Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Delegates Schuh & King Defend Special Session Votes & Citizens For Better Government PAC

Scheduled to speak at the Wednesday Morning Republican Breakfast Club today were Delegates Nic Kipke, Steve Schuh, and James King. Delegates Schuh and King showed up, and they might be wishing they hadn't.

The first topic of discussion was the special session. The delegates gave a brief summary of their perception of the session and its consequences, but then both decided to bring up their controversial votes in anticipation of having to defend their positions.

Schuh talked about his vote in favor of the $500 million (multi-hundreds of millions, anyway) expansion of medicaid. (I didn't know this, and now that the session is over it is a bit harder to find out. The general session took down its special session page, and neither myself nor The Main Adversary could figure out where to look. I think it's HB-6.) Schuh remarked that people making $20,000 for a family of 4 need to be in the public system, because there is no way the private market can make health insurance cheap enough for such a family to afford.

But there was no time to debate this! The meeting was only for an hour, and there were more pressing issues. Delegate King explained his vote on slots, elaborating that he made his support of a slots referendum known from day 1. He claims that over 80% of Marylanders support having a voice on the matter, and that giving them that voice was the right thing to do, even if the difficult thing. I will quote him as accurately as I remember:

Sometimes the legislature comes to an impasse on an issue, and can't figure out
what to do. When this happens, the public gets fed up, and demands a say
on the matter. Republicans supported a constitutional amendment 3 years
ago for defining marriage, and I think we need consistency of practices,
otherwise we are no better than them (Democrats).

The highly up-to-speed audience jumped on him immediately for this. Regardless of one's position on slots, they argued, having such narrowly focused language in the state constitution was inappropriate. Marriage is fundamental enough to appear in the constitution, but gambling is not. So went the argument.

There simply was not enough time for me to ask the question about leverage, which has been posed before. With the actual budget to come in 2 months, Republicans will be hard pressed to exert any negotiating force since the caucus could not unify for some major votes in the special session.

An even better dialogue surrounded the next topic, the Citizens For Better Government PAC. Delegates King, Schuh, and Kipke have joined the PAC's efforts to raise money for promising Republican candidates and contested Republican incumbents. While the intentions of the delegates may be noble, the officers of the PAC are not.

The chairman of the PAC is Lawrence Scott, and the treasurer is Doug Burkhardt. Mention these names to local Republican activists, and you will elicit the ire of a sleeping giant being awoken. Burkhardt worked against certain Republican candidates as a member of a central committee; Scott from most accounts is morally bankrupt; and both have worked against other PAC's in the past.

The Citizens For Better Government PAC is not even registered as a Republican entity, which makes the delegates' involvement all the more questionable, and risky for them. Delegate King remained steadfast, however, stating that such was merely an oversight and "this is obviously a Republican PAC". When asked who will make the decisions of where the money goes, they responded "we will". So they think. With Scott as chairman and Burkhardt as treasurer, the PAC can disperse money freely without the consent of the delegates; the delegates indeed cannot be named officers of the PAC because it would constitute a 'slate' and the money could only go to the slate's candidates. Although they certainly cannot be naive to this process or to Lawrence Scott (he is an advisor to Schuh), Schuh and King seemed surprised at the group's insistence that their fundraising abilities are being used to establish a slush fund for a campaign consultant.

The PAC has big goals--they claim to have $15,000-$20,000 in the bank and to have commitments for another $125,000. Delegate Schuh hopes to raise $400,000 to spend on the next election. The concern of Republicans should be the people in charge of the money. After all, why not use the Maryland GOP?

1 comment:

CherylT said...

Just another example of why the Republicans are no better than the Democrats in this State. If these people had wanted to take a stand on the tax issue, they could have banded together and taken a stand. Whether Speaker Bush had the votes to override them is irrelevant. By backing down, these Republicans let the Dems in Bush's back pocket get off scott free. Ouch!

Also, I think slots on a referendum is a good idea -- there really is no other way to get slots in Maryland. I'm as surprised as everyone else that this ploy succeeded. But don't be surprised if slots opponents file a lawsuit to stop the measure before Election 2008. Constitutional amendments for revenue raising purposes may be illegal. If sent to the judiciary, the measure could be dead in the water before it even sees the light of diebold.