Category Archives: 2018 Governor’s Race

The Jealous Speaking Fee File

Today, a list of Ben Jealous’s compensated speaking engagements popped into my email inbox. Apparently, Jealous has frequently charged high fees at public universities that contrast uneasily with his demands to make college tuition free.

On one occasion, Jealous charged Eastern Michigan University $20,000 to speak on MLK Day for 10 minutes, his agent having negotiated down from an onerous full quarter of an hour. EMU raised tuition by 4.1% in the previous year.

Read the full file, entitled “Jealous Charged Public Universities & Community Colleges Over $85,000 In Speaking Fees Amid Tuition Hikes & University Budget Crises” below:


The Ups and Downs of Jealous’s Financial Stewardship of the NAACP

Ben Jealous likes to tout his leadership at the NAACP. Managing the State’s budget is a central responsibility of the governor. How did he handle the NAACP’s finances?

Examination of the organization’s tax returns reveals that Jealous’s leadership at the NAACP had a major impact on the organization’s finances. He increased the revenue – and expenditures – of the NAACP dramatically.

NAACP revenue rose from $24.7 million in 2008 to $43.2 million in 2012, an impressive 75% increase. However, it dropped back to $31.0 million in the last year of Jealous’s tenure before his abrupt departure after the first year of a new multiyear contract. (Jealous refused to explain the reasons for his leaving in an interview with The New Republic.) Revenue has since continued to decline, falling to $24.4 million in 2016.

Expenditures tracked revenue closely, and rose from $21.5 million in 2008 to $42.6 million in 2012 before falling back to $36.8 million in 2013. Since Jealous left the NAACP, spending has continued to fall, reaching $24.8 million in 2013.

My sense that Jealous did an amazing job at the start of expanding the organization’s revenue, and thus activities, but that it did not prove sustainable. Both revenue and expenditures dropped substantially in the last year of his leadership. Jealous did not leave the organization able to maintain even this level of revenue or expenditures, as both continued to fall.

The net impact of Jealous’s financial stewardship is overall less impressive than his ability to increase the organization’s profile. In the first four years of his leadership, the NAACP’s largest surplus was $0.6 million and its largest deficit was $1.3 million. However, the deficit jumped to $5.8 million in his final year – the largest in the 16 year period examined here.

The impact on net assets is more disturbing. After increasing the organization’s assets from $12.7 million to $17.3 million, Jealous then oversaw their fall to just $8.0 million in the final year of his leadership – a drop of 37% from his arrival and 54% from the best position under his leadership.

Assets continued to fall after Jealous left, reaching a low of $3.0 million in 2015 before rising to $3.8 million in 2018. Again, this doesn’t present a picture of an organization left on very stable footing when Jealous left.

Ironically, this progressive tribune presents a great example of how the well off have continued to do well even as the incomes of ordinary people have stagnated. Jealous’s compensation rose from $285,000 in the first full year of his tenure to $375,114 in his final year, an increase of 32%.


Delaney Endorses Baker

Here is the press release from the Baker campaign:


Baltimore County, MD – Today, U.S. Congressman John Delaney (D-6) announced his support for Rushern L. Baker III, Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland. The announcement comes a day after Valerie Ervin announced she would be joining the Baker/Embry ticket. Over the weekend, Rushern Baker announced a wave of Baltimore County and Baltimore City support, including Julian Jones, the Chair of the Baltimore County Council; Delegate Adrienne Jones, Speaker Pro Tem of the Maryland House of Delegates; and two former Baltimore County Executives: Dennis Rasmussen and Ted Venetoulis.

Congressman Delaney will join Rushern Baker for an event next week. Time and location are TBD.

“I’m proud to endorse my friend Rushern Baker for Governor of Maryland. Rushern is a deeply good man and brings the perfect combination of experience, vision, optimism, grit, and decency to the job. I am particularly impressed with Rushern’s unwavering commitment to improve public education and he has a track record of working to do just that in Prince George’s County.  There is nothing more important to the future of a country than a strong and innovative public education system focused on maximizing the amazing potential inherent in our children and Rushern is committed to that mission, which is why he has my full support,” said U.S. Congressman John Delaney.

“I am proud to have the support of my good friend, Congressman Delaney. Congressman Delaney is deeply respected as an advocate for his constituents and a leader in promoting environmental progress and job growth. I look forward to working with Congressman Delaney to improve education and create economic opportunities in Maryland’s 6th district and across the state,” Rushern Baker said in a statement.

Congressman Delaney joins a growing list of Maryland elected officials in endorsing Rushern Baker, including former governor Martin O’Malley, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, U.S. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Governor Parris Glendening, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and over 50 state senators, delegates, mayors and sheriffs. Additionally, The Baltimore Afro, Jmore Baltimore Jewish Living and The Washington Post endorsed Rushern Baker. The Washington Post calling him, “by a wide margin, the strongest candidate in the primary field.”


Rushern’s Run

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker

After serving in the House of Delegates and two terms as Prince George’s County Executive, Rushern Baker is making a bid for Maryland’s top office.

He has a serious claim. Prince Georgians should remain grateful that Baker fought against corruption before it was fashionable. Despite opposition from the county establishment, Baker took on sitting Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson in 2006. During the campaign, Baker showed he was willing to take the fight directly to Johnson notwithstanding Jesse Jackson’s endorsement of his opponent. Baker nearly won.

Had Baker won, Prince George’s would have been spared the humiliating spectacle of the arrest of both Johnson and his wife, Councilmeber-Elect Leslie Johnson, who infamously tried to flush ill-gotten gains down the toilet and hide them in her bra. In contrast, no such scandals or anything remotely close have tainted the Baker administration and Prince George’s is vastly better off for his leadership against corruption.

The more one looks into Rushern Baker’s personal life, the more impressive his accomplishments look. Baker’s wife suffers from debilitating memory loss that requires a great deal of care. Until the Washington Post wrote about it long after this family tragedy started, it wasn’t known in the Maryland political world. One might contrast this approach with that of Gov. Larry Hogan, who has tried to turn the serious lemons of his cancer treatment into lemonade not just by comforting other sufferers but by also milking it for every drop of publicity in the public eye and his social media accounts.

Baker has one Achilles heel: the public schools. Laudably, Baker recognized that the school system was not providing the education that Prince George’s kids need and deserve. He managed to gain a much more power over the system with a great deal of political assistance from Annapolis. Baker tried to raise property taxes by 15% in a tax allergic county to fund education but was ultimately only able to obtain a 4% raise that went to fund teacher pensions. Reforming schools is a long-term task, not prone to producing short-term gains, which makes the endeavor all the more commendable.

Unfortunately, a number of scandals have emerged on Baker’s watch. The county lost its federal Head Start grant in 2016.  Grade manipulation led to many students obtaining diplomas that they didn’t earn in violation of county policy. Ben Jealous attacked Baker scathingly for this problem yesterday on Twitter, though Jealous has never had to actually run a county or a school system. Ultimately, the superintendent has been forced to go.

The Washington Post’s editorial page’s response in their endorsement to give Baker a pass and say essentially “Well, at least he tried.” I don’t know that Maryland voters will be as forgiving of these problems on an issue for which Baker has taken ownership. Troubling for Democrats, education is Hogan’s weakest issue according to surveys but he might be able to switch from defense to offense if Baker is the Democratic nominee.

Notwithstanding this significant problem, even though Baker is not my candidate, he would be a very solid Democratic nominee. Baker has been notably successful at building cross-racial support during an era of increased racial political polarization, as his endorsements from a variety of prominent Democrats attest. Based on the last gubernatorial election, we need a nominee who knows how to reach out.

As county executive, Baker has valuable experience has grappled genuinely with issues, like the school system, not in theory but in practice. Most importantly, Rushern Baker is an honorable person who has restored stature to Prince George’s County government.


Update on Vignarajah Eligibility Case / Renewed Racism and Sexism Claims

My blog post from yesterday faithfully reports the information online and that I confirmed with the Anne Arundel Circuit Court at the time. I also tried to speak with the Vignarajah campaign but they would not discuss in advance of their press conference.

Since then, there have been some updates. The case was dismissed on grounds of timeliness. As a result, the petition for declaratory judgement has been dismissed. Mr. Horn has just notified the media that he intends to appeal. I don’t know if he can get a hearing before the primary election or his chances for success.

In a press release, Vignarajah did her best to claim vindication and that she was “absolutely eligible,” though she neglects to mention why the petition was dismissed and that no decision was reached on the merits. When I spoke with her campaign’s chief of staff, Aryn Frazier, she promised someone would get back to me on this question but no one ever did.

Vignarajah’s press release goes on to claim that the evil nefarious establishment is trying to stop her:

It’s not a surprise that the establishment and political operatives are trying desperately to stop women of color from disrupting the old boys club in Maryland, but as a lifelong Marylander, I’ll continue fighting to support our schools, curb violent crime, and build a more inclusive economy for our state.

I asked Aryn Frazier for any evidence backing up these inflammatory claims of racism and sexism. Again, Ms. Frazier promised that someone would get back to me, but no on ever did.

Vignarajah’s serious charges undermine the causes for which she claims to be fighting. They are exactly the sorts of spurious claims that cause people to take a jaundiced view when serious claims of sexism and racism are made. Her constant waving of these banners jars all the more when one considers her voting record.

Vignarjah couldn’t be bothered to vote in the 2014 primary, when she could have helped the first black woman win election from Maryland to the U.S. Senate. She also didn’t vote in the 2014 general election, when she could have aided Anthony Brown’s quest to become the first African-American governor in Maryland. Indeed, this “lifelong Marylander” never voted here before 2016.


MCEA’s Awkward Alliance

This year, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) – the teachers union – decided to support Ben Jealous for governor. Fine, so far.

But this just got very awkward after last night’s education forum. Except for Rich Madaleno from Montgomery, all of the other candidates, including Ben Jealous, embraced a new wealth based formula for education funding that just kills Montgomery.

I imagine it also does little for affluent Howard. The new formula  zeros out funding for Talbot, Kent, and Worcester counties. Not only would it eliminate all no state aid for these three Eastern Shore jurisdictions, it also would require all that money to be made up in local taxes. Every penny cut would be required by state law to be replaced by local funds.

If there is one thing MCEA opposes, it’s cutting funds for Montgomery County Public Schools. Now, they’re supporting a candidate who wants to siphon large sums of money away from Montgomery to other jurisdictions.

Beyond the large number of portable classrooms, Montgomery faces a growing number of students who need extra help for a variety of reasons but who don’t come from families with a lot of extra money to help pick up the slack.

In the past, Adam Pagnucco has written about state funding formulas are already skewed against Montgomery, even as we face burgeoning problems in the public schools. Separately, a hike in the millionaires tax, paid primarily by Montgomery, has helped fund a burst of construction in Baltimore and elsewhere in the State.

The changes endorsed by all candidates except Madaleno would massively undermine efforts by Montgomery to address the achievement gap here. Indeed, the County would be hard pressed to maintain its current commitment with the size of cuts proposed, as Adam has explained well in a piece aptly titled “Hell, No!”

While this is awkward for Montgomery advocates of greater state school funding who support a variety of candidates, I imagine it might dismay county officials who support Rushern Baker at least partly in the hope that the D.C. area would get more attention to its increasingly serious needs.

But the problem is particularly acute for MCEA. They’ve found themselves behind a candidate whose platform would result in enormous pressure on the salaries and pensions of their members or force major cuts elsewhere in an already pressed county budget despite county efforts for years to protect education funding.


Ervin Drops Out, Plans to Endorse Baker

Former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who faced an uphill battle in her effort to run for governor has decided to leave the race and to endorse Rushern Baker.

Ervin decided to run after the sudden and sad death of her running mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. She faced an uphill battle due to her inability to access his campaign funds. The Board of Elections also could not change the ballots this close to the election, despite Ervin’s complete eligibility under state law to run in Kamenetz’s place and select a new running mate.


Vignarajah’s Day in Court

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court made its first decision in Horn v. Vignarajah et al, the case on Krish Vignarajah’s eligibility to run for governor. The court granted the motion by the defendent’s (i.e. Vignarajah’s) attorney to dismiss a request for declaratory judgement by the plaintiff.

I suspect this decision will allow Vignarajah to remain on the primary ballot. There probably is not enough time between now and the primary election for the judge to hear the case and to reach an outcome.

The Vignarajah campaign has called a press conference on the steps of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court – no doubt to declare this a victory and probably to reiterate her claims that her eligibility is beyond question despite having only voted here once and repeatedly declaring her residency in D.C.

Careful observers, however, should note that the case continues. The judge made no determination on the underlying issue of her eligibility, which is also clouded by the time limit for a challenge arranged by the State Board of Elections.

The most likely outcome to the case is dismissal due it being moot after Vignarajah loses the primary. Of course, it would continue if she somehow managed to win the nomination. Her voting record and residency issues provide a buffet for Hogan in any case.

Vignarajah has heavily implied questioning of her ballot access is sexist and racist:

Vignarajah’s campaign spokeswoman, Aryn Frazier, told the Post in an email in response to the lawsuit that “Sadly, it’s no surprise that the only two candidates in this race who have had their ballot access questioned by political operatives are the two women of color.”

Except that Valerie Ervin and Krish Vignarajah’s cases are wholly different. Ervin unquestionably meets the requirements. The judge’s decision focused on the ability to reprint the ballots – not on her eligibility – and all candidates and Democrats agree that she is eligible and would have preferred fixing the ballot.

Instead of claiming sexism or racism, it’d be nice if she would fulfill her promise to release her tax returns.


Our Revolution is Neither

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign resonated with Democratic voters in a rare way. While he did not achieve the success of Barack Obama’s electrifying 2008 election, his campaign helped create a spontaneous movement of support. Certainly, I saw it among my students who overwhelmingly favored Sanders and felt about him much like I had about Obama.

But spontaneous happenings only achieve long-term success if they institutionalize themselves and evolve into something more than what was once known as a happening in the 1960s. The Sanders movement has done that as the Sanders’ call for “a revolution” has evolved into the decidedly non-revolutionary organization called Our Revolution.

Our Revolution Maryland’s (ORM) approach in this election is emblematic of this new highly institutionalized, even establishment, approach. The campaign by Ben Jealous, a co-chair of Sanders’ 2016 bid, has all the spontaneity of your average Brezhnev-era central committee meeting. The contrast with the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign could hardly be greater.

While Sanders supporters bitterly objected to what they viewed as the Democratic National Committee’s tilt in favor of Hillary Clinton, that has nothing on ORM’s “process” for endorsing a gubernatorial nominee. Before the official process even began, Jealous told other candidates in no uncertain terms that ORM and Sanders’ organization would back him.

Prior to the launch of ORM’s kabuki endorsement process, ORM’s Director appeared right behind Jealous at the announcement of his gubernatorial campaign. Unsurprisingly, no other gubernatorial candidate agreed to participate in ORM’s endorsement charade because they didn’t want to validate a pre-determined outcome.

The Jealous campaign has been no less establishment. Its pollster, for example, is Fred Yang. He’s a deservedly well-respected Washington Democratic pollster. Yang has also worked on campaigns for numerous other mainstream Democratic candidates and issues, such as the Maryland marriage equality referendum in 2012.

Jealous’ running mate, Susie Turnbull, has held no elective office but she practically defines the term “insider” as a wealthy and connected former Maryland Democratic Party Chair – and not a renegade choice for that position. Turnbull has also long been very active in national DNC politics. Hardly the choice of a self-proclaimed revolutionary running to take down the Democratic establishment.

ORM has also made the highly strategic choice to avoid endorsing in the U.S. Senate campaign in order to support Jealous. Most mainstream Democrats regard U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin as a great guy but the more overtly hardline progressives are not happy, especially about Cardin’s unflinching support for Israel. ORM didn’t endorse either of Cardin’s more left-wing primary challengers as part of an effort to keep the influential Cardin out of the gubernatorial race.

As it turns out, the vaunted vanguard of the progressive revolution is not so different from the mainstream Democratic Party. Jealous hires the same political people, has an establishment running mate and received the pre-determined support of a political organization that, in turn, has tactically decided not to endorse other progressive candidates to help out Jealous.

It’s not surprising that Jealous would take this route. The NAACP remains the grand old dame and most established of African-American organizations. Moreover, the reason smart candidates don’t expect their campaign to be spontaneous electrifying happenings is that approach generally doesn’t work.

Just don’t expect much revolutionary out of Our Revolution or its candidate. Jealous decries half-measures and enjoys citing his grandmother’s wisdom that if you only fix half of a problem, you still have a problem. But, if elected, you should still expect lots of compromises, a hallmark of the American political system, or not much to happen at all. The revolutionary rhetoric cannot really mask a non-revolutionary approach.

That’s all to the good, as revolution is vastly overrated and most don’t turn out nearly as well as the American version.


Madaleno’s Radical Kiss

Who knew a kiss could be so radical?

Political advertisements rarely do something different. In public, straight people kiss all the time. In the media, they often do a lot more. For all the real and significant advances of the LGBT-rights movement, LGBT people are far more cautious.

Even mainstream television shows with LGBT characters rarely show much basic, normal affection. Will & Grace, which has two major gay characters, is practically the archetype for the absence of physical affection. (Andrew Sullivan refers to Will as the “eunuch.”)

Political ads take it to a whole new level. After all, political ads try to present candidates as wholesome, family oriented individuals. Candidates don’t want to threaten target voters but make them think he or she is “one of us.”

By showing himself kissing his husband with his two terrific African-American children, Madaleno pushes the boundary – and not in a safe, made for cable series but in a political advertisement. It explicitly makes the case and challenges voters that his marriage and his family are just as good as anyone else’s.

Now THAT’s progressive.