Archive for the ‘2008 elections’ Category

House Votes to Eliminate Public Financing of Presidential Campaigns

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Just over a year after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on campaign finance, the House Wednesday passed a Republican- sponsored bill to eliminate the public financing of presidential campaigns and party conventions.

Republican supporters said the legislation would reduce the deficit by cutting $617 million over 10 years. Democrats countered that the legislation would expand the Citizens United decision that allowed corporate entities to fund independent political ads and decrease the power of individuals in elections.

The White House budget office released a statement in opposition to the bill stating the effect of the legislation would be “to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the Nation’s elections; to force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues; and to place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates.”

Several members criticized President Obama for opposing the bill because his 2008 campaign opted out of public financing and instead raised record funds through individual donors. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said Obama broke his pledge to participate in the program she called “outdated.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said “The idea that Americans need this program in order to support candidates is absurd. It’s not 1971 anymore.” Republican members called on passage of the legislation as a way to reduce the federal deficit. Maryland Rep. Roscoe Barlett, R-Frederick, was one of the bill’s 20 co-sponsors.

Under current law, citizens may check a box on their tax return to designate $3 to a fund for distribution to candidates who meet certain eligibility requirements. Candidates must agree to funding limits and must meet certain reporting requirements by the Federal Election Commission.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, spoke in opposition to the bill. “Rather than presidential candidates trafficking in secret slush funds our nation decided that our democracy would be better served by a system of public disclosure, contribution limits, and emphasis on smaller dollar contributions, matched by the presidential financing fund,” he said.

Van Hollen called for a revision rather than elimination of the 1974 tax code provision that established the program. He and Rep. David Price, D-N.C., introduced legislation to amend the current law.

Several Democratic members expressed concern that the end of public financing would increase the power of special interests in elections. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said the bill added “insult to the injury” of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year. “Now my Republican colleagues propose to further erode whatever protections our government has left against a state of democracy for the highest bidder,” she said.

Ten Democratic members voted in favor of the legislation which passed the House with a vote of 239-160.

-By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee

More Financial Woes for Magna

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


ANNAPOLIS – Just days after declaring bankruptcy, Laurel Park and Pimlico racetracks owner Magna Entertainment Corp., announced its stock will be delisted from the Nasdaq composite index on Mar. 16.

 

The announcement is the latest bad news for the Canada-based company, which last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced it will be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange on Apr. 1.

 

The bankruptcy, filed Friday, further muddled Magna subsidiary Laurel Racing Association’s troubled bid to put slot machines at Laurel Park.

 

The proposal was tossed by the state slots commission because the bid failed to include $28.5 million in required fees. But an attorney for Laurel Racing Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the initial fee requirement in an attempt to get the bid reinstated.

 

An Anne Arundel County judge is expected to rule by next week.

 

-By Capital News Service’s Dylan Waugh

Slots Developer Sees Happy Returns

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


ANNAPOLIS – The developer who wants to put slots at Arundel Mills Mall has a rosier outlook than most when it comes to the state’s revenue generating prospects from the controversial machines.

“The revenue that the state hoped to receive is going to be exceeded,” said David Cordish on WYPR’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” radio show Thursday.

His company, Cordish Cos., intends to build a massive entertainment and gambling facility next to the shopping mall off of Route 100 in Anne Arundel County.

The state received only four complete bids for fewer than half of the 15,000 machines allowed under a referendum Maryland voters passed in November. Even if all 6,550 machines are approved, the state stands to lose about half of the $600 million it promised slots would generate for education.

It might take an extra year for the state to reach its revenue estimates, but it will happen, Cordish said.

Cordish expects other developers, all of whom have submitted bids for fewer than the maximum number allowed for each site, to increase their requests over time.

Cordish has already requested the maximum number of slots for the Anne Arundel County license, 4,750. A state commission isn’t expected to decide on any of the proposals for several months.

One way Cordish doesn’t want to increase slots earnings — putting machines 15 minutes away from Arundel Mills, at BWI-Marshall Airport.

“It would clearly be inappropriate at the airport,” Cordish said. “It would not be a good idea.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said Tuesday that putting slot machines at Maryland’s biggest airport would be a great way to capture out-of-state money and wouldn’t interfere with the Arundel Mills proposal. Delegate Eric Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, has introduced a bill to put slots at the airport, but it’s not expected to pass the House.

Cordish also said his gambling facility will benefit the surrounding neighborhood by increasing the level of security and adding additional free parking spaces which could be used by mall shoppers.

And despite the state throwing out a bid to put slots at Laurel Park race track for failing to include the licensing fee, Cordish believes his facility will help Maryland’s racing industry more than the Laurel Park bid could have.

“We will do more for racing by having it at Arundel Mills than if we are actually connected to a race track,” he said. “We will maximize revenues for the state.”

Of the slots proceeds, 9.5 percent is designated for horse racing interests.

By Capital News Service’s Dylan Waugh.

Delegate Wants U.S. Senate Seats Filled by Special Election

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

ANNAPOLIS – In a reaction to the pay-for-play scandal in Illinois, Delegate Saqib Ali, D-Montgomery, will propose legislation requiring U.S. Senate vacancies in Maryland be filled by special election.

Currently, such vacancies would be filled by gubernatorial appointment.

The proposed legislation comes only weeks after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Blagojevich, a Democrat, has been accused of trying to sell the position.

After initially being prohibited from taking the seat, Burris was sworn in Thursday.

“I just think the people need to be able to choose their own representatives,” Ali said Wednesday. “A Senatorial seat is a big deal, and currently if there was a vacancy, they (the public) would be disenfranchised.”

If passed, the bill would go into effect in 2015, after Gov. Martin O’Malley leaves office.

“This is not any kind of suggestion that I have a problem with this governor,” Ali said.

Ali criticized the practice of gubernatorial appointments for the four U.S. Senate vacancies in Illinois, Delaware, Colorado and New York.

“I feel very strongly about this,” Ali said. “I think the people should get to choose.”
-    By Capital News Service’s Dylan Waugh.

1st District Faces Winter Without Gilchrest

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

CNS photo by Christopher Weaver

The congressman’s empty office. (CNS photo by Christopher Weaver)

Newspapers and mail still waited outside Rep. Wayne Gilchrest’s office at noon Friday. Inside, boxes and moving dollies had replaced his staff, and the desks in the bullpen were as impersonal as an OfficeMax display. A sign taped to the white board read, “Remember: Mary needs to take boxes in Wayne’s office.”

On Tuesday morning, all offices except Gilchrest’s Centreville headquarters were reported closed by an aide to the Republican from Kennedyville. A voice message there beseeched callers not to leave messages and referred them to Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both Maryland Democrats.

 “On behalf of Congressman Gilchrest, I would like to thank each of you for your support over the last 18 years,” the message concluded.

 After losing the Republican primary, Gilchrest is packing up early, vacating office space, releasing staffers and sending constituents — and their problems — down the line to the state’s senators. The 1st District’s next congressman, Democrat Frank Kratovil, was in Washington last week for a new members’ orientation, but he won’t take over the office until Jan. 6.

Kratovil has sought advice from Gilchrest, after the two men became friendly on the campaign trail. The veteran congressman said, “Our conversations have centered around what he will experience in his orientation, as simple as where his office might be, how he can bring his family into the process, to the Democratic leadership races,” which were settled, with the party’s leaders retaining their positions unchallenged.

In the meantime, the district will be on its own for the next 43 days. When congressmen aren’t voting on new laws, debating policy in their committees, campaigning for re-election, flattering fundraisers and attending to their various other legislative duties, they help their voters resolve the many problems implicit in dealing with the federal government.

Congress is on recess now, and the elections are over, but residents of the 1st District may still need a push from Washington allies to glide through the bureaucracy.

Congressmen typically offer constituents help with immigration, Medicare, passports, Social Security, veterans’ benefits, federal retirement benefits, the Internal Revenue Service, small business loans, federal housing aid and service academy nominations, to name a few. Many members of Gilchrest’s staff have been on those beats for 18 years, the exiting congressman said. “That’s 18 years of experience with a myriad of state and federal agencies.”

Constituents who relied on the 1st District team all those years will have to look to Mikulski and Cardin to cut through the red tape until Kratovil takes office.

“That’s pretty standard that when a congressman is about to leave office, they start to send their casework to the senators,” said Susan Sullam, a spokeswoman for Cardin.

The office has noticed an increase in constituent requests, though staffers don’t track the thousands of phone calls and letters received each month by district. Many of the complaints and requests — like requests for presidential greetings or congressional page nominations — can wait.

Others can’t, Sullam said. “Say it’s someone who’s totally dependent on their Social Security and their check’s gone missing.”

 - By Capital News Service’s Christopher Weaver

What Does Obama’s Win Mean?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama won nearly 57 percent of the popular vote in Maryland on his way to winning the presidency and making history as the nation’s first African-American president.

What does Obama’s win mean to the country, to Maryland and to you?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Chris Harvey

Deaf Radio Listeners Gather at NPR for Election-Night Event

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

About 30 deaf and hearing-impaired people visited National Public Radio headquarters election night to watch the words of the station’s returns as they scrolled across a screen.

NPR partners with Towson University and Harris Corp. to provide accessible radio for deaf and hearing-impaired people through a high-definition radio and captioning system.

NPR Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mike Starling said that stations in Baltimore, Boston, Phoenix and Denver,  in addition to American University’s WAMU, broadcast on election night with this technology.

Captioned radio is “an idea for whom the technology was arriving,” Starling said.

A  grant from the U.S. Department of Education helped to make it a reality three years ago, but more financial support is needed from receiver manufacturers, Starling said, to help the stations get the equipment they need. The satellite feed will go to all stations from a caption stenographer, but the stations will control their receivers and will need one of the high-definition radios to broadcast.

Marc Raimondi, spokesman for Harris Corp., said his company provided $50,000 in seed money for the project out of “corporate responsibility.”

“Our role was to provide some financial and technological support to Towson University and NPR to come up with accessible radio,” he said. “The initiative is to make radio more accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

Raimondi said adopting this technology was an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to serve millions of people with hearing impairments. “Something that has been off-limits to them their whole lives is now open to them,” he said.

Las Vegas native and Gallaudet University graduate student Rachel Berman says that captioned radio will allow her to share the experience of listening to the radio – and specifically NPR – with her family.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “My family is always talking about NPR, NPR, but I’m not able to respond.”

She feels left out, she said. She gets the transcripts but says it’s difficult to make time to read them. With this technology she’ll be able to catch up with the news more quickly.

Berman’s friend Adrienne Thal, a staff person in the Office of Disability Policy at the United States Department of Labor, is also hearing impaired and excited about the prospect of captioned radio.

She said her boyfriend told her about the new technology more than a year ago, and she’s anxious to use it.

“It’s great that NPR is taking the initiative to open up access in general,” she said. “My family is all hearing. The first thing that happens when we get in the car – they turn on the radio, and I can’t share in that experience.”

–By Maryland Newsline’s Laurie White

Ehrlich Fields Bipartisan Call

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Republican former Gov. Robert Ehrlich was unable to respond to a Capital News Service inquiry last week about the appointment of Frank Kratovil, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, to the State Board of Victims Services.

Kratovil, running against Republican state Sen. Andy Harris, has been citing the appointment as evidence of his bipartisanship, a claim a CNS article questioned because the position automatically is picked by a particular lawyers’ group, which Kratovil headed at the time.

Now more evidence the CNS inquiry was on target.

Ehrlich left a message for this CNS reporter over the weekend saying he “never directly appointed Kratovil to anything.” He just signed the appointment letter as it crossed his desk.

–By Capital News Service’s Christopher Weaver

Registered to Vote? Meet the Oct. 14 Deadline

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Gov. Martin O'Malley and Md. Rep. Donna Edwards visited the University of Maryland, College Park, in September to encourage students to register to vote.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and Rep. Donna Edwards visited the University of Maryland, College Park, in September to encourage students to register to vote. (Newsline photo by Laurie White)

Marylanders who are not registered to vote have until Oct. 14 to get the job done in time for Election Day Nov. 4.

Residents interested in registering can visit the Maryland State Board of Elections Web site for guidance.  The application is available there for download, and must be delivered to the state or a local Board of Elections, or postmarked by Oct. 14.

Are registered to vote? If so, do you plan on voting Nov. 4?

If you’re not registered, why not?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Laurie White

Should Slots Be Legalized?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Support for slots in Maryland is slipping as a November vote on the issue approaches.  Just 49 percent of Marylanders now say they would vote to legalize this form of gambling, down 5 percent since January, according to a new poll.

What do you think?  Would slots be an effective way to reduce the state’s $1.7 billion budget deficit, or could legalizing them do more harm than good?

Could they help to fund new educational and social initiatives, or will they increase the number of gambling addicts and draw from other attractions?