Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gambling Advocates Should Show Their Hand (Thursday LINKS)

Yesterday, Comptroller Peter Franchot issued a press release calling on the Governor and members of the General Assembly who have advocated for a special session on expanded gambling in Maryland to voluntarily disclose political contributions they've received from "national gambling interests".  Some may argue that this is a political parlor trick intended to raise Franchot's profile when he would otherwise be outside of the action. 

So what?  I think this request is very difficult to argue with from a "good government" perspective.  I've heard a number of objections to the Comptroller's proposal over the last 24 hours, but none of them make much sense.

1.  It's too hard.  As noted in Michael Dresser's article: "Though posed in respectful terms, his challenge to lawmakers is hardly calculated to win friends among Democratic legislators, who are left with the choice of declining or combing through their records on short notice to determine which donations might qualify."  This is a bit of a "walk and chew gum" complaint, but even accepting it as true, here's a reasonable amendment: All legislators that attend the special session on gambling should release gambling contributions within 30 days of the vote.  You can even release it on a Friday to try and bury the news.  Wait, wait, I already know what you're going to say...

2.  All of my contributions will be listed online in accordance with the law.  Right.  Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes in the Campaign Finance Database will be able to account for the fun house of smoke and mirrors that is intended to be our "sunshine disinfectant".  You need to know the name of the appropriate campaign account, ensure money was not contributed through a slate, and only then do you have the opportunity to organize the results to see multiple contributions by the same donor listed multiple times.  And even THEN the average citizen is faced with a litany of LLC's of no apparent origin or purpose other than to obfuscate the relevance of the contribution.  To which you will say...

3.  There is no reason I should have to section out contributions from gambling interests from other individuals that support my campaign.  Why, yes.  Yes there is.  You and your leadership have determined that we should have a "special" session to expand gambling, which will provide significant profit for third party private interests.  Let's have a "special" campaign finance report.  In fact, it may be a good idea to set a precedent for all future special sessions that address a particular industry or interest. 

This all goes back to the point that if our campaign finance reports were more user friendly, current, and did not involve these amorphous LLC's, all of this may not be necessary.  But in the circumstances that our legislature has allowed to develop by acquiescence or endorsement, the average citizen is left only to wonder to what extent their Delegate or State Senator may be having their strings pulled.  That's not good government.


Manny Machado is coming to Baltimore. (!!!)  This good news comes on the heels of an O's sweep of the Mariners and Steve Johnson's first win lining up 23 years (to the day) after his Dad's first win as an Oriole.  (Hard to type through the tears)

2,000 steel workers and support staff saw their worst case scenario come to pass as the winning bid for Sparrow's Point ended up being a plant liquidator.  This is a 21st Century tragedy close to home.  Imagine building a career in a specialized skill and then having the entire industry pulled from under your feet.  And in less than 24 hours, our General Assembly will be in Annapolis for an emergency session to talk about Blackjack.

O'Malley requests federal drought relief for 13 counties.  We did not make the cut.

Maryland has opened online voter registration.  While this move would seem to foretell increased registration come November, Donald Norris with the Public Policy Program at the University of Baltimore seems to predict that this new initiative will have little to no effect on turnout.

Lindsey McPherson's Political Notebook looks at the new Democratic Party headquarters in Columbia.  She even finds a familiar face running the phones.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Nicole takes some awesome pictures of Howard County's furrier contingent at the Worthington Dog Park.  If you're a dog lover, this post will definitely be a good pick me up to start your day.

That's all for today.  As I belatedly noted yesterday, the happy hour for next week is OFF.  I have another Board obligation (not CA) and have been in touch with Matt to reschedule.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!