a few weeks ago, and between the three of us we pretty much agreed on all the outcomes. I experienced the same phenomenon when I went on WYPR on election night and found that my fellow panelists and I pretty much all came to the same conclusions as to who would win which race.

For me, there weren’t very many surprises, but there were both disappointments and blessings. So, I decided to focus on them here, starting with the disappointments.

1) Steve Schuh defeating incumbent Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. From a party building standpoint, Laura Neuman was the GOP’s candidate of dreams: Wife, mother, entrepreneur, rape survivor, and talented administrator who amassed a creditable record during her tenure in office.  Nonetheless, the Republican voters in Anne Arundel County reverted to form when they nominated the next rich white Republican male in the queue, Delegate Steve Schuh.

Schuh’s victory demonstrated the clannish, insular nature of Anne Arundel County Republican politics, where being part of the club is more important than one’s record on issues such as the rain tax, which Schuh voted for twice. It also demonstrated the triumph of sleazeball politics, as demonstrated by the Schuh campaign's attempts to win the election by calling rape survivor Neuman a liar.  

I think Schuh is more than capable of being a good county executive, but he lacks the upward mobility of his charismatic opponent. As David Craig demonstrated, able service as a county executive doesn’t automatically guarantee you a promotion.

2) Abysmal voter turnout. I had been expecting a twenty percent voter turnout, but the actual number was closer to 22 percent. OK, so it was better than I expected, but still remarkably bad. Some of the blame goes to the Democratic establishment’s decision to park the primary in June – an attempt to build in some healing time for what they expected would be a divisive Democratic primary. But I think the uninspiring nature of the choices in the governor’s race is a culprit as well. 

The biggest shock to me was the fact that turnout in good governance-minded Montgomery County – which had two current and former local officials running for governor, a contested county executive’s race, and a state senator who ran for, and ultimately won, the Democratic nomination for Attorney General – was only 16.2 percent, the lowest in the state. Anyway, Dan Rodricks and Josh Kurtz already articulated what a freaking embarrassment this is, and all I can do here is to concur with both of them.

3) Outgoing Delegate Wade Kach defeating Councilman Todd Huff in Baltimore County. Wade Kach was elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, back when I was beginning the second grade. During forty years of undistinguished service, Kach developed a reputation as a loner as well as an ideologically pliable doofus who often did the will of the Democratic establishment. 

My former boss, then-Congressman Bob Ehrlich, once told me a hilarious story of how Kach broke down in tears on the House floor one night while paying an emotional tribute to a recently deceased house cat, and was roundly mocked by many of his hardscrabble colleagues as a result of this girly-man behavior. 

Anyway, Kach’s House career was effectively killed when he flip flopped on marriage equality, so this career pol went shopping for another elective job. After pondering a state senate run, Kach decided to challenge freshman Councilman Todd Huff. Though a DUI incident and some controversial zoning decisions undermined Huff’s popularity, he had otherwise amassed a solid record in office. A previous councilman, Sam Moxley, experienced two drunken driving incidents during his tenure in office, in effect turning his county vehicle into a missile of doom barreling down area highways, yet still managed to win. Kach and his wild-eyed wife waged a campaign founded upon bitter personal attacks and improper use of state resources. He won by a resounding 2-1 margin.

Wade Kach, keepin' it classy. I would have preferred he answer what's perhaps the biggest mystery in Maryland politics: What did this man do in Annapolis for 40 years?

This result leads me to two conclusions. 

First, I’m glad I no longer live in that part of Baltimore County. 

Second, if they hadn’t chosen politics, Wade and Evelyn Kach would likely be the top AMWAY salespeople of the Mid-Atlantic region.

4) The Ehrlichs won’t go away. As the Baltimore Sun reported, former Governor Bob Ehrlich can’t seem to help himself when it comes to interjecting himself into local political matters. In 2014, he broke out of his political tomb in order to use candidates’ fundraising events as platforms from which to peddle his latest book. 

I wrote about the Ehrlich phenomenon in a recent piece for the Frederick News Post.  The reality is, Ehrlich still carries weight with some primary voters, as the Schuh – Neuman result demonstrates (both Ehrlichs were loud and active Schuh supporters). 

But, it also reinforces the perception that the MDGOP’s future – such as it is – is being driven by personalities from its past. Consequently, The Daily Record’s Bryan Sears and others in the media have come to speculate whether Anthony Brown versus Larry Hogan is actually Ehrlich versus O’Malley III, only this time it is being waged by surrogates.

Despite Ehrlich’s cache among GOP primary voters, it’s hard to see how the support of a governor who ended his career amid a 15 point loss and a voter suppression scandal will help any state Republican in November.

5) Heather Mizeur comes in third in the Democratic governor’s race. Delegate Heather Mizeur’s political philosophy is very different than mine, but I concur with Professor Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College, WYPR’s Fraser Smith, and other political observers who dubbed her the most interesting gubernatorial candidate during this cycle. As her rivals tore into each other, she ran an issue-focused campaign, and came across as likable, well-informed, substantive, serious, and passionate. 

As Attorney General Gansler stumbled and Mizeur seemed to surge in the final week of the campaign, I thought she might actually come in second. While she came close, she missed the mark as Gansler polled 24.3 percent to Mizeur’s 21.6 percent. Still, I think she emerges from the race with options.

As for the blessings…

1) Bad guys lost.  During the past few months, voters were treated to the antics of pols that thoroughly embarrassed themselves and their constituents through their own bad behavior, yet still would not relinquish the stage. Drunken driver/boater Don Dwyer refused to give up his Anne Arundel County-based delegate seat. On the Eastern Shore, man about town Senator Richard Colburn was seen by many as a lock for reelection despite a salacious divorce scandal. In the end, both members of the miscreant caucus lost, with Dwyer registering a minuscule 7.1 percent of the vote and Colburn receiving a 14 point beat down from Delegate Addie Eckhardt.

Seeing voters step in and flush the toilet has always affirmed my faith in the political system, even in one-party dominated Maryland. And for soon to be former Delegate Dwyer, there is a silver lining: At least he now has time to pursue a pilot’s lessons.

2) Good guys won. There are a lot of hard-working, talented legislators on both sides of the political aisle serving in Annapolis. Fortunately, many of them were re-nominated last Tuesday. I was personally glad to see Delegates Kelly Schulz, Sue Aumann, Justin Ready, Kathy Szeliga, and Herb McMillan win their races, as well as Senators J. B. Jennings (who was unopposed) and Jim Brochin (who easily dispatched former Ehrlich foe Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis).

3) People who didn’t deserve comebacks didn’t get them. Once upon a time, I had a spooky encounter with former state delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori. So I was amused to see that she decamped from exile on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and returned to Western Maryland in an attempt to reclaim her old delegate seat. Unfortunately, her former constituents dropped a house on her ambitions, and Amedori came in last with 6.7 percent of the vote.  I’m sure that, in reprisal, there is a bunny rabbit simmering in a pot somewhere. Meanwhile, Julius Henson, convicted and jailed for conspiring to violate Maryland elections laws pursuant to the infamous robocall scandal, lost badly in his quixotic challenge to Senator Nathaniel McFadden.

At least we’ll be able to take a sabbatical from politics for the rest of the summer until this fall. Then the dance will start anew. Does Larry Hogan have a chance? Will there be any surprises among state and local races? Stay tuned, folks.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Maryland's Two Republican Parties

Here is my latest oped for the Baltimore Sun.

In reviewing the letter written by former Governor Bob Ehrlich in support of Steve Schuh’s bid to become Anne Arundel County Executive, three additional points jumped out at me, but I didn’t have enough room to include them in the piece which will run in The Sun tomorrow.

First, Ehrlich launched his political career by doing what he now faults Laura Neuman for doing: Having the temerity to challenge a baron of the party establishment. In 1986, Ehrlich – then a young lawyer and political neophyte – launched a primary challenge against longtime Republican Delegate Tom Chamberlain, the husband of then-Republican National Committeewoman Helen Chamberlain. Chamberlain ran with the support of Congresswoman Helen Bentley, Delegate Ellen Sauerbrey, and virtually every other elected Republican official.  Ehrlich won a close race, and then spent years afterwards trying to build or repair relationships with people who wished he had waited his proper turn.

Second, Ehrlich extols Schuh’s past involvement in political clubs as being one of the reasons he endorsed him. The Ehrlich I worked for seemed to have an entirely different view of their value, once referring to the Baltimore County Young Republicans as, “The Star Trek convention.”

Third, Ehrlich criticizes Laura Neuman for making donations to some Democrats before she assumed the position of Anne Arundel County Executive.  Ehrlich famously courted Democratic support – both at the polls and financially – throughout his political career. Indeed, Democrats like former Mikulski aide Mary Ann Saar, former Delegate Ken Montague, former Schaefer aide and convicted robocaller Paul Schurick, and political hatchet man and convicted robocaller Julius Henson populated Ehrlich’s gubernatorial administration and his campaigns.

If one is going to fault someone for ideological impurity, one has to wonder which scenario is worse: A private businesswoman who gave  donations to her own elected officials who happened to be Democrats (and, later, to the Democratic county executive she worked for), or a governor who gave Democrats broad influence over the policies and personnel decisions of his administration.

As I indicated in the oped, had Ehrlich compared and contrasted Neuman and Schuh’s records in office, that would have perhaps made for a more interesting read. Basing the endorsement strictly on past activism seems a hollow argument to make.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Another Kach Kampaign Kaper

Looks like Wade Kach and his campaign team are up to their old tricks.

A few days ago, Kach sent out an email message promoting an upcoming campaign event using the same template he uses for his official communications as a state legislator. The dynamic part of the email includes a campaign email address. Ethically speaking, this would appear to be a step in the right direction, as previous communications had openly encouraged voters to contact him at his state delegate email account. Still, at the bottom of the template, there was a link to Kach’s state email address.

By the way, sources tell me only 12 people showed up to the event advertised, and that Kach spent most of the time accusing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz of corruption without offering any specifics or evidence.  

Just today, Kach sent out an email pertaining to legislative business using the very same template. In this version, the aforementioned state email link is no longer present.

In politics, perception is more important than reality. And, the perception that Kach and his aides are projecting is that they either don’t understand or have simply chosen to disregard ethical requirements which all candidates for office should follow.

There should always be a firewall between campaign and official activities. Using an email template created specifically as a vehicle for official communications to promote campaign events or messages is inappropriate.

So, Delegate Kach, who designed that template for you? And, more to the point, did you pay them with campaign or official funds?

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Kach Kampaign Goes Negative

Funny the things you stumble across on social media channels.

Last night, as I was futzing around on Facebook, I noticed the Todd Huff campaign in Baltimore County was promoting an upcoming fundraising event. I also noticed that Evelyn Kach, the wife of Huff's primary challenger, was quick to leave a comment.

Five minutes after it had been posted, the comment was gone. I guess it did not occur to Mrs. Kach that some troublemaking blogger might get a screenshot of it.


Anyway, here is a bigger version of her Facebook profile picture.

Someone should tell Mrs. Kach that her husband is running for county council, not delegate, and that perhaps a new picture is in order. Still, as is evident by the hubris that Team Kach has shown in co-mingling state and campaign resources, clearly they don't waste a lot of time sweating the details.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Kach Kampaign Does It Again

A few days ago, I blogged about the fact that Maryland Delegate Wade Kach, a forty-year veteran of the Maryland General Assembly now running for Baltimore County Council, sent out a campaign mailing in which he inappropriately offered his official state legislative email address as the response vehicle for a campaign questionnaire.

Well, Kach just sent out an email edition  of the same communication he snail mailed to voters earlier.

When you click on the email link, guess which email address comes up?

Clearly the man is either arrogant, clueless, or both. Sitting on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates and using a state-issued smartphone or laptop to field campaign inquiries is not what I would call doing the job he was elected, and reelected, to do.

Will someone who received either the mailed or emailed version of this communication contact the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and report this outrageous behavior?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Kach Kampaign's "No-No"

Recently, someone sent me a copy of a campaign mailer issued by veteran Baltimore County Delegate Wade Kach.

In the mailing, the forty year legislator announces that this will be his final session in Annapolis as he is “now a candidate for Baltimore County Council.”

He then opines that he has “grown increasingly distressed” by the county’s present leadership, and that he can “no longer stand to watch those entrusted with decisions affecting the livelihoods and health of thousands cavalierly presuming to know best.”

The mailing then segues into a “questionnaire” soliciting citizens’ thoughts on two issue areas which would seem to highlight perceived vulnerabilities of Kach’s primary challenger, incumbent Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff.

Hey, I get it…politics is a full contact sport. Kach is free to employ such tactics, even though they seem to be a violation of his pledge not to run a negative campaign.

What he is not free to do, however, is to use state resources in the process.

In the mailer, Kach solicits feedback to these questions by email, and lists his official state delegate email address as a proper response vehicle.

That’s a no-no, folks.

The purpose of the mailing is clearly political and should, therefore, only have solicited feedback via campaign communications tools.  

One would think that Kach, an educator by profession first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, would have learned this lesson a long time ago.

Kach’s use of his state email account for political purposes demonstrates the kind of arrogance we have come to expect from Annapolis politicians. It reflects a belief that firewalls aren’t necessary, that state and campaign resources are ultimately fungible when one’s own political ambitions are involved.

One wonders if he voluntarily crossed an ethical line, or lost his ability to see it was there a long time ago.

I’m curious to see if this mailing results in a complaint filed before the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. During my time working for Governor Ehrlich I can remember a few stories of legislators pinged for engaging in campaign activities via their state email accounts. Minimally, Kach should apologize for what was, at best, a major lapse in judgment on the part of his campaign.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ANT Revealed

So, I must admit…I’m on Facebook a lot. And I get a lot of questions from people based on some of my more cryptic posts.

The two most frequently asked questions are:

1) Who is this Felicite character you keep bantering with?

2) Who or what is “ANT”?

As for the first question, that’s probably best answered in a book rather than a blog post, other than to say she’s a lovable, wonderful, sometimes zany friend of mine. 

But I am now prepared to answer the second question.

I mean…not that it’s a state secret. As people have asked me I have told them…but you kind of have to have had some level of involvement in Maryland politics to fully get the joke. 

Anyway…drumroll please…

“ANT” is Aaron N. Tomarchio, departing chief of staff to Harford County Executive David Craig. Tomarchio, who has served in that capacity since 2006, is leaving to accept the position of Director of Corporate Affairs for Erickson Living.

I first met ANT when we served together during the Ehrlich Administration. Aaron was chief of staff to Maryland Planning Department Secretary Audrey Scott, a frequent subject of this blog.  

Tomarchio had all the qualities I have witnessed in every good chief of staff I’ve encountered in politics: efficiency, loyalty, diligence, and a penchant for balancing disparate personalities.

Tomarchio’s affability inspired me and another Ehrlich Administration chief of staff – David Marks, then at MDOT and now a Baltimore County Councilman – to speculate as to whether Aaron’s nice guy image masked a dark side. 

In a playful, tongue-in-cheek way, we wondered if, perhaps in some parallel universe, Aaron was in reality a feared, sinister political boss that ruled Harford County with an iron fist.

Think Ernst Blofeld meets Boss Tweed meets Vlad Tepes, and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

I guess the concept was loosely inspired by a classic SNL sketch in which Phil Hartman portrayed Ronald Reagan as a secret micro-manager and mastermind, as opposed to the genial septuagenarian everyone remembers.

Anyway, our silly musings grew to the point that every time something bad happened – either in Harford County or globally – it was due to the machinations of “ANT.”

A car accident occurs in Joppa: ANT.

A freak weather event happens halfway across the world: ANT.

A space probe fails millions of miles away in space: ANT.

Someone’s cat turns up missing: ANT.

Marks and I had a lot of fun designing a back story around ANT’s sinister alter ego. For example, we speculated that, during the ANT regime, the HEAT Center in Aberdeen had become something akin to the “Ministry of Love” in 1984. We envisioned dozens of men in lab coats worked there, carrying out the will of the all-powerful ANT such as one would see in a James Bond film. 

Anyway, one has to have met Aaron to really get the joke. As for him, he was an exceptionally good sport about it, even as his dark mythology grew and more people keyed in on the joke. 

For the most part, that is.

Anyway, Tomarchio served County Executive Craig well, and I wish him the best in his new endeavor. 

That said, if I go missing tomorrow…you know who’s behind it.  

(I’m kidding).

Monday, February 10, 2014

John Lofton vs. Larry Hogan: Who's Bad?!?!

So, when I got home from the office, my Facebook feed was a-buzzin’ over an interview GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan did with a guy named John Lofton.

Well, I’m not sure you can even call it an “interview,” as it consisted of one vaguely out-there question: “What do you think is the purpose of government?"

To me it sounds like a perfect essay question for a Political Science 101 final. Anyway, it seems that Hogan disagreed with its validity - and probably Lofton's as well. He called it “the craziest question I’ve ever heard” and cut the interview short.

So who is this John Lofton guy?

According to his Wikipedia page, he is a longtime conservative activist who worked at the RNC more than 40 years ago. He then served as a columnist for United Features Syndicate in the 1970s, then as a columnist for the Washington Times for seven years in the 1980s. Later he was an adviser to two presidential candidates: Pat Buchanan and some guy named Michael Petrouka.

I had heard of Lofton prior to this dustup with Hogan, but my knowledge of him was confined solely to an appearance he made on the now-infamous Morton Downey Jr. Show in the late 1980s.

In the episode, Downey hosted panelists with deeply held crackpot opinions. For example, one of Lofton’s fellow panelists patiently asserts why Ronald Reagan was definitely the anti-Christ.

Anyway, I guess the YouTube gods were with me tonight, as I found the actual episode. Lofton’s segment comprises approximately the first 12 minutes of this clip.

Lofton came armed with a folder full of research which he claimed demonstrates that Michael Jackson’s signature crotch-grabbing dance moves were a byproduct of a disease resulting from a tarantula bite.

One wonders why Lofton and his armload of research didn’t resurface at the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of unintentionally killing Jackson by administering to him a lethal dose of Propofol, a powerful anesthetic rarely used outside of an operating room setting.

Perhaps Jackson’s alleged earlier affliction – known as “tarantism”– played some as-yet undiscovered role in the singer’s death. 

Anyway, it seems that Lofton went through a phase in which he liked attacking pop icons. Here is a now famous encounter he had with musician and native Baltimorean Frank Zappa regarding the musical labeling controversy of the 1980s.

As for his encounter with Hogan, Lofton calls it “the shortest interview of my career.”

I’m not sure you can really even call it a “career”…but I digress.

Anyway, I’m not sure why Lofton is now interjecting himself in MDGOP politics, but I think we already have enough crackpots in Maryland political circles to go around.

But, if he wants to go back to his pop culture bashing roots and hate on Justin Bieber, I'm all for it.