An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Developer Dollars

This space has included discussions of how little party labels can mean to enterprising politicians eager to move up the ladder, so it shouldn't surprise you to learn that Montgomery County's only Republican councilmember (Howard Denis) lost a committee vote recently to limit the building of McMansions. It also won't surprise you to learn who overruled him: Steve Silverman and Nancy Floreen.
Both Silverman and Floreen were members of the End Gridlock slate in 2002, which relied heavily on campaign donations from the development and building industry.

A recent study by Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, a political action committee, found that Silverman received 71 percent of his money and Floreen 70 percent of hers from development-related interests. But council members dispute the findings, saying they are not accurate.

Money probably doesn't influence policymaking though, right?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Finding CRS

The web site http://opencrs.com/ has collected quite a number of Congressional Research Service reports, not generally available directly to the public.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

One of the best parts of the Center for American Progress/American Progress Action Fund's research is the right sidebar that contrasts the quotes of different folks who should be on the same side, or the contradictory quotes people make themselves. The one for today is yummy:

"It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you're -- you're conceding too much to the enemy."
-- George W. Bush, 6/24/05


"The President should also lay out a timetable for how long American troops will be involved and when they will be removed."
-- George W. Bush, 6/3/99

Steele Lost Race

Josh Kurtz has a profile of Mike Steele that highlights his losing race for state comptroller just a few years ago.
Yet it wasn’t so long ago that Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) couldn’t beat a couple of nobodies named Larry Epstein and Timothy Mayberry in a Republican primary for state comptroller.


So just hours before the filing deadline, Steele, and a whole host of others, jumped into the comptroller’s race. Steele ran with the endorsement of Ellen Sauerbrey, the 1994 Republican nominee for governor who was the favorite for the GOP nomination that year as well.


Steele did lose, finishing third in the crowded primary, with 21 percent of the vote.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Political Program Impacted

The disagreement over how labor should structure itself and what its focus should be is impacting the political efforts of the AFL-CIO, as plans to overhaul the campaign plan stall. Lobbying efforts seem to be unaffected.
Political directors for top AFL-CIO member unions have been mulling changes to the political program since December. The early consensus was that they needed a more consistent presence in more states if they are to turn electoral tides, according to a participant.

“The ideas were to have people on the ground,” said the member of the AFL-CIO’s political committee. “And to train and educate those people to talk to friends, neighbors, churchgoers and bowling club members about the issues, so voters don’t have some stranger knocking on the door, two weeks before the election, telling them what to do.”

In late May, the breakaway unions’ political directors skipped a meeting, this one called to discuss fundamental approaches to the federation’s political program.
In a letter to AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman, political directors from the rebel unions urged that the meeting be postponed until after the convention.
Over the objections of the dissident unions, the federation’s executive committee earlier this month approved a more than $250 million budget for the next two years. It calls for spending about $60 million on political activities.
If you want the inside scoop on the current situation in the House of Labor, check out the Working Life blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Exec Race in Arundel

The race for the county executive post in Anne Arundel is heating up as familiar names talk seriously about the race. Since the Sun has free access, take a look.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Playing the Game

Did you get Nancy Floreen's color mailer? If you missed the flyer with a spiffy headshot, you might not have gotten a chance to see the candidate, err councilmember, reading to young children and dressed up in a firefighters outfit. And you also missed the text, guaranteed to make everyone feel like Nancy cares about their pet priority while still making her sound like a champion of fiscal discipline. Anyone who questions whether Floreen is ramping up to run for Congress or other office if Van Hollen makes the Senate race, hasn't been paying attention.

O'Malley was in Montgomery County this week. One wonders how long it'll take his strategists to realize that the best way to put Duncan away is not through a money race, but by cutting MoCo out from under him. His support here is shallow and with a bit of work a chorus of voices could really undermine his effort to showcase the county, eliminating his only strength.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Store Wars

Check out this great Star Wars parody with awful puns and a great message: http://www.storewars.org/flash/index.html

Slow-moving Lakes

In the northwest, to make power for our cities, federal dams have "transformed the Snake and Columbia from the world's premier salmon highway to a series of slow-moving lakes separated by huge slabs of concrete." To keep from driving the last of these salmon into extinction, regular monitoring is done and a small amount of water is allowed to flow over or through the dams. Now, one senator wants to throw a monkeywrench in the works.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cardin Fundraisers

The MoCo excerpt in today’s Post indicates that D20 Sen. Ida Ruben and Del. Sheila Hixson are sponsoring a fundraiser for Rep. Cardin’s Senate campaign. National Journal rates the race as leaning Democratic, but calls the candidates “underwhelming.”

And in Harford, the county council will soon choose from a number of candidates from both parties to take over as county executive. The former executive left recently to become the head of the Maryland Environmental Service.

Local Blogs

Do you know of blogs or other sources of news (outside of those on the left) about Maryland politics and policy? If so, please send them along to me at on_background@yahoo.com.

Such as two I enjoy reading:

Maryland Policy Blog

Del. Sandy Rosenberg's diary

As well as: The League, Hedgehog Report, Potomac Action, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Free State Politics.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You Might Say That

The Sun reports that the money race for governor continues to beat previous records in Maryland.

At the same time, you'll be shocked to learn that the number of homeless in Montgomery County is actually going up and the state of Maryland is cutting funding for pregnant women and children. But our leaders are doing everything they can to address the challenges facing low income residents, right?

You might say that politicians angling for higher office spend a lot of time and political capitol on the issues that matter to potential or current donors. You might say that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Other Senate Possibilities

Roll Call mentions forensic phsychiatrist Lise Van Susteran and Anne Arundel County Exec Janet Owens, but talks at length about "millionaire real estate developer"" Josh Rales for the Senate seat:
“I think there’s an opportunity for a straight-shooting problem-solver,” the 47-year-old said. “A lot of these professional politicians don’t understand the real world.”

The one problem he may not be able to solve is one of his own making: He is a two-time party switcher.

The article mentions that his donations included money to George W. Bush and Chuck Floyd, among others, and suggests that given his Potomac address and his Jewish activism, he could draw votes from both Van Hollen and Cardin.

Looking into Libraries

A study reveals that yes, law enforcement authorities are looking into what we read to determine if we may be lawbreakers.

Monday, June 20, 2005


The mentions in my previous post about how the conservative movement works to build a movement, to develop leaders and reward those who work for it, does make one wonder why more of that isn't done by progressives.

Reason to Run

I was going to write a bit about the long article in this morning’s Post about Governor Ehrlich’s new chief of staff, but then I saw a mention in Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column about Ellen Sauerbrey, a two-time MD gubernatorial candidate and former state legislator. It seems that not only is she being considered for an assistant secretary of state position on refugees, she is already a ambassador to a UN organization on the same issue.

Now, without seeing Sauerbrey’s credentials, it would be irresponsible of me to delve into whether she is qualified to represent the United States around the world on this important matter. I am not interested in doing so. On the other hand, it does seem reasonable that, above and beyond the skills she gained from her experience in Maryland politics, something is probably at play.

And that leads me to answer a question posed recently about why Howard Denis, Montgomery County’s only Republican councilmember, would even consider running for office (such as the 8th CD) in one of the most Democratic counties in the state, perhaps even the nation. One analyst suggested that doing so would be folly: a risk of his council seat, and a waste of time and energy in a district that no Republican could win.

Obviously movement-building is often a concern when longshot candidates make the race. Most frequently cited is Barry Goldwater’s conservative bid for president, which is believed to have paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980. In the same way, Ellen Sauerbrey may well have set the stage for Bob Ehrlich’s victories by running much stronger races than expected in this heavily Democratic state. Since Denis seems far less concerned with moving a conservative agenda forward than Sauerbrey, is there another reason this might be worth him considering?

Look at how the Bush administration takes care of its movement. Last week’s Post revealed that the Heritage Foundation’s interns are given incredible perks as they are groomed to be the next generation of leadership. In the same way, one cannot help but think that Sauerbrey might have been rewarded with an ambassadorship for taking on long-shot campaigns for governor in a heavily Democratic state. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that such a thing has happened.

That brings us back to Howard Denis. Now for all I know he is perfectly content being a county councilman, but he would be the rare pol indeed (particularly in the DC area) who is satisfied with his position and not considering his next job. So beyond a real hope of winning higher elected office in MoCo or, dare he dream, statewide, it might just be that someone in Annapolis would like to drive up Republican turnout in this county and would be willing to reward the man who did so with a plum job, should he fail to win. It's even possible that a Republican administration in Washington would reward someone who did something for the movement.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Police State or Free State

Governor Ehrlich or his staff may have asked the police in Princess Anne to suppress free speech, as detailed in an incident last month brought to our attention by Progressive Maryland. It seems that observers at a recent gubernatorial event were allowed to voice opinions, or show signs in favor of, the governor and his policies, but not against.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Mizeur Quits

In the Gazette last week (front page of the Takoma Park version), Heather Mizeur is noted for resigning her city council seat early after less than two years to pursue a state legislative bid. She would join former county councilman Blair Ewing, TP city councilwoman Joy Austin-Lane, and possibly others including local activist and Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member Jose Vazquez in that race. So far, no word of a challenger for State Sen. Ida Ruben.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bombing Arundel

There isn't enough pointed political satire out there. Let alone Maryland-relevant satire. So, check out the April Fool's day entry on this Arundel blog.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


So, like many of you I get email from far too many sources. While this means I get a lot of information, but I may have a tendency to write from what is in my inbox.

That said, I'm not a fool. The Democrats' recent press releases just don't do it for me. While they are undoubtedly right about Bob Ehrlich's shenanigans that put workers at risk, who can really swallow lines like “Working families need a champion, not a tool of big business” coming from Terry Lierman? I mean, come on! He may be a good party chair because he can raise money and may even be good at politics, but his career is hardly one long struggle for social justice.

On the upside, I did get a smile out of it.

Senate Race Entrants

Even as Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was announcing an exploratory committee to prepare for a potential Republican campaign for Senate, former Nader press secretary Kevin Zeese was featured in a Baltimore City Paper article talking about a potential independent-unity run. While independents are often marginalized in American politics, the presence of a viable Republican candidate and the development of a unified independent effort that could include Libertarians, Greens, and the state Populist Party, among others, means that we might have an interesting race in Maryland.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How're You?

Up is Down

The Gazette, not known for its inclination to champion progressive causes, can surprise you from time to time. This week, for instance, it has a page 1 piece on polluting power plants in Maryland and how their regulation, or lack thereof, may become a factor in the gubernatorial race. Now before you get as excited as I did at the beginning, you should know that it muddles a bit, but it's a nice departure from much of the stuff there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Revolving Door

Did you read last week about the Bush Administration aide who, despite a lack of scientific credentials, had recently been altering environmental reports and papers to create doubt and uncertainty about climate change?

It's true. And now it appears that he's leaving the administration. He will be working at Exxon Mobil. How about that?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Making A Difference

There was a great article in Sunday's Washington Post about a local professor who donates a huge chunk of his income (recently more than half) and his time to charities. He even works a second job so that he can give more. This is phenomenal and clearly should get some attention from the press and from the general public at large.

It is admirable that this person has chosen to sacrifice the trappings of an upper middle class life to help others. More of us should share in efforts to make a difference, by donating our time and resources.

Some of those who do so get little recognition despite making huge sacrifices in an effort to make the world a better place. I'm talking about the people who work at nonprofit organizations that help the poor and struggling; who fight against racism, sexism, and abuses of human rights; who protect the environment and human health; who struggle for justice and a better world. Many of those individuals (including, at times, this writer) earn far less income than their skills would fetch in the open market. They are often sacrificing half or more of what they could be earning, because they believe that things can be better and that we have a responsibility to work to make them better.

The classic hero stories are about things like a firefighter rushing into a burning building to save a child. The day to day efforts of most nonprofit professionals are not usually that exciting, but in the end they do save lives through their work, like by making sure our food and water are safe to consume. They fight for the things we all need and most of us want, but are often too busy with our daily lives to deal with. So let's recognize hardworking folks and try to help them out when we can.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

State Political Polls

The state Department of Natural Resources recently did a poll in cooperation with a nonprofit group that included questions about voting preferences. Does this strike you as appropriate?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Today's News


Tasini reports that the SEIU has taken a step toward possibly leaving the AFL-CIO while maintaining relations with other unions.

The Post has an interesting piece on influence in PG County and former Senator Tommy Broadwater Jr.

And now that Democrats are beating the drum about Republican abuse of power, you'd think that the Rs would be more circumspect. You'd be wrong!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Wynn for Special Interests

Al Wynn continued to ignore the public interest and the needs of his constituents in favor of moving his political career forward recently. He is sponsoring legislation to cut back the meager campaign finance reforms in place by exponentially increasing the money wealthy individuals can put into the system.

And the Sun has an interesting article about the possibility of running rail out to Fort Meade...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Different From Bribery How?

Love this teaser from the New Republic: "Wal-Mart is not responsible for its employees' lousy medical coverage--the Republicans it gives money to are."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Van Hollen

After the obvious names like Frosh, Shriver, and Perez, this week the Gazette ticked off names for the potential vacancy in the 8th, should Chris Van Hollen run for Senate:
"...Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry L. Lierman, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2000; Susan Turnbull, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee; Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15); Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Dist. 16); House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17); Montgomery County Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg; and Ira S. Shapiro, who lost to Van Hollen in 2002."

More interesting were the Gazette's none-too-subtle nudging of Van Hollen to stay out of the Senate race.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Independent Senate Candidate

Swirling rumors are of a potential independent left candidate from Montgomery County for the Senate seat. The mentioned individual has strong ties to the Greens and other state and national groups...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Role of the Public

In Silver Spring a great deal of discussion is going on about how a proposed civic/community center should be built, run, and serve the public. One writer indicates that the talk isn't just academic:
The battle that is forming around the funding of the Silver Spring town center, is not a battle about money, it is a battle about the role of public space and the growing private commercialization that is supplanting it. It is about who shapes the cultural and civic life of a town: residents or public-private investors.

Friday, June 03, 2005


The Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is really shaking up the country with his radical prescriptions of change. His most recent email (translated into English below) says that (gasp!) "ministers and officials can go to work in casual dress-that is, without tie or jacket."

Koizumi explains:
There is no need to be straitlaced when thinking about what to wear
to work, or whether or not to wear a tie. This is not a fashion
contest; the new policy simply encourages people to dress casually at
work to beat the heat of the sweltering Japanese summer.

I want each person to decide individually what kind of outfit is

But qualifies it "...the current "no tie, no jacket" policy does not mean that
people must always be without a tie or jacket."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

R in the 8th?

It's no surprise that Connie Morella isn't interested in running for her old House seat, according to comments by Republican MoCo councilmember Howard Denis (in the Post). What is interesting is that Denis, one of very few elected Republicans locally, isn't willing to run himself. Now I understand that he's up for reelection and doesn't want to risk his seat for a tough, uphill congressional race, but what was his reasoning in 2004?

And state Dems are again considering moving up next year's primary to give the party time to coalesce around nominees for Senate and Governor.