Letters from John Sarbanes

In order to hold politicians accountable for what they’ve said and put in writing, I am reprinting a letter to me in response to me taking what of Representative John Sarbanes’s constituent surveys in 2009. Likely, it is a form letter, but why not post it on here anyway?

February 19, 2009

Dear Mr. Hermann:

Thank you for responding to my recent constituent survey on how to strengthen the economy. These are such important times and it critical to hear from individuals who actively follow the proceedings of Congress and their government.

This week, after significant consultation between the President and bipartisan leaders in Congress, we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I strongly supported this measure because I believe it will stimulate our economy in the near term, assist working families that are struggling to make ends meet, and set the stage for long term economic growth.

First, this measure will put Americans to work rebuilding out nation’s critical infrastructure–roads and bridges, public transportation, water and sewer systems, and public schools. But in the 21st Century, our electronic infrastructure is just as important for economic success as our physical infrastructure. That is why the recovery package provides resources for broadband development, so regions of our country can enjoy the economic growth that accompanies high speed internet access. It also provides grants to relieve congestion on our electrical grid and commits us to digital health records so we can relieve cost and help more Americans access care. These are investments we have put off for much too long. By taking action now, we will save or create jobs for three million Americans, strengthen our nation’s economic backbone, and allow commerce to flow more freely to all parts of our country. We are literally buildings stronger communities and a more secure America.

Some have criticized this package because they believe it includes too much spending. It is a fair concern and I do not take the investment of this amount of taxpayer money lightly. But throughout our nation’s history, and ever since the New Deal helped ease the crush of the Great Depression, there has been a general consensus among economists and policy experts that targeted government spending is an effective form of stimulus in an economic downturn. That we are using this spending to rebuild the infrastructure upon which our long term economic competitiveness depends is a further benefit.

I also acknowledge that tax cuts for working Americans can help ease the pinch by allowing families to keep more of their hard earned money. If tax cuts are effectively targeted, they also encourage consumer spending. This is why the package:

  • provides tax relief to 95 percent of American workers through a refundable tax credit of up to $400 per worker;
  • offers $250 credit to disabled veterans, social security recipients no longer in the workforce and federal retirees;
  • increases the earned income tax credit (EITC) and expands the child tax credit;
  • creates an “American opportunity” education tax credit for individuals seeking a college education;
  • increases the homebuyer tax credit passed late last year and eliminates the repayment requirement for all homes purchased in the first half of 2009

To assist small businesses in creating jobs and spur investment H.R. 1:

  • allows businesses to write off of losses incurred in 2008 against taxes assessed over the previous five years;
  • extends the increased bonus depreciation and small business expensing for any investments in new plants and equipment in 2009;
  • allows tax credits for hiring recently discharged unemployed interns and youth.

The action we have taken will be a desperately needed “shot in the arm” for our ailing economy, but we also need a long term strategy that will ensure America’s prosperity for future generations. One example of where we can take bold steps to address economic, national security, and environmental policy priorities is the energy sector. It is more important than ever for America to adopt and aggressive strategy to develop alternative sources of energy. Only by ending our addiction to oil will we be able to retain our competitive advantage as a nation and ensure a promising future for our children. Just as growth in information technology served as the driving force behind the economic boom of the 1990’s, the development of green technology and green jobs will spur tremendous growth and offer long-term relief to the American economy by making us less dependent on energy from volatile areas of the world.

Again, I appreciate you taking the time to participate in the survey and I look forward to maintaining this dialogue as Congress considers future measures to put our nation back on track. I will continue to keep you updated on this situation and, more generally, my work in the Congress. If you would like to find more detailed information about the recovery package, you can go to http://www.recovery.gov–; a site established by the Obama Administration dedicated to transparent and accountable government. If you would like to sign up to see more regular updates from my office, please sign up for the Sarbanes Standard at www. sarbanes.house.gov

Sincerely,

John P. Sarbanes

Member of Congress

 

Pictures of the original letter:

0820142150 0820142150a

 

The second letter is also by Sarbanes, but is about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. As it says on the letter, the mailing was “prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.” It is as follows:

Dear friend,

As you know, health care reform is front and center on the national policy agenda. As a member of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I have been fully engaged in the health care reform debate since the beginning of this year. On July 31st, my committee reported a comprehensive health reform bill (H.R. 3200) to the full House of Representatives. The bill will be considered on the House floor this fall, which gives members of Congress the public time to discuss and debate the bill’s key elements. Your input is very important for me as this process continues.

I believe we have a good bill, which will address the public’s chief complaints about the current system. Of course, any time we undertake major change, it is natural for people to feel some anxiety. Sadly, those who want to keep the status quo are exploiting people’s apprehension by spreading false information on the Internet and in television ads. They are distorting the intentions of Congress and the content of the health reform legislation. This is why I am writing you to set the record straight on what is and is not in the bill.

An American system. First, I want to be clear that this proposal is not a radical attempt to eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government-run system. It does not seek to replicate the Canadian, British, French, or any other health system. The proposal I supported in the Energy and Commerce Committee will create a uniquely American health care system that builds on what works and fixes what doesn’t. If you like your doctor and your current plan, you can absolutely keep them if this proposal becomes law.

Value for Your Money. This bill takes a measured approach designed to ensure that you get high quality care in return for the hard-earned premiums you pay each month. The bill will prohibit insurance companies from increasing your rates for pre-existing conditions, gender, or occupation. It will cap annual out of pocket expenses and do away with lifetime limits on how much insurance companies will cover. It guarantees affordable oral, hearing, and vision care for children. And it will do away with co-pays and deductibles for preventive care.

More Choices and More Affordable Coverage. For those who do not have health insurance, are looking to change plans, or are worried that they will lose their coverage because of their job, there will be a new framework in place to give you options. The bill creates a health care exchange where individuals can choose from multiple plans and benefit from access to the kind of group rates that only large employers can offer now. This approach will also make health insurance more “portable” and give Americans the assurance that they can continue to receive health care if they change jobs, are laid off, or simply don’t like the plan offered through their employer.

A Public Option to Create Healthy Competition. Along with the many plans offered in the exchange by familiar private insurers, there will also be a public health plan option that will offer some long-overdue competition for the private health insurance industry that currently has a stranglehold  on the system. Enhanced competition in the health care market will reduce cost, promote innovation and provide recourse for those who are currently without coverage. The “public option” makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it has been widely mischaracterized as a “government takeover.” This has been flatly refuted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which projects that the public plan will draw approximately twelve million participants by 2019. That’s large enough to help influence best practices and push private insurers to provide consumers with quality service, but at 4% of the total population of our country, it’s about as far from a “government takeover” as you can get.

Having discussed some things this bill will do, I would like to now talk about what this bill will NOT do:

  • It does not require anyone to enter into a government-run health care plan. If you like your doctor and your current plan, you can absolutely keep them if this proposal becomes law. For those who want to study other plans, it will give you more choices at lower rates than individuals can get in the current market.
  • It does not attempt to “ration” care. Nothing in the bill empowers any government official to prohibit private health plan coverage of particular medications or treatments. It does fund scientific research that will empower doctors to make decisions about what works best for their patients and improve care.
  • It does not provide subsidies for undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance. The bill explicitly states that “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
  • The bill will not cause employers to “dump” their workers into the public plan option. Some worry that large and small businesses will have an incentive to terminate coverage for their employees and dump them into the public option. For example, small businesses are largely exempt from the coverage mandate in the bill and those that are obligated will have access to tax credits to help with their expenses. Large businesses will need to keep offering coverage in order to compete for workers in the market. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office projects that by Year 2019 only 4% of the population — about twelve million people — will be in the public plan.

A bill of this importance will not be rushed through Congress. Since January, the three House committees of jurisdiction have held more than 20 hearings on all aspects of the health care system. These committees released a discussion draft in June, introduced a formal bill in July, and each conducted through markups of the bill. The full House is likely to take up the bill in the fall and the Senate must follow suit. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be reconciled by a conference committee.

I hope this information is useful to you as the Congress continues to make progress on health care legislation. I believe it is possible to make intelligent reforms to our health care system that expand coverage and improve quality of care. I also believe that there are many areas where we can reduce cost by eliminating waste and making our system more efficient. The status quo is unsustainable for our economy and I am convinced that long term security will be elusive until we fix our health care system. If you have access to the internet and would like additional information about the health care reform bill, please visit the Energy and Commerce website at http://www.energycommerce.house.gov. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact my office at 410-832-8890.

Sincerely,

John P. Sarbanes

Member of Congress

 

Frankly, much of what Sarbanes says is is utter bullshit. Just saying. Also, the public option was never part of the final bill.

 

Pictures of the letter:

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Who does the House of Delegates represent?

The chamber of MD’s House of Delegates

Recently, I saw an image on twitter that outlined the wealth of congressmembers, concluding that they are (mostly) in the top 10% of the income scale. There are not adequate resources do this, unfortunately, for the 188 members of the General Assembly, so it is better to make a post showing which legislators serve which moneyed interests.

Here are the members of Maryland’s House of Delegates, using data from Influence Explorer, which groups delegates who have the said companies, either through individual or PAC contributions, that are their top nine campaign contributors:

delegateswhoserveswhatinterest

This chart, with all its wonderful colors and whistles shows there are three major lobbying forces affecting the House of Delegates: the National Association of Realtors which the lobbying group for the real estate industry, the trade unions, and Constellation Energy, now owned by Mideast power company, Exelon. The Health Policy Leadership Alliance, part of the Maryland Hospital Association which represents the state’s hospitals, that has an official purpose to ultimately “foster improvements in health care for the citizens of Maryland,” but what it really should say is that it represents the interests of the state’s hospitals, whatever that may be. There are thirty delegates who serve an “other” interest, which means that either they are self-funded, or the interest they serve is not one that corresponds with the categories on this chart (small business, business lobbying groups, etc…)

In a simplified version of the above chart, I broke the numbers down even further, showing the influence of certain groups on the legislature itself:

Inthehouseofdelegates

This breakdown reveals a number of aspects: the powerful influence of the National Association of Realtors, the trade unions, and multinational corporations, with 62-63% of them being energy corporations. Additionally, it reveals the power of Constellation Energy and the Health Policy Leadership Alliance as well.

Beyond these findings, which should surprise no one, are a number of industry and pressure groups I did not include. One of these is the Restaurant Association of Maryland originally opposed the wage increase in 2013 because it would make restaurants pay more to their workers (which would only get paid 70% of the minimum wage). But then, in 2014, they praised the minimum wage bill, because it didn’t really help out tipped workers since “he tipped workers’ pay was not tied to…the hike in minimum wage.” Thompson, the spokesperson for the Association said after the bill passed that “we,” referring to the association and possibly the industry, “were very happy that legislators understood our business and the tipped wage issue.” I still remember a Maryland Delegate at a conference I’ll leave unnamed which I went to, warning of this and saying it would benefit the restaurant industry, telling them to vote against the bill. The legislature seemed to not care, and even failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Delegate Heather Mizeur who supported the rise in the wages of tipped workers by 70%, who I’m not fond of, voted for this bill.

Another group I did not mention is the Maryland Bankers Association, which is a sub-group of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Individuals from the Association give mostly to Democrats and somewhat to Republicans. The Association on its website declares that it “is strong, steadfast and the leading advocate in creating sustainable value and success for our members, their employees and Maryland banking.” In the past, the Association has argued against a state-run bank, like the successful one in North Dakota, saying it would have “an unfair advantage” over commercial banks “because it would not pay taxes.” This is no surprise since the association represents, in the words of the staff of the Washington Business Journal, “the interests of Maryland’s banking industry before federal and state lawmakers and regulators and promote[s] the industry with the public.”  On the eve of the FDIC taking over and bailing out two Maryland banks in 2012, the association said the state’s banking industry was “strong.” That same year, they also seemed to grumble about new consumer finance regulations. The Association’s former CEO, Kathleen Murphy, has also, not surprisingly, been hostile toward credit unions in the state (also see here). This position is consistent with their opposition to a bill that would allow small banks and big banks to compete against one another. Murphy was even concerned with how banks could be held liable for lead paint in Baltimore City. There are many more positions that the Association takes, but it is clear that they support the interests of the state’s banking community.

There is one more group. That is the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association which has given, mostly through individual contributions, almost a million dollars to candidates who are almost exclusively Democrats, including a $26,000 PAC contribution to the Democratic Party. The Association is now called the Maryland Association for Justice (MAJ), and it is officially dedicated to “improving the civil justice system through legislative advocacy and the professional development of attorneys who represent the injured,” which it does through a list of business-friendly sponsors and publications like The Daily Record. MAJ, as you may have guessed, has a PAC, which it uses to “track and monitor legislation bills of interest to the trial bar” and fights to “hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligent actions.” Now, what does this mean? In a December 2013 article in the Baltimore Sun, they noted that Attorney Daniel Clements, who chairs MAJ’s PAC which is “one of the state;s largest political donors,” filed a suit to “prevent Democrat Anthony G. Brown’s running mate from accepting campaign donations during the legislative session.” The article goes on to note that Clemons has given thousands of dollars in contributions to President Barack Obama, Doug Gansler for Governor, Ken Ulman who is Anthony Brown’s running mate, and others. The Association is only mentioned in four other articles in the Baltimore Sun and in none of them is its political activity focused on. Even without any further information, it is clear that MAJ is a powerful force on the state level.

There is one industry I did not include in my analysis and that is the newly formed casino industry in Maryland. In an article published in the Washington Post yesterday, John Wagner wrote about how even though it is illegal for casino owners “to make donations to political candidates,” owners such as William M. Rickman Jr. of an Ocean Downs casino through companies he owned instead of the casino itself. Rickman’s thousands upon thousands of dollars in contributions, which are of possible legality, have gone mainly to Anthony Brown, Mike Miller, and Ken Ulman, along with “several lawmakers who sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over gambling and racing legislation.” Rickman is not the only one to go around the ban on political contributions by casino owners, and that is why some have said that this shows the porous nature of the law.

While this article only covers the Maryland House of Delegates, next the Maryland Senate will be analyzed in a similar way, as well the big funders of the state’s political parties. Hopefully, this article shines a light on who the delegates really represent (many represent certain business interests) and make one question the House of Delegates itself, realizing that the House does not, seem to represent the interests of the populace.

Update:

I haven’t got much response on this post but there was comment on reddit which was interesting. One commenter said that “real-estate is 20% of Maryland’s GDP, of course the NAR [National Association of Realtors] is going to try to influence decisions.” This seemed plausible and the only thing I could find was a quote from an article in the Frederick News-Post which seemed to corroborate the claims in the comment (major parts are bolded:

Government work makes up 21 percent of our economy (almost double the national rate) — an equal portion is made up of the finance, insurance, real estate and leasing industries. If Maryland is to improve its standing, lawmakers need to reconsider the state’s regressive taxation and seek to diversify.

I went further into this, using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis but I could find nothing confirming what the Frederick News-Post had said.

Posted in environment, LBGT, maryland, Politics, taxes, the people, Western Maryland | Leave a comment

Slaveholder’s anthem

Editor’s note: Like my previous post [link here], this one is some song I came up with, but never put music to it. It criticizes Francis Scott Key as a slaveholder and the singing of the ‘national anthem’ or the Star-Spangled Banner. It might be unfinished or not. Without further adieu, here it is:

You know that song you sing
at the baseball games
It has a distinct ring!
The National Anthem

Did you know Francis Scott Key was a slaveholder?

CHORUS:
I don’t wanna sing a slaveholder anthem
Slaveholder anthem (x3)
We need a 99% anthem!

Why can’t some other song be the national anthem
Like This Land Is Your Land
Lets not sing the slaveholder anthem!

If we are the home of the free and brave
Why are we singing a song promoting exploitation and degradation!
Its very grave and doesn’t highlight the plight of the slave
Don’t sing the slaveholder’s anthem

CHORUS

Lets not look up to others
We need everyone as our sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers!

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Revolutionary Worker

Editor’s note: This is a story I wrote some time back, based on my personal experience at a camp that will go unnamed and annoyance with my working situation. It could be better, but it is what it is. Enjoy!

In the depths of one man’s mind, a realization came to him, something he’d like to say for a long-time. The man had worked at the summer camp for the past five summers, starting as a CIT, moving up to paid positions of assistant counselor and head counselor. Bad, arrogant bosses was nothing nee to him. He had been an assistant counselor in senior camp by mistake. His mother had forced him to check a box on the employment form saying sports camp. This was foreign to him. His friends were in tech camp so this upset him so. As a worker, he was shy and not necessarily communicative with others, earning him bad marks on his review. So, certain acts of resistance like not listening to authority followed. Interestingly, despite all this, he gained friends: the campers, his only allies. The non-social nature he sometimes displayed was not an accident, he was born with it. Years later, such a condition had been mitigated by subsequent action on his part to make friends. This gained him allies among campers and staff alike. But a new threat was facing him: his boss.

She was a pudgy woman probably in her fifties. Small glasses adorned her head, which was smaller than the rest of her body. The white skin was common for those in authority in the camp, since very few people of color occupied positions of power at the summer camp. Katito Thomler was her name and he hated her. For him, the enemy  was whomever would mess with him, no matter what side he was on. From some angle, his boss, Katito, may seem kind-hearted. However, she really was arrogant in a sense and very demanding. Recently, she told campers to call BS ‘Peanut Butter’ instead because of possible negative parent reaction. Even thirty-minute breaks, a time away from the struggles of camp, were even “regulated” with time, place and manner restrictions. Staff could go in one specific place, not in the gym where people played basketball, but could go anywhere outside. Many of the past experiences of breaks he had that summer would never have happened if the rule had been in place. In.his mind these rules were just an expansion of the benevolent boss dictatorship by Thomler over the tech camps.

All of this thought made this one man, Howard Sinclair Debs think of revolutionary thoughts. Even with the good will of the ruling c clan, it wasn’t enough for him. As head counselor he got 20 cents more than he did as an assistant. This increase in pay meant that being a head counselor is no more important than being an assistant counselor. Everyone worked together and helped each other out. Debs thought that it could be better, much better. Instead of of arrogant, controlling bosses, why not have workers manage their own business? This was already the case in the anarchist tradition of co-ops across America. Millions were involved so why couldn’t he be as well? In the 1870s a workers commune ruled over Paris, the capital of France, for a few months. The occupiers declared on May 1st that the day was to be one of no work, no school. Why didn’t he participate? All the pressures were building on him. He wished his dream would come true: a worker-controlled, worker-run system rather than an oppressive hierarchical system. Sadly it seemed that staff at his workplace were laid back and did not want change. But some did not like Thomson’s measures like the black counselor in the tech camps, Paul, since he didn’t like his freedom being limited. Debs fully agreed but he wanted more.

At a certain point, he began to lay down on a couch… It was the last day of camp. He had a boom box and he was ready. As work was ending he turned it on and a sweet country music sound came out:

“Take this job and shove it!
I ain’ t gonna work here no more…”

It was a song by Johnny Paycheck. That was the end of that and that job was over. It was nothing like what Jurgis Rudks did in Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle. Debs yawned, stretching from the couch. Was it all a dream or could he make a worker-owned, worker-controlled enterprise a reality?

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What the business community thinks of those running for Governor in MD

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Recently, I wrote about the money in Maryland’s Gubernatorial primary in which I said, “this post will look into where each gubernatorial candidate (GOP & Dem), as noted by the MD State Board of Elections, gets their money which is relevant to the overall election. Each reader can make their own conclusions based on the campaign contributions of each candidate.” I got pretty piss poor response from a posting of the blogpost on reddit (by which I mean that there wasn’t comments from a lot of users). An exchange between one user (bondbird) and another (intlnews) is interesting to understanding some reactions to what I wrote about:

Bondbird: Great link, and very informative. Thanks for posting this.

Intlnews: Any time. It would be great if the candidates would put that on their websites…but that would never happen.

Bondbird: From your article I can tell you that I automatically ruled out two candidates, and moved one way up on my list for voting.

Intlnews: Which two ones?

Bondbird: I would never vote for a minister, progressive or not, as I believe in separation of church and state. So, Coates was never in the running. I am very uncomfortable with the liquor board and Bank of America money[1] for Gansler, so he’s a no. Mizeur is awfully heavy in big medicine money so she goes to a no for me. Which way are you leaning?

Intlnews: Hmmm…I’m not really sure. I think that Gansler and Brown are leaning toward business but Mizeur seems to be a bit too… I’m a registered independent anyway, so I wouldn’t even be voting in the primary…

This article aims to look at what the business community thinks of the candidates running for Governor, looking at articles from the main business papers like Maryland Reporter [2] and the Baltimore Business Journal, The Daily Record, and business groups like the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. After all, as noted by the Baltimore Business Journal, “bolstering Maryland’s business community is going to be a front-burner issue in the 2014 governor’s race” and as Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee said, “Democratic and Republican candidates for governor in the June 24 primary elections are passionately communicating their commitments to improving Maryland’s business climate, creating jobs and strengthening our state’s competitiveness for economic growth.” This is also relevant because the money would point to: Anthony Brown supporting industries such as Real Estate, Lawyers/Law Firms, Securities & Investment, & Health Professionals; Doug Gansler supporting the liquor lobby and the interests of companies like Microsoft and Bank of America; Heather Mizeur supporting the interests of big medicine, the computers/internet industry, and so on; David Craig supporting the real estate industry and big business in general; Ron George, an ALEC member, supporting the interests of commercial banks, business associations, and so on; Charles Lollar supporting business services and real estate industries along with health professionals; and Larry Hogan supporting law firms, private equity firms, investment companies as I noted in a previous article. As the Washington Post said after a Democratic debate in May: “All three candidates agreed that the state could do more to improve its business climate.” Still, this article is important and gives some sampling of what the business community thinks.

 

THE DEMOCRATS [TOP CONTENDERS]

Heather Mizeur

Gary Haber, Staff Reporter for the Baltimore Business Journal on Mizeur’s push for combined reporting for MD-based corps which means they would have to pay tax on their out of state entities as well[3]:

“A change to Maryland tax law that would bring in more revenue but increase costs and complexity for Maryland companies.”

Gary Haber, Staff Reporter for the Baltimore Business Journal on Mizeur’s push for easing small business taxes:

House Bill 1158 would create a rebate for small businesses to reduce the personal property tax they pay on their machinery, equipment, inventory and other personal property. Under combined reporting, a company headquartered in Maryland would have to pay the state’s 8.25 percent corporate income tax on revenues earned by out-of-state subsidiaries.

Barry Rascovar, writing for Maryland Reporter and on behalf of the publication (“here’s where we stand on the all-important Democratic side”) who seems to go a bit over the top:

“The third candidate, Mizeur, continues to promote a far-left agenda that appeals to segments of Maryland’s liberal Democratic Party. Her polite, demure attitude, a well-delivered summary of her goals and her refusal to join Brown and Gansler in tit-for-tat criticisms helped her immensely in these debates…Of the three [Democrats running for Governor, she is the most hostile to businesses and the wealthy. She has excoriated shale-oil fracking, millionaires, chicken farmers, a natural gas export plant in Southern Maryland and any thought of a tax cut for corporations or a reduced estate tax. She’s in favor of legalized marijuana, universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds and three-year-olds, state subsidized child care, a living wage of $16.70 an hour, tax cuts for the middle class, tax breaks for small businesses, an end to income inequality and campaign finance reform. How she pays for her proposals is an exercise in hype and gross exaggeration.”

In a conversation on Maryland Reporter, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of the website says that during the debate,

Del. Heather Mizeur also stood unwaveringly by her progressive agenda: marijuana legalization, with the revenue to be funneled to expansion of pre-kindergarten education; expanded health care with an emphasis on catering to minorities. But with only mild bickering between Gansler and Brown, her position as the positive, grassroots Hail Mary was weakened. She presented herself well enough and executed her explanation of the important issues warmly and directly, but perhaps not enough to convince the swath of yet undecided voters composing the audience.

Barry Rascovar of Maryland Reporter (once again a bit over the top with the ‘far left’ claim):

Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur leads the pack as far as spending on feel-good projects with money the state doesn’t have. That’s not surprising, since Mizeur is on the far left of the Democratic spectrum…She does want to soak the rich — a millionaire’s tax and combined reporting for multi-state corporations. Neither is a giant money-raiser, and combined reporting turns into a money-loser during recessionary times…She also proposes a tax break for small businesses, a vast expansion of the state’s existing $250 million a year school construction program — without listing a funding source — more money spent on job training and massive new transportation projects…Once again, Mizeur identified herself as an issues candidate who isn’t serious about getting elected. The vast majority of voters have never heard of her running mate…It’s a sign of desperation or a sign Mizeur is running as the gay-rights, super-liberal who simply wants to send a message.

In a post by the Greater Baltimore Committee (represents big Baltimore businesses), they said that “Democratic candidate Delegate Heather Mizeur’s call to increase taxes on large corporations and high earners and use the new revenue for tax relief to middle-income families and small business employers” was a “business-climate strategy.”

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Mizeur’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

Mizeur proposes increasing taxes on high-income earners and closing corporate tax “loopholes” to pay for tax relief to middle-class families. She would raise the state’s top income tax rate to 6.5 percent – from 5.75 percent currently – and reduce tax rates for most families earning less than $150,000. She proposes streamlining the regulatory system, increasing job training funding, providing property tax subsidies to small businesses, enacting a “living wage” of $16.70, commercializing academic research and funding infrastructure priorities.

Byran B. Sears of The Daily Record:

Marylanders would have to smoke a lot of pot in order to pay for full implementation of a preschool education plan proposed by Del. Heather Mizeur. But the plan proposed by the Democratic candidate for governor would face a (dare we say it) chronic shortfall beginning in the fourth year. Under Mizeur’s legalization proposal, adults 21 or older could purchase up to one ounce per day and would be able to smoke it at home. Public use would remain illegal, as would driving under the influence of the drug.

Editorial board of the Washington Post:

“Mizeur…will…inspire panic attacks in the business community…Ms. Mizeur’s ambitious programs would abandon whatever remains of restraint in Maryland’s approach to spending.”

According to technical.ly, a site which seems to often side with the technology sector, they noted that Mizeur

“said tackling the income inequality gap in Maryland is central to any economic development in the state. For starters, she wants universal pre-kindergarten education for children under 5 years old. She also said she wants to increase the minimum wage to a “living wage.” She’s interested in pushing tax relief for small businesses through a rebate tax on equipment, and would ask corporations “to pay their fair share” so small businesses can be taxed less. As for Maryland’s corporate income tax rate of 8.25 percent, Mizeur noted it’s the second-lowest in the region.”

As noted by SOMD News:

“Mizeur laid out a 10-point plan for improving the state’s business climate, which includes tax cuts for 90 percent of Marylanders and small businesses paid for by the reinstitution of the state’s tax on the highest incomes and the closing of corporate tax loopholes. She also said the state could raise $175 million by legalizing and taxing marijuana.”

Citizens Oversight Maryland (I think connected to Cindy Walsh’s campaign) says that Mizeur is not a progressive:

“…she is putting forward the idea of caution when everything behind the scenes moves global corporations exporting natural gas and Maryland is right in the middle of it.  In fact, Johns Hopkins is heavily invested in natural gas and is the driver of all that is consolidation of the energy industry in Maryland…If you look at media headlines you would think O’Malley and Mizeur were fighting fracking when indeed, both are aligned to move it forward…You know if Mizeur is praising O’Malley for his work in fighting fracking all the while he is leading the way on the Governors Association—–IT IS ALL PROPAGANDA… As with all utilities in Maryland that are privatized as with this wind farm project, it immediately is handed to ever larger corporations and at this time most of Maryland’s utilities are controlled by global corporations. Even this wind farm was handed to a global corporation for operations. Heather Mizeur supports all of these public private partnerships that make these operations not only about profit, but end up soaking the public for money through ever rising rates…Maryland was ground zero for the subprime loan fraud—-MERS operated in Mizeur’s Washington suburbs. Wall Street still owes Maryland hundreds of billions of dollars at least—-and I do not hear a word from Heather….she doubles-down with Wall Street. A progressive would have created a state public bank and kicked these big banks out of Maryland…So, when Mizeur outlines the funding and support she sends to the underserved, women, and children….she never speaks of the dismantling of public justice and massive fraud and corruption taking all this funding…We know all of the appointments to Federal health programs and to Senate Committees by Harry Reid were all pols ready to privatize and defund public health. This is what Heather Mizeur works towards as well.”

 

Anthony Brown

Barry Rascovar, writing for Maryland Reporter:

“Brown came across best on the 90-minute WOLB-AM radio confrontation, heard mainly by an early-morning, African-American audience in both the Baltimore and Washington areas…Brown clearly isn’t comfortable under harsh TV lights. He’s more at ease before a radio microphone. In both the third TV debate and the lone radio debate, Brown harped on achievements of the past eight years and the need to continue progressive reforms. He repeated time and time again, “more work to do” and “we can do better”…While Gansler may be winning the ad war and gaining in later debates, he’s got an uphill road ahead of him. Among Democrats, the governor remains fairly popular, which rubs off on his lieutenant governor.”

In a conversation on Maryland Reporter, Len Lazarick said that during the debate:

“Brown said the estate tax cut passed this session, and signed by the governor, “would never have made it to my desk.” Instead he would have favored comprehensive tax reform. Did he actually disagree with Gov. Martin O’Malley on something?”

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Brown’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

“In pledging to convene a tax reform commission, Brown envisions “no new taxes” but does not support “giveaway” corporate income tax breaks. He proposes to generate jobs through state infrastructure projects including light rail in Baltimore and the D.C. regions and improvements to the port and airport. Other proposals include a focus on STEM education, creating a center to connect employers to skilled workers, investing in “apprentice academies,” and creating new funding initiatives such as an infrastructure bank and small business loan funds.”

Donald Fry (again) speaking about the business-friendly nature of the O’Malley administration which Brown would carry on with him:

“The recently announced willingness on the part of Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration and state legislative leaders to consider a gas tax increase to create jobs while addressing the massive backlog of unfunded transportation projects raises hope in the business community that, finally, our elected leaders may address Maryland’s escalating crisis in funding transportation infrastructure. Most business leaders understand that mobility and a superior, reliably-funded transportation infrastructure is a core pillar for a competitive business climate…At an October 18 joint hearing in Annapolis of three House of Delegates committees, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown signaled strong administration support for increasing capital spending on transportation as a way to put people back to work and to begin moving long-dormant highway, transit, port and airport projects into the construction phase.”

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposed the minimum wage increase O’Malley put in place, which Brown has still supported:

“Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown joined advocates of a minimum wage increase at a rally in Annapolis earlier this week. The Governor said he would introduce a bill this session that would increase Maryland’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour in three steps by 2016, with future raises indexed to inflation. The Maryland Chamber will oppose the legislation. Imposing additional costs on Maryland’s employers by increasing the minimum wage would have a negative impact on state’s business climate and economic competitiveness. Maryland’s job creators should be allowed to create wage and benefit programs that balance the needs of their employees with the economic stresses their companies face. Imposing additional labor costs on businesses could force impacted business owners to make difficult divisions like raising prices, eliminating positions or trimming benefits…There is no question that the job-creating capital spending on Maryland’s infrastructure proposed by the O’Malley administration is appropriately focused.”

GBC businesses launched an initiative to ‘promote health’ with Anthony Brown in 2010:

Fifteen Maryland businesses May 19 signed a letter of intent to participate in the state’s new Healthiest Maryland initiative. GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry and GBC-member businesses joined Lt. Governor Anthony Brown in launching the new initiative aimed at enlisting employers and their employees in an organized workplace effort to promote healthy lifestyles. Immediately prior to a morning press conference, Brown led business leaders on a “health walk” from the Center Club to the Inner Harbor, promoting one of several activities businesses can encourage to improve employees’ health.

From my still controversial article about the ‘light rail lobby’ which talked about Anthony Brown supporting the light rail…which certain segments of the business community favored:

The first of these are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who both spoke at a meeting of the Purple Rail Alliance support it…The position of the city’s elite, political and economic came together when Maryland’s Department of Transportation and the MTA in early June hosted an industry forum for the Baltimore Red Line, which was attended by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Rawlings-Blake and a number of the business interests. Other officials also endorse the light rail expansion plan.

Editorial board of the Washington Post:

“Still, Mr. Brown strikes us as the best candidate and the one most likely to improve what Democratic leaders concede is the state’s anemic track record in attracting and retaining jobs and employers. Unlike Mr. Gansler, Mr. Brown has not scattered spending promises (often without plausible funding sources) like grass seed. Unlike Ms. Mizeur, he will not inspire panic attacks in the business community. No doubt, Mr. Brown, who is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s anointed successor, is a mainstay of the Democratic establishment and a paragon of the status quo…The focus of Mr. Brown’s campaign, at least rhetorically, has been to foster a business climate more conducive to employment growth. He proposes a cautiously staged expansion of pre-kindergarten education and a renewed emphasis on vocational schooling. If he has not offered voters a soaring vision, he has also not over-promised. That’s the right approach after the drumbeat of tax increases — some unavoidable — in the O’Malley years, which has left Maryland struggling to compete with Virginia for jobs.”

He may even support the Tech Council as well.

 

Doug Gansler

Barry Rascovar, writing for Maryland Reporter:

“Gansler is separating himself as the lone critic of the O’Malley-Brown years: 40 new or expanded taxes, a machine-like party establishment of special interests seeking Brown’s coronation and the need for change in Annapolis. He won the third debate. He was much more fluent, more relaxed and less hesitant. He made contact directly with his studio audience. His theme: jobs, jobs, jobs…So far the best commercials belong to Gansler. His silent ad (no words, just music) slamming Brown for his debate no-show was unusual and effective in getting viewer attention. His ad in which he casually reads from critical Brown editorial comments in the Washington Post about Brown’s failings in the health exchange disaster is another winner…Gansler is bucking nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment at a time when the call for change is coming mainly from Republicans.”

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Gansler’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

“Gansler’s plan pledges to “hold the line on tax increases” but close tax “loopholes” for large companies and to implement spending reforms designed to save an estimated $1.5 billion. He proposes to gradually reduce Maryland’s 8.25 corporate income tax rate to 6 percent, equaling Virginia’s rate. Other proposals include job-creation tax incentives for small businesses, discounted college tuition for degree programs in high-demand occupations, establishing a “robust” technical apprenticeship program and accelerating Maryland’s schedule for increasing the minimum wage.”

Editorial board of the Washington Post:

“Mr. Gansler has proposed a major cut in the corporate income tax, without a convincing plan to recoup those lost revenues or make corresponding spending cuts.”

A nice quote from Gansler which makes one think the business community would at least somewhat support him:

“There’s not a Marylander I come across that doesn’t talk about the tax structure and how we’re not competitive with other states.”

According to technical.ly, a site which seems to often side with the technology sector, they have this to say about Gansler:

Gansler said a “Buy Maryland First” policy is needed, as well as tax incentives for companies willing to manufacture in Maryland for at least five years. What do those incentives look like? Two to three years tax-free to the company doing aforementioned manufacturing. He said the corporate income tax rate in Maryland needs to be reduced from 8.25 percent to 6 percent, as it is in Virginia, in order to attract companies. Gansler offered a piece of rhetoric related to Baltimore city when he said, “Bringing people back there is going to be important.”

Maryland Reporter described Gansler advocating as a ‘pro-business Democrat’:

Attorney General Douglas Gansler declared Maryland a one-party state at a forum on manufacturing for candidates for governor. “We are a one-party state, and so the Democrat is going to end up winning the deal [the election] at the end,” Gansler said, seemingly dismissing Republican and independent voters. “We have a choice of a pro-business Democrat or a continuation of what we have now.”…Gansler proposed having a “Buy Maryland” program, creating a governor’s business council, creating industrial business zones land zoned for manufacturing, subsidizing manufacturing workforce training, manufacturing tax credits and creating a small business manufacturing initiative pilot program…“The anti-business climate in Maryland has to start at the top if we’re going to change it, “Gansler said.”One of the candidates isn’t here today because of that attitude.”

 

THE REPUBLICANS [TOP CONTENDERS]

David Craig

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Craig’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

Craig vows to eliminate the income tax over five years and to eliminate the estate tax and the rain tax. He proposes to ultimately reduce the corporate income tax to 4 percent.  He also vows “make actual cuts” to the state budget and to reduce the state education department’s administrative budget, pass savings on to local schools, end Common Core, and make tuition at state higher education institutions more affordable.

According to technical.ly, a site which seems to often side with the technology sectors, they summarize Craig’s positions:

Craig said he would eliminate the sales tax on products made and used by businesses in Maryland. He said the corporate income tax rate in Maryland needs to be reduced from 8.25 percent to 4 percent, lower than it is in Virginia, in order to attract companies. To lure younger people between the ages of 18 and 24 to attend college in the state, and then remain here after graduation, Craig thinks raising the minimum wage should be off the table. Instead, he said, the income tax should be lower for people at lower income levels.

 

Ron George [an ALEC member]

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described George’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

Besides a 10 percent income tax cut, George proposes to reduce the state’s corporate income tax rate to 5.75 percent by 2017, repeal the rain tax and the gas tax increase and to audit state agencies, eliminating redundant services. He also proposes a lock-box for transportation funding, attracting manufacturing firms to the Baltimore region and luring small manufacturing firms to Maryland’s rural areas.

According to technical.ly, a site which seems to often side with the technology sectors, they summarize George’s positions:

George said he wants to find ways to bring manufacturing firms back to Baltimore in an effort to rebuild the city’s tax base. Specifics were minimal, but he said the Port of Baltimore and the city’s harbor would be key to his plan. The owner of Ron George Jewelers, George noted that he starts people at his stores in Annapolis and Severna Park at $11 an hour, but said businesses — not Maryland government — should set the minimum wage. As for Maryland’s corporate income tax rate of 8.25 percent, George said he wants to lower it to 6.25 percent in 2015, and then reduce it by a quarter-percent the next two years until it hits 5.75 percent.

Larry Hogan

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Hogan’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

Hogan supports reducing personal income taxes at all levels, eliminating the rain tax and ensuring that the state’s corporate income tax is “regionally competitive.” He vows to make decisions based on restoring Maryland’s economy through job creation and making it easier for families and job creators to stay in Maryland and for businesses to locate here. He also pledges a more transparent state government.

The Washington Post on Larry Hogan:

“It’s reasonable to question the proposition that Maryland’s economy is utterly supine, while still hoping for a genuine contest of ideas in this fall. The Republican most likely to offer voters a plausible alternative is Larry Hogan, a businessman who served as appointments secretary under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich, the state’s only GOP chief executive in the past 45 years…Unlike Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who would start by declaring war on the state income tax, or Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, who would lead state government by attempting to eviscerate it, Mr. Hogan has a more modest agenda and a more realistic one…He would seek spending cuts — ill-defined so far — by scouring agencies for what he calls small-ticket inefficiencies already identified in scores of audits…The Democrats’ overwhelming dominance of state politics in Maryland does not serve voters’ interests. It invites bloat, complacency and corruption. By positioning himself to the left of the GOP’s bomb-throwers, Mr. Hogan offers the best hope for a real race in November.”

 

Charles Lollar

Donald Fry, the CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee described Lollar’s visible policy positions in The Daily Record as follows:

Lollar vows to immediately reduce the corporate income tax rate to 5 percent and to phase out the state’s individual income tax in five years. He proposes to audit specialty taxes on businesses and to “eliminate as many as possible.” He vows to eliminate the rain tax and create a regulatory climate that allows companies to grow “without hurting the state’s natural resources.”

According to technical.ly, a site which seems to often side with the technology sectors, they summarize Lollar’s positions:

Republican, general manager for Cintas Corporation in Maryland and an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps Reserves with the rank of major. Lollar said his tax reform plan would tie the growth and the size of state government to Marylanders’ income growth and the cost of living via the Consumer Price Index. He said his plan also calls for getting rid of the state’s personal income tax. He’s a fan of tax credits and incentives for keeping businesses in Maryland. At one point he credited the Enterprise Zones in Baltimore city “as long as [businesses] are hiring those from Baltimore.” As for Maryland’s corporate income tax rate of 8.25 percent, Lollar said he wants to lower it to 5.25 percent.

I could go on and on, but I really don’t want to. This is all for now.

Notes:

[1] While the original article did not show he was getting money from Bank of America but rather something called American Bank (likely this), what he says is right. I looked it up in the campaign finance database of the Maryland State Board of Elections & here’s what I found: Gansler has received $3,500 from the Bank of America PAC but not in the one used for his campaign (sneaky sneaky):

sneakysneaky

[2] As I’ve written in the past, Maryland Reporter “has donors including the pro-business groups Maryland Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Baltimore Committee.”

[3] Even “the primer newspapers in Maryland, the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun declared in an editorial on May 9th that one of Baltimore City’s premier business groups, the Greater Baltimore Committee should “rally behind a proposal to adopt…calculating corporate income for tax purposes in exchange for a cut in the corporate tax rate,”” as I wrote in the past.

Also see this article with a pic of Mizeur and O’Malley standing together [Oh no] or this article when Mizeur ““rejected the notion that Maryland is unfriendly to business,” citing the second lowest corporate tax rate in the region.” The Washington Post also reported her saying there “should be discussion about improving the business climate in Maryland.” Also see this article on Maryland Juice. Then there’s this survey that Gansler filled out, showing he is pro-business.

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Dirty money in Baltimore County politics

Editor’s note: This is my letter which was originally published in the Baltimore Sun. I added some context and links to help clarify some points. If you want to see the original letter (the one I sent the Baltimore Sun) then please post below.

I am deeply troubled by the hate mail from Connie DeJuliis that comes to my home every day.

For years, Sen. Jim Brochin has come to the yearly neighborhood meetings in my community to tell about his accomplishments after each legislative session, and he has been on the side of the community. I have not always agreed with him, but I know that he is at least honest and willing to engage in a dialogue with others.

As Mr. Brochin told The Sun last month, “my job isn’t to do what Martin O’Malley tells me to do. My job isn’t to do what Kevin Kamenetz tells me to. My job is to do what my constituents want me to do” (“Brochin, DeJuliis square off in redrawn north county district,” May 17).

As a result of such a brave act of political independence from the Democratic Party, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and outgoing Gov. O’Malley have endorsed his opponent, Ms. DeJuliis.

The pro-DeJuliis and anti-Brochin hate mail is basically the equivalent of delivering attack ads to the doorstep of Baltimore County residents.

Whether this is happening everywhere across the district, I do not know. What I do know is that these ads, as the Teachers Association of Baltimore County recently pointed out in a letter to the Towson Times [3], are distortions of the truth.

Maryland resident Yara Cheikh said the same, in a letter to the editor refuting the claims of Ms. DeJuliis and saying that not only does Mr. Brochin’s agenda come “from the needs of his constituents — and not political ideology” but that Mr. Brochin “doesn’t argue for small government or large government, but rather for good government that serves the needs of his constituency” (“Sen. Jim Brochin doesn’t serve big government,” May 14). Like one showing how he worked with the community to stop the development of Towson Manor Park.

There is something that is even more disturbing about the DeJuliis hate mail. All or at least some of it is funded by an unlikely source: the New York-based 1199 Service Employees International Union Political Action Fund. Providing funding of some or all of these mailers shows that even good groups, like the SEIU, can be corrupted by the urge to inject ever increasing amounts of money in politics on behalf of their favored candidates.

This election is not about who has better political positions, but rather about ethics. Mr. Brochin is not perfect, but at least he’s ethical and truthful. If Ms. DeJuliis is successful on June 24 then it will be clear that the people’s voices have been drowned out by a sea of dirty money.

Burkely Hermann, Towson

Notes:

[1] This was originally referring to a positive ad Brochin sent out but the Sun deleted the words around it, making it so the sentence doesn’t make sense.

[2] I posted the original attack ad on twitter:

[3] I self-published the letter online (it wasn’t published anywhere else) and you can read it here.

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TABCO refutes lies about Brochin

Editor’s note: I saw this letter in the Towson Times (published on June 4, 2014) not that long ago, yet it hasn’t been published online yet… I only got it in a letter from the Committee to Elect Jim Brochin. So, I’m going to publish it myself. I do not know what the original title of this letter was, so I created one myself.

Dear Editor,

We the teachers of Baltimore County are very proud of our candidate recommendation process. We sent out questionnaires to ALL who were running in this primary, Democrat and Republican. We invite those who have returned their questionnaires to us to come for an interview with a panel of our members. Each panel is made up of members from districts across the country. We inform our decisions based on education issues. Contrary to popular belief, we do not choose our candidates by party, rather than[1] by their stance on education issues.

In the state senate race for District 42 we interviewed both Jim Brochin, and Connie DeJuliis. The interview team unanimously picked Jim Brochin as our education candidate. It was evident that he understood the needs of the schools and the educators. He has supported education issues continuously since he has served in that seat.

We recently heard about a negative campaign mailer sent to voters in the 42nd district by Connie DeJuliis. She accuses Senator Brochin of voting to cut funding to schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Senator Brochin has been a campaign for the needs and dollars that support educators and schools. He has been on the right side of countless votes to pass operating and capital budgets that have provided record investments in education programs, services, and personnel, and to modernize and build new schools. Senator Brochin has support education and continues to do so on behalf of not only the students in his district but all across Maryland.

We want an honest politician in the Senate, one who will speak the truth and vote on his/her convictions. We are not interested in someone who is willing to take obscure votes and twist the meaning of those votes to try and mislead voters. We are sure that the voters are too smart for that trick. After all we are the ones who educated those voters.

We need proven leaders who get results representing us in the Senate. That is who Jim Brochin has been and will continue to be — a leader who will represent our interests and vote his convictions.

Abby Beytin

President, Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO)

Notes:

[1] I’m thinking when this was typed in, that this word was accidentally put there… But I’ll leave it stand for now.

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