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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


August 14, 2006

Bob Ehrlich's Big Victories

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Three huge victories in just a few short weeks! Bob Ehrlich begins the real campaign season with a series of huge policy and political victories over the state Democratic machine and the House and Senate leadership.

Number One: Wal-Mart - It's been covered here extensively, but a federal judge tossed out the Fair Share Health Plan based on the fact that a state statute cannot conflict directly with federal law. The Democrats were told this during the bill debate, but they fell back on the word of Attorney General Joe Curran. Bad plan!

As I've written previously, and as the Republicans clearly stated during the bill debate, the Fair Share Health Plan was a creation of the labor unions and traditional progressive liberal machine, an attempt to target a traditional anti-union employer.

No one, not even the supposed conservative Democrats in the "Democratic Business Caucus" (see: oxymoron) would listen to a legitimate concern voiced by members of the GOP that sections of the Fair Share Health Care Act violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

It was stated plainly and repeatedly, but the warnings either fell on deaf ears or were drowned out by re-election threats from the labor unions.

Now Attorney General Curran is scrambling to mount an appeal, more to save face than to actually expect a change in outcome.

Number Two: An Anne Arundel County judge held last week that the early voting bill was unconstitutional, citing the fact that the Maryland Constitution only defines one day during which an election can be held.

Democrats were looking to extend voting privileges up to six days before an election, and placing these early voting opportunities in Democratic registration strongholds. This blatant attempt to alter the upcoming election outcome smacks of the old voting "irregularities" in places like Chicago under Mayor Richard Daly.

Every single person who has argued in favor of this cites the need to mimic other states in making voting easier for minorities and working Marylanders. I just don't follow the logic. Do they mean to suggest that minority voters are so incompetent that they can't figure out how to use the absentee ballot mechanism already in place?

Are working class people unable to request an absentee ballot? Is there some vast, right-wing conspiracy to block access to absentee ballots? Of course not! This is so embarrassingly blatant that any Democrat who argues for it should be ashamed of themselves. Why don't they just say what they mean?

Here, I'll do it for them:

We need to guaranty Martin O'Malley's election. The very future of our dictatorial hold on state political power rests in the balance. If Bob Ehrlich gets re-elected, and if the GOP makes gains in both the House and Senate, we will be unable to control the next two gubernatorial election cycles.

Republicans will succeed in their goal to make Maryland a two-party state, and we may very well lose control over the legislature. We have lost a number of high profile policy battles to Governor Ehrlich; we cannot allow another electoral victory. We must use every vehicle, including those that might also enable massive voter fraud, to insure this outcome.

I really believe this is the unwritten thinking of the leadership of the Maryland Democratic Party. Otherwise, I doubt they'd be sinking so low in their effort to manipulate the election.

Number Three: Joe Steffen, the "Prince of Darkness" who supposedly snuck into various state agencies to root out Democrat workers, finally was brought before the Special Committee on Employee Rights. If you recall, Mr. Steffen was the "smoking gun" witness, and his testimony was going to rattle the Ehrlich Administration to the core. Committee members, notably Sen. Charles "Mac" Middleton (D., Charles) and Sen. Brian Frosh (D., Montgomery) promised juicy tidbits if they could just get Mr. Steffen to appear under oath.

You remember Mr. Steffen, the guy that had the Democrats salivating two years ago. Following his firing (by Governor Ehrlich) for floating rumors about alleged infidelity by Baltimore Mayor O'Malley, he all but disappeared.

He resurfaced this year as a political operative in the race for Harford County Council, serving on the campaign of a Republican challenger. Mr. Steffen had previous experience working on then-Representative Ehrlich's various campaigns, and was, by all accounts, a very effective political strategist.

As is often the case with these guys, he got too comfortable with his own intellect, and wrote some things he shouldn't have on a web blog. Some have suggested that Mr. Steffen was tricked by O'Malley sympathizers at The Washington Post to say things he shouldn't, but that's neither here nor there.

Mr. Steffen's role in the Ehrlich Administration was never in serious doubt. He admitted, as did administration staff, that his job was to go into various state agencies and examine the work quality and effectiveness. His focus was on people at higher levels of these agencies.

His failing appears to have been one of style versus substance. No one could dispute a new gubernatorial team wanting to evaluate senior management; in fact, you'd question their judgment if they didn't. Mr. Steffen's weakness seemed to be his penchant to Grim Reaper statuary and long black trench coats, not his ability to review an operation.

So, this past week Mr. Steffen finally made the big appearance. The Busch/Miller Special Committee, after wasting two years and over a million dollars of taxpayer resources, still has zero credible evidence that anyone was fired illegally for political reasons.

Mr. Steffen took his oath, sat at the witness table, and proceeded to tell the Special Committee that he made no firing recommendations based on political affiliation. He detailed a transition and takeover procedure very similar to previous administrations, all of which were headed by Democrats!

While an individual's political party registration might have been known, Mr. Steffen testified under oath that it was never a basis for a removal recommendation.

Wait a minute, that can't be right.

Senator Frosh has been screaming for over two years that people were fired because they were Democrats! Surely Brian Frosh, defender of progressive causes, couldn't have been that wrong.

In a classic deception move, Special Committee members loyal to Delegate Busch and Senator Miller desperately picked through the testimony to find some area of dispute. Mr. Steffen indicated he met several times with Ehrlich's appointment secretary, Larry Hogan.

Back during session, when called by the committee, Secretary Hogan had testified that he and Mr. Steffen rarely interacted. Committee members seized on this as evidence that someone must be lying, demanding further analysis. Speaker Busch was even quoted saying that this pattern of deception was indicative of the administration.

After the last few weeks, here's what is obvious. Maryland voters see who is perpetrating the scam in Annapolis. First, the legislative leadership ignores plain truth to force through a bill blatantly in conflict with federal law. The justification: It's an important policy outcome, so it's worth risking a court challenge.

Second, they use strong-arm tactics to attempt to manipulate the outcome of the upcoming election. Anything that gives them their precious victory, regardless of the impact, is justified to retain their tenuous grip on power.

Finally, they'll use that power to endlessly mine an empty shaft, conjuring up imagery and creating conspiracies out of whole cloth to demean and diminish the accomplishments of Governor Ehrlich.

They'd better hope the deception and myth-making works, because if it's left to voters to make honest comparisons about who is lying and who has a real vision for Maryland's future, the majority has already lost!



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