Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moving

Old Line Elephant is officially moving OldLineElephant.com. Archives will remain here at the old blogspot account.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2012 Candidates on Paper

Here's a question for you - here are some credentials - who would you vote for all things considered?
One term Governor of a Democratic leaning state, highly successful business leader, fiscal conservative.

Former Vice President, former Secretary of Defense, 10 years experience in the House of Representatives, supports legalizing same-sex marriage, military hawk.

20 years experience in the House of Representatives, policy wonk, Speaker of the House for 4 years.

3 year Associate Attorney General, 8 year Mayor of nations largest incorporated city, former US Attorney, fiscal conservative, military hawk.

Successful owner of large construction firm, two term Governor of a swing state, libertarian-leaning Republican, no other political experience.
Who would you vote for? Please vote now!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Defense of Term Limits

Delegate James King (R) has proposed HB660, which would bring up to a vote a Constitutional amendment to implement 2 term limits for the General Assembly, Comptroller, Attorney General, and Governor. Over at Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths makes some very valid arguments about term limits, but I will have to respectfully disagree.

The central point to Mr. Griffiths; argument is that Maryland will become like California, where deficits are out of control because the only memory left in the system is that maintained by unelected political insiders. While partially true - it fails to note a few key elements of the term limit proposal. First, the assumption is that Maryland will automatically fall into the trap that California has fallen into - he fails to note the number of other States which are doing just fine with term limits. Only 30% of States have legislative term limits, yet 4 of the lowest unemployment rates in the US are from States with legislative term limits. The number one and number four lowest State budget deficit as a percentage of their general fund...have legislative term limits.

Second, the system does not work well as is. We have the same people in office for decades voting the same way in a rarely changing legislature. With term limits it allows people the freedom to enter into office with their own individual agenda to hope to accomplish, and not be as beholden to the party establishment. People will be able vote based on their conscience and not merely based on party whipping. The concept of citizen legislators is something to which we should all strive. Politics should not be a career path - politics can not be the only thing that defines ones life. But, I've discussed this before, so I digress.

Third, I agree with Griffiths on his other proposed reforms. Single member legislative districts and independent redistricting are great ideas. I feel that a combination of reforms are necessary to fix our legislature and our government. Term limits will minimize permanent politicians; single member districts would make each legislator more directly accountable; and independent redistricting will prevent the Democratic establishment from removing all the Republican leaning districts.

Now, to deal with the undue influence of lobbyists? I propose that we require State legislators to publicly declare any relative, former staff member, or personal connection who is a declared lobbyist on any level of government. By publicly declare, I mean that they should list those connections on the official webspace provided them by the State of Maryland. Also, we should require that State legislators and their staff are required to wait at a minimum of 24 months following the end of their service to the State to become a State or federal lobbyist. These are just two proposals, but I am sure there are other common sense, Constitutionally sound reforms we can come up with reasonable limits and open information.

Preventing undue influence by "professional staffers" I think is less of an issue than Mr. Griffiths seems to appear. Historic Congressional data suggests that the average staff person serves in office for approximately 5 to 6 years, compared to the average term of a Congressman of 10 years. I've never worked in a legislative office, so I can not discuss with confidence on the culture. All I know is that if I were a newly elected legislator that I would only want minimal carryovers and staff that was dedicated to assistance with legislative research. With term limits, aides would be focused less on those activities that many legislators do to bolster reelection bids (the press releases, mass mailings, etc) and more on the job of helping the legislator...legislate.

Now, this is not the perfect proposal, I think bringing this idea forward is the right idea. I would be more supportive of 3 terms for State Legislatures to allow for more memory in the Legislature, but even openly discussing the possibility is a step in the right direction. Openly debating the pros and cons of term limits is good and healthy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 GOP Hopefuls: Carmen Amedori

In 2010, the Republicans need a solid candidate to take on Barbara Mikulski. Why? The incumbent Senator has a) been in office for too long and has lost touch with her constituents; b) needs to be stopped for earmarking funds to top campaign contributors. Who can stop Mikulski? Previously, I had profiled Queen's Anne County Commissioner, Dr. Eric Wargotz. Recently, a new challenger has arrived - former member of the Maryland House of Delegates Carmen Amedori.

Amedori served from 1999 until 2004 in the Maryland House of Delegates. She served on the Judiciary Committee in the House of Delegates and served as Deputy Minority Whip (2002), then as Assistant Minority Leader (2003). In 2004, then Governor Bob Ehrlich appointed Amedori to the Maryland Parole Commission (MPC). The MPC oversees matters pertaining to parole release and when appointed, Amedori becamse the first Republican to serve in 36 years. Her term expired at the end of 2009 and O'Malley did not reappoint her as far as I know. Prior to her political experience, Amedori was a paralegal and a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

2004 was her last year in the House of Delegates, so the last round of bills she sponsored could give an interesting picture into where her political views lie. The first thing that pops out is her tough attitude on crime and her support of the right to defend your property. She also supports pro-life legislation. She also supported tort reform, gun rights, a ban on human cloning, and localized education control. All in all, this shows a decidedly conservative record on support of legislation.

NewsMeat has very few details on Amedori's donation history - only noting a donation to McCain in 2008 and the Maryland GOP. Monoblogue pointed out Amedori's lifetime rating from the Maryland Accountability Project, an independent conservative group, was 66. In comparison to her compatriots in the House of Delegates, Monoblogue states that "...put her among the top 10 conservatives in the House during the time."

In the end, Amedori sounds like a conservative, Republican candidate. Can she run the right kind of campaign to defeat Mikulski? Only time will tell on that. She currently does not have an active, official website - but she is becoming active on Twitter if you would like to know more. I know that I would.

Friday, February 5, 2010

We Always Forget About the Don't Ask

With the President'a announcement that he wanted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the American people have focused on the injustice they feel was caused by the measure. They focus on the fact that homosexuals could not serve openly in the military and that they could be discharged for displaying "homosexual conduct." I agree with those who want to allow people to be able to serve in the military without hiding their sexual orientation. If one is gay and wants to defend my country, I don't care as long as they are able to perform their duties. In the words of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, "You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight."

That said, as we focus on the issue of "injustice" we forget that this policy was put in place for more than one reason. The "Don't Tell" part is the easy one to focus on - but we often forget about the "Don't Ask." In addition to putting it in place to maintain the norms of the military and compromise with the conservative establishment, it was also put in place to protect homosexual people. How? It prevented people from prying and asking about ones sexual orientation. You are not allowed to harass or question someone if you suspect them of being homosexual - hence the "Don't Ask."

Privacy is important as there are some people who may be uncomfortable and act inappropriately around someone who is openly gay. The "Don't Ask" provisions allowed a person to maintain their private life as private as they desire. What we need to remember is that these protections, these measures implemented to allow people to keep to themselves and not be harassed, must be included in whatever modification is made to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies.

I really don't have anything else to say on the topic. As I stated at the beginning, I have no problem with revoking this policy. My only hope is that whatever new policies are implemented that we as a people remember that each person has the right to not talk about their private lives. They should not be required to answer questions about their sexual orientation and, frankly, should not be asked. If we get rid of the "Don't Tell" and allow gay military personnel to serve as openly as they wish, let remember to "Not Ask" and allow people be as private as they want to be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Andrzejewski for Congress?

In 2010, a conservative superstar was born in Adam Andrzejewski. He ran a spirited campaign for Governor of Illinois with a great deal of grassroots support that, sadly, lost the GOP primary. For the politically inexperienced Andrzejewski, the fact that he received 14.5% in the GOP primary is actually a major accomplishment considering he began the primary season polling around 2%. Conservatives have shown an affinity to Andrzejewski and it would be disappointing if his promising political ambitions end with the loss in this campaign. My suggestion? Run for Congress in 2012.

Andrzejewski currently resides in Illinois' 13th District, which is currently represented by 72 year old Republican Congresswoman Judy Biggert. Biggert is a member of the Republican Mainstreet Partnership and Republicans for Choice. While she has a mostly conservative record on issues of taxation, a review of major votes and interest group ratings paint an interesting picture on other conservative issues. Biggert totes the party line when whipped, but she has crossed party lines on issues that may annoy some conservative such as to expand hate crimes, increase spending federal community service programs, give the FDA power over tobacco products, and to support overriding Bush's veto of federal spending on embryonic stem cell research. She's decidedly pro-choice and has gotten high marks from a PAC which supports expanded federal funding of the arts. In 2009, the Club for Growth gave her an 18% on their RePORK Card. In the end, the people of the 13th district can do better - Andrzejewski would be much better.

For those who do not know, Andrzejewski is a 40 year old self-made millionaire. In 1997, he founded the publishing firm HomePages Directories with his brother. The company published "hometown" phonebooks which were hyper-local (~7 mile radius) and became very successful. Success Magazine highlighted their business in 2006. After he sold off his portion of the company, he created a grassroots organization to teach people how to organize and lobby to get local school boards / counties to post specific spending details on-line. The results in increasing transparency across Illinois have been remarkable.

Andrzejewski is an across the board conservative who is young, charismatic, and can eloquently present his views on the issues. As a member of Congress, it would give Andrzejewski a forum to discuss the issues and a new arena that needs someone fighting for transparency. It's not the executive position he was born to fill, but it is a good role that he can succeed in. It will also allow him to hone his political skills with difficult, but winnable campaigns. Following success in Congress, Andrzejewski becomes an increasingly viable candidate for Governor in future elections (2014 or 2018) or potentially for US Senate (2014).

America needs more people like Andrzejewski. I hope we see more of him on the national stage in the future - a Congressional run is a great way to start.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thoughts on SC-03

South Carolina's third Congressional district is one of the few in 2010 where the Republican candidate is not running for reelection. Congressman Barrett is currently a candidate for Governor of South Carolina. This creates an open seat and already it's turning into an interesting primary. Current candidates include a local attorney Neal Collins, a Pastor Richard Cash, Ron Paul activist and local physician Mike Vasovski, and three State legislators - State Representative Rex Rice, State Representative Jeff Duncan, and State Senator Shane Massey. The incumbent has won in the past with over 60% of the popular vote, so a good look at the Republican primary because that winner will most likely become the next Congressman from that district.

First, let us look at the State Legislators. For the Legislators, one can look right to their records and their historic approval rating from outside organizations such as the Club for Growth, to determine their conservative credentials. Here are the approval / interest group ratings for Rice, Massey, and Duncan. The first thing I notice is that all three men are grade A NRA supporters. Also, Rice has a much larger record than the other two legislative candidates and, in 2006-2007, shifted sharply left on fiscal issue garnering below a 50% rating from the Club for Growth in 2007 and a 55% in the 2008 legislative session. On the other hand, Duncan started at the 75% in 2005 and has since had a rating of over 90% from the Club for Growth. Massey has an approval rating of above 90% as well, but a much shorter record to look at. In 2008, Massey and Rice both dropped below 70% support for "South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee," a SC specific "pro-business growth" PAC. Duncan remained above 70%. From these records alone, Duncan has the better record on fiscal issues. Rice and Massey have decent record - but Rice is more spotty and Massey's is less complete, having only been elected in 2006.

To determine the benefit of the other three candidates - we need to review their platform and take them at their word. Collins specifically calls out spending federal funds on high-speed rail through SC-03 (pork) and increased spending on higher education by the federal government. Both of these platform items are not consistent with a fiscally conservative platform.

Vasovski has a very vague platform which mostly states, "I support small government." He also states that he supports a non-intervention platform in his essay on the topic. He specifically states that this is not the same as isolation - which is good to mark that distinction. He's also apparently been a candidate since 2008 for this office. Before I can make a serious analysis of the candidate - I would need to know more.

The final non-legislator candidate is Pastor Richard Cash. As expected, Cash spends a great deal of time discussing faith and God. He actually has an entire bullet point in his platform entitled "God." He makes very clear his views on the issues - including support of laws which would prohibit pre-marital sex and homosexuality, and supporting Congressional intervention in the Supreme Court to pre-decide if cases are eligible for judicial review. I oppose those entire platform points - the federal government especially has no place in trying to police people's personal lives and his idea on Congress goes against the entire spirit of separation of powers.

Based on this quick analysis of their platforms - none of the non-legislative candidates are truly all around conservatives. Based on their fundraising potential - none of the three of them are viable candidates. Of the Legislative candidates - Massey has the most money on-hand, but as you will notice over 50% of that is a loan from himself. Rice and Duncan have comparable amounts of money remaining on-hand.Both received around the same amount of PAC money. The difference? Duncan's other donations have been primarily organic with a $10,000 loan to himself and nearly $100,000 of individual contributions. Rice loaned himself over $50,000 to his campaign. Sure, he's raised more money - but only about 20% more than Duncan thus far.

Back to platform review for our legislative candidates. Rice mentions that he's a gun rights supporter, pointing to his A rating from the NRA. Rice supports the Fair Tax - i.e. a federal sales tax combined with a "prebate" given to everyone at the beginning of the year. I, personally, oppose this venture - once people find out that the government can pay them money, they'll actively try to vote themselves more money.

Massey and Duncan have similar platforms on fiscal issues. Both support tax reductions, both are "Taxpayer Heroes" from the South Carolina Club for Growth. What's interesting is the entire lack of discussion of social issues in Massey's platform. Massey does not mention gun rights, he does not mention abortion, and he does not mention immigration. While his platform is complete on most fiscal issue - many of the issues that matter to all around conservatives appear to be ignored. Duncan's platform discusses that he's pro-life, support of private parternships on energy independence, support of second amendment rights, and support of the State's rights to enforce their own immigration laws.

Now, I'll be honest - I don't live in South Carolina and am not fully familiar with the district, but based on how these candidates look on paper alone - Duncan appears to be the most capable and qualified with a solid platform. Anyone who knows more and has additional insight would be greatly appreciated. This six way primary is an interesting one to watch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Interview - Delegate Candidate Rani Merryman

Rani Merryman is a Republican candidate in the 8th Legislative District for the House of Delegates in Maryland. Her background is varied - working at a number of different small busineses before becoming a stay at home mom when her youngest child was born. She wants to be a citizen legislator and is running for the future of our State. She was willing to sit down and answer a few of my questions in an e-mail based interview. Here are her responses.
M.R. Newman: If you could summarize your campaign in a single sentence, what would you say?
Rani Merryman: As a mother, community leader, taxpayer and concerned citizen, I will fight for the interest of the people, not the special interest groups, as well as challenge legislators to help the small business community.

MRN: If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would propose in the 2011 legislative session?
RM: Establish a Sunset Committee—This committee will scrutinize state programs to determine if they are necessary and where they can be cut. This committee will investigate duplication of services and to make sure programs are still necessary. It will allow for greater accountability in tax dollars. In Annapolis we have tons of committees devoted to spending our tax dollars. We need at least one committee looking for ways to cut spending. This is common sense reform that will make strategic ongoing cuts rather than one-time, across the board cuts. Agencies being reviewed by the Sunset Committee could automatically be terminated without new legislation to continue them.

MRN: Maryland currently has an estimated $2 billion budget deficit, what do you feel can be done to fill this budget gap besides tax hikes?
RM: Legislators must be able to stand for the citizens they represent, even if that means the unpopular decision to send a budget back to the administration until it returns as a fiscally sound proposal. The initial role of government is to provide basic infrastructure, law enforcement and education to name a few. When adopting a budget that is bloated with special interest bureaucratic favors, we jeopardize ALL of the necessary programs as well as the wish list projects. Entitlement spending MUST be curtailed and systematically reduced until we are no longer outspending our revenue and have reduced the tax burden on residents.

We have a duty to the residents of Maryland to champion a tax structure that is congruent with economic growth for private citizens, which encourages private sector job creation. The economy and meaningful private sector jobs have to be our first priority, especially now. When I was growing up, if we wanted a new scoreboard for the stadium at school, we raised the money through the booster clubs. It could take years to achieve our goals. When the project was complete, it was a big deal in our community, everyone knew about it. You had either been selling ham sandwiches for years or eating ham sandwiches for years. Everyone in the community was invested in the project. By cutting taxes for the residents of MD and putting the power of their income back in their hands to do as they see fit, jobs will be created by small business and communities will support the programs and businesses that work for their residents.

MRN: What is your opinion of the current incumbents (Boteler, Bromwell, and Schuler) in the 8th House of Delegates district?
RM: Right now our state is faced with a deep recession. Our legislative leaders must be focused on improving our economy. I admire Delegate Boteler’s 100% rating with the National Federation of Independent Business – our nation’s leading small business association. Regarding the voting records of the other District 8 legislators, you can refer to my position regarding legislators willing to stand up to their party to vote against the Administration. When it comes to issues such as the budget, those who voted to pass the largest increase in Maryland’s history on the most recent budget, I find them to be just as culpable by simply acquiescing.

MRN: In 2010, Maryland voters will once again have the opportunity to vote to hold a Constitutional convention. Would you be in favor of a Constitutional convention?
RM: While our state has many issues, by re-writing the language of our Constitution, we create the possibility of giving more power to the federal government and less to the state. The idea of the Constitution is to protect the people from an over reaching government, used in that manner, it does a good job. I have not seen a systemic failure in the Maryland Constitution; No matter this constitution or another, it is only as good as the citizens it protects and their willingness to understand and enforce the rules it conveys.

I am hoping to see a government renaissance of sorts that would raise the interest, education and knowledge of how American government works at every level to protect the citizens. If we can achieve that goal, I think we might be more well suited to hold a Constitutional Convention in the future. At this time, I cannot say that I would be in favor of a Constitutional Convention.

MRN: Marylanders for Responsible Enforcement is collecting signatures to reverse a decision made by the Legislature to implement speed cameras in school and construction zones. What is your opinion on these efforts?
RM: I agree whole heartedly with the efforts to remove the speed cameras. I testified in front of the Baltimore County Council on this issue. Simply put, speed cameras don’t work. First, imposing law that is incongruent with our legal system should not be allowed. There is no opportunity to face your accuser. We cannot create legislation that subverts existing law.

The speed camera legislation is simply a revenue bill. Choosing instead to place police officers on the street in place of cameras we are maintaing local jobs, protecting citizens and their rights as well as deterring other forms of crime at the same time. The communities in Maryland deserve safe and empowered communities in which to raise their families and as legislators this premise should be our first priority.

MRN: On your website, you mention a Buy Local Initiative. Can you tell me a little more about this initiative? Is this a legislative initiative or a personal initiative?
RM: It is indeed a personal initiative though could also have legislative possibilities. The idea behind a buy local initiative is simple. When residents spend their money at locally owned brick and mortar businesses, they are promoting our local economy. Tax dollars are paid into our state, the salaries of sustainable private sector jobs are funneled back into our community through the purchase of goods and services and local residents who work at these establishments support our infrastructure with the property taxes they pay.

It is my goal to create legislation that champions local business; grow Maryland’s economy by enacting tax relief for small business who sell their goods and services predominantly here at home. Let’s provide sales tax relief for Maryland consumer’s that buy “Made in Maryland” products.

I love to see communities that employ and support the majority of their residents. I have been hard pressed to find anyone that will disagree, our communities have been breaking down for years. With a buy local initiative, communities are one step closer to the neighborhood of yesterday and supporting the endeavors of our residents rather than financing big corporate agendas.
I'd like to thank Rani Merryman for her honest and interesting answers. She was intereviewed by the Baltimore Examiner here, if you wanted to learn more about her candidacy.