Monday, July 29, 2013

It Pays to Pander

from the Baltimore Sun
WASHINGTON —— Something unusual happened when the controversy over the nation's health care law erupted again on the floor of the House of Representatives this month: A Maryland Democrat voted with Republicans.

Rep. John Delaney, the state's newest member of Congress, was one of 35 Democrats out of 200 to vote for a Republican proposal to delay a requirement that large businesses offer health coverage to workers. He was the only Democrat from Maryland to do so.

Seven months into his first term, the former Potomac banker has made several moves — some symbolic, others substantive — to chart a centrist course in a Congress that is bitterly divided by partisan politics. The effort, observers say, could be crucial in determining whether he'll win re-election in 2014.

"I've said from the beginning that Obamacare is an imperfect piece of legislation that is designed to do a very important thing for this country," Delaney said of the vote, walking a nuanced line between the bill's ardent supporters and opponents. "It's not perfect, and repealing it is a terrible idea."

Delaney, 50, trounced Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett in last year's election — unseating a 20-year incumbent — though the two developed a friendly rapport during the campaign. The 6th Congressional District, which was redrawn by Democrats in Annapolis in 2011, includes portions of Democrat-heavy Montgomery County as well as Western Maryland, a GOP stronghold.

For now, it's the least blue House district of the seven that Democrats hold in Maryland.

And so Delaney has positioned himself to the right of the rest of the state's congressional delegation. He has split with a majority of Democrats on six major votes on issues such as oil drilling and domestic surveillance. He courted more than a dozen Republicans to co-sponsor a bill to fund infrastructure projects and recently joined a bipartisan "no labels" coalition that is seeking middle ground in Washington.

The effort reflects both his district and his background, said David Wasserman, who follows House races for the Cook Political Report. The nonpartisan analyst rates the 6th District as safe for Democrats.

"Someone as successful and personally wealthy as John Delaney did not come to Congress to kowtow to interest groups, or in particular big labor," said Wasserman, noting that most unions backed a different candidate for the Democratic nomination last year.

This month, Delaney became the only House Democrat to sign on to a proposal to study federal monetary policy — a longtime cause of conservatives. Several Republicans on Capitol Hill said Delaney's business background gives him a sense of authority on debates about the economy and employment.

"He came by and spent a lot of time with me," said Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and deputy majority whip who is co-sponsoring one of Delaney's bills. "I think he's off to a very impressive start. He's bipartisan — a practical guy, a business guy."

Delaney has courted Democrats, too. He's gone door to door to meet with lawmakers about legislation. And shortly after the election, he invited the nearly 50 newly elected Democratic lawmakers to his home for a party, paying to bus them to Montgomery County from Washington.

But two Republicans who have lined up to challenge Delaney next year don't buy all the talk of bipartisanship. Both will be working to define the incumbent as too cozy with Democratic leaders, too eager to vote with his party and too liberal for the 6th District.

Dan Bongino, the former Secret Service agent from Severna Park who announced his candidacy in June, noted that Delaney has repeatedly voted against GOP efforts to repeal or de-fund the Affordable Care Act. He questioned how Delaney can continue to support the law even as its implementation has hit snags.

"I agree he has taken a few moderate votes," said Bongino, who won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last year but lost the general election to Sen. Ben Cardin. "But that doesn't give you a pass on a major, major policy stance, which is Obamacare. The Obamacare thing is a black-and-white issue."

Another GOP candidate, David E. Vogt III of Brunswick, said recently that Delaney "talks as a moderate but he votes straight party line."

A New Jersey native, Delaney in 2000 founded a successful bank called CapitalSource and led it as CEO for nearly a decade. He is the only former CEO of a publicly traded company in Congress.

"He has ... brought a fresh perspective to Congress and already proven to be an opinion leader, in particular on fiscal issues," said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, who has long been close to his party's centrist wing.

Democratic leaders assigned Delaney to the Financial Services Committee and the Joint Economic Committee, which focus on banking policy and the economy, respectively. His fellow first-year Democrats elected him one of four freshman class presidents.

His former career makes him among the wealthiest members of the House. Delaney spent $2.3 million of his own money on the 2012 campaign — a factor that helped to scare off national Republican groups from engaging in the contest.

Though he is no longer officially involved in the company, Delaney remains a major shareholder and is poised to collect tens of millions of dollars under a pending sale of CapitalSource.

Delaney's background in finance also plays a role in his signature legislative effort, introduced in May, to pay for infrastructure improvements. The proposal would allow multinational companies to bring overseas cash back to the United States without paying corporate income tax. In exchange, the companies would buy bonds that would be used to fund highway, energy and other infrastructure projects.

Nineteen Democrats and 19 Republicans have co-sponsored the bill — an even split by design.

"There are better ways to fund [it] than allowing a nice tax break for these companies," said Thomas Hungerford, a senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. "We all use the infrastructure; we [all] ought to be paying."

Supporters counter that the arrangement has to be attractive for companies or they wouldn't take part. And, they say, allocating taxpayer money to fix the nation's infrastructure woes at a time when Republicans are heavily focused on deficit reduction is not politically practical.

"What he's doing — and he's doing it as a freshman — is he's trying to find a solution," said Patrick Natale, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a group that supports Delaney's bill and would benefit from it. "He's trying to be a leader."

The legislation has not yet received a hearing. A spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, one of two committees that might consider the bill, did not respond to a request for comment.

The House has taken 28 votes on final passage of legislation this year in which the Democratic caucus has split. Delaney has voted opposite the majority of his party on five of those votes.

The substance of the GOP health care proposal, which received a vote July 17, was not controversial. The Obama administration had already said it intended to delay the employer-coverage requirement until 2015. But most Democrats said the bill was unnecessary. Obama threatened to veto it.

Delaney also supported Republican proposals to loosen banking regulations on foreign transactions and lift a drilling moratorium along the maritime border with Mexico. He backed the GOP agreement in February to raise the nation's debt ceiling, a once-perfunctory vote that has become controversial amid concerns about the nation's debt.

Additionally, he was one of 83 Democrats to oppose an amendment Wednesday that would have curbed the National Security Agency's ability to collect telephone data from Americans. He was joined by three other Maryland Democrats: Hoyer, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

In an interview, Delaney said his work on the infrastructure bill has reinforced the idea that the two parties can find common ground.

"If you approach economic policy with the spirit of compromise, you can actually get good support," he said. "Economic policy is like business — it's all about compromise."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

O'Malley Feels the "Love"

from the Owings Mills-Reistertown Patch
Despite a slight uptick in the polls, Gov. Martin O’Malley finished last among potential Democratic presidential hopefuls in a new poll in New Hampshire.

O’Malley, who is in the last 18 months of his second and final term as Maryland governor, is said to be looking at a presidential run in 2016.

But a poll released Sunday by the New Hampshire Journal shows O’Malley bringing up the rear in a Democratic field that included Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Come Discuss Education's "Common Core"

From the Harford County Dagger and Harford Campaign for Liberty:
Please Join Us
July 23, 2013, 7 pm – 9 pm

Knights of Columbus Hall
23 Newport Drive
Forest Hill, MD. 21050

Our keynote speaker will be Mr. Jason Laird, Executive Vice President of the Education Freedom Committee. Mr. Laird will discuss Common Core and the dangers of nationalized education. Homeschoolers as well as parents of private and government schooled children will be interested in this timely topic.

Also on the Agenda

Rain tax update. A report from the first task force meeting.

NSA. What are they up to NOW? YOU

Visit for more info.
Cash bar available
Free admission

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Infantilizing Treyvon Martin... Racist is as Racist Does

in·fan·til·ize (nfn-tl-z, n-fn-)
tr.v. in·fan·til·ized, in·fan·til·iz·ing, in·fan·til·iz·es
1. To reduce to an infantile state or condition: "It creates a crisis that infantilizes them causes grown men to squabble like kids about trivial things" (New Yorker).
2. To treat or condescend to as if still a young child:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maryland's Republican Gubernatorial Ticket Firms Up

from the Baltimore Sun
Harford County Executive David R. Craig has chosen an Eastern Shore delegate as his running mate in next year’s Republican primary for governor, an aide said Friday.

Craig will introduce Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, a 10-year legislator and former House minority whip, at events Tuesday in Annapolis and St. Michaels, spokesman Jim Petit said.

Haddaway-Riccio, 36, brings age, geographical and gender diversity to the ticket. The Easton native respresents Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico counties in Annapolis. Craig, 64, a former delegate and state senator, is serving a second term as Harford County executive.

Haddaway-Riccio was appointed to the House of Delegates in 2003 by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and won reelection in 2006 and 2010. She served as minority whip from 2011 until this year.

According to her state biography, Haddaway-Riccio owns Dragonfly Designs LLC, a graphic and web-design business.

Messages to Craig and Haddaway-Riccio were not immediately returned Friday morning.

Craig is the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to name a running mate. Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel has announced his candidacy for governor. Former Republican National Chairman Michael S. Steele, Ehrlich’s lieutenant governor, has said he is considering a run.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown has chosen Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate. Attorney Gen. Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County are also planning to run; Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County is considering a run.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stoking the Fires?

from PJ Media
Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents proving that the Department of Justice played a major behind-the-scenes role in organizing protests against George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is on trial for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOJ on April 24, 2012. According to the documents JW received, a little-known DOJ unit called the Community Relations Service deployed to Sanford, FL, to organize and manage rallies against Zimmerman.

Among JW’s findings:
March 25 – 27, 2012, CRS spent $674.14 upon being “deployed to Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”

March 25 – 28, 2012, CRS spent $1,142.84 “in Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”

March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent $892.55 in Sanford, FL “to provide support for protest deployment in Florida.”

March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent an additional $751.60 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31.”

April 3 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $1,307.40 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.”

April 11-12, 2012, CRS spent $552.35 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male.” – expenses for employees to travel, eat, sleep?
JW says the documents it obtained reveal that CRS is not engaging in its stated mission of conducting “impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution,” but instead engaged on the side of the anti-Zimmerman protesters.

On April 15, 2012, during the height of the protests, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “They [the CRS] helped set up a meeting between the local NAACP and elected officials that led to the temporary resignation of police Chief Bill Lee according to Turner Clayton, Seminole County chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” The paper quoted the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for protestors, as saying “They were there for us,” after a March 20 meeting with CRS agents.

Separately, in response to a Florida Sunshine Law request to the City of Sanford, Judicial Watch also obtained an audio recording of a “community meeting” held at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford on April 19, 2012. The meeting, which led to the ouster of Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee, was scheduled after a group of college students calling themselves the “Dream Defenders” barricaded the entrance to the police department demanding Lee be fired. According to the Orlando Sentinel, DOJ employees with the CRS had arranged a 40-mile police escort for the students from Daytona Beach to Sanford.

“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”

Organizing such protests falls well within both President Barack Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s wheelhouses. Obama was a “community organizer” in his career prior to elective politics, a position that uses protests and street theater, along with threats, to obtain concessions from businesses and other political opponents. Holder has accused America of being a “nation of cowards” for not discussing racial issues enough. He also described black Americans as “my people” during a congressional hearing.

As the Zimmerman trial winds down, the threat of race riots should he be acquitted has risen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

from Maryland's The Daily record:
WASHINGTON — A former federal judge who served on a secret court overseeing the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs denied Tuesday that the judges act as “rubber stamps.” But James Robertson said the system is flawed because of its failure to allow legal adversaries to question the government’s actions.

Former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge James Robertson, testifies in Washington, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board's workshop regarding Surveillance Programs.

“Anyone who has been a judge will tell you a judge needs to hear both sides of a case,” Robertson, a former federal district judge based in Washington who served on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, said during a hearing of the federal oversight board directed by President Barack Obama to scrutinize government spying.

Robertson questioned whether the secret FISA court should play the role of providing legal approval for the surveillance programs, saying the court “has turned into something like an administrative agency.”

Much of the NSA’s surveillance is overseen by the FISA court, which meets in secret and renders rulings that are classified. Some of these rulings also likely been disclosed by Edward Snowden, the NSA systems analyst who leaked significant information about the spying program. After Snowden began exposing the NSA’s operations in June, Obama instructed the board to lead a “national conversation” about the secret programs. The board has been given several secret briefings by national security officials and it plans a comprehensive inquiry and a public report on the matter.

The board’s chairman, David Medine, had told The Associated Press in advance of Tuesday’s hearing that “our primary focus will be on the programs themselves. Based on what we’ve learned so far, further questions are warranted.”

Robertson, who said he asked to join the FISA court “to see what it was up to,” had previously played a central role in national security law. Robertson was the judge who ruled against the Bush administration in the landmark Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld case, which granted inmates at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detentions. That ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006.

Robertson quit the FISA court in 2005, days after the New York Times revealed widespread NSA warrantless wiretapping under President George W. Bush’s administration. Robertson, who had served on the court for 3 years, had previously refused to explain his decision. But after the hearing Tuesday he confirmed to the AP that he had “resigned in protest because the Bush administration was bypassing the court on warrantless wiretaps.”

Robertson said that FISA court judges have been scrupulous in pushing back at times against the government, repeatedly sending back flawed warrants. But he warned that Congress’ 2008 reform of the FISA system expanded the government’s authority by forcing the court to approve entire surveillance systems, not just surveillance warrants, as it previously handled. Robertson said the system needed the presence of a legal adversary to act as a check on the government’s programs.

“This process needs an adversary,” Robertson said, suggesting that the oversight board itself might play that role in the secret legal setting.

The board heard Tuesday from civil liberties activists and former Bush administration lawyers in its first public event since the spying operations were revealed in news reports.

American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer warned the oversight board that the government’s massive sweeps of cellphone and telephone call logs and other data on phone and Internet communications erode privacy protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Snowden’s disclosures revealed that the NSA collects phone “metadata” — records that omitted only the actual contents of conversations — from millions of Americans. A separate NSA surveillance program aimed solely at foreign terrorist suspects also sweeps up metadata about the Internet communications from smaller numbers of Americans, federal officials have acknowledged. Obama urged Americans not to worry about the secret programs because the contents of their communications are rarely targeted.

The president and the director of national intelligence “have been at pains to emphasize that the government is collecting metadata, not content,” Jaffer said in advance remarks obtained by the AP. “But the suggestion that metadata is somehow beyond the reach of the Constitution is wrong. For Fourth Amendment purposes, the crucial question is not whether the government is collecting content or metadata but whether it is invading the reasonable expectation of privacy. Here, it clearly is.”

Jaffer has urged stricter limits on government surveillance as well as new oversight mechanisms.

One of the oversight board’s members, James Dempsey, is a top official with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties advocacy group. Dempsey urged both civil liberties activist and former Bush lawyers to be more specific on ways that the current legal oversight system could be improved. He also said he was troubled by the government’s assurances of “minimization” — the vast and growing storage of metadata from millions of Americans without scanning the material.

“I would like to see more engagement on the question of minimization,” Dempsey said.

Steven Bradbury, a former top Bush administration lawyer who played a central role in national security decisions, said that the massive trawling of phone metadata was critical to “connect the dots” to terrorist operations inside the U.S. Bradbury said the metadata did not compromise the content of Americans’ private communications and was carefully segregated from data targeted by counter-terror investigations. Federal officials have said there were less than 300 queries of the vast inventory of stored metadata in 2012.

Bradbury questioned whether Robertson’s call for a legal adversary inside the FISA court process could work because of strict limits on those with access to information about the top secret surveillance programs.

“In this context, you’re talking about access to the most sensitive national security information,” Bradbury said. Any adversary, he added, would “have to be an officer of the U.S. government and fully participate in the process.”

Bradbury, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, wrote several legal memos backing the CIA’s limited use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects, including simulated drowning. But he also signed other memos that placed legal brakes on some of the Bush administration’s expanded national security authority.

Two of the oversight board’s members also worked as Bush administration lawyers. Elisebeth Collins Cook is a former Justice Department lawyer who drafted revised guidelines in 2008 that expanded the FBI’s ability to conduct domestic intelligence investigations. The guidelines gave FBI agents involved in national security probes new authority to conduct physical surveillance without a court order and to interview people without identifying themselves as federal agents.

Oversight board member Rachel Brand is another former Bush Justice lawyer who urged Congress to give the FBI expanded authority to use what are called national security letters and administrative subpoenas to obtain information in terrorism investigations. The use of such tools is limited but can allow federal investigators to demand data without direct judicial approval.

The oversight board is appointed by the president but reports to Congress. David Cole, a professor of constitutional and national security law at Georgetown University, said the board faces high expectations.

“Their very existence may make government officials more careful about their surveillance programs because they will know that a board empowered and obligated to report on privacy and civil liberties abuses exists,” Cole said.