Category Archives: Ethics

Bananacakes or Not? Cooper Says No, 7S Says Oh Yeah.

Jordan Cooper response to Adam Pagnucco on “Bananacakes or Not?”:

In a recent Seventh State post on February 26th the following is written: “And so we have something extremely rare in MoCo politics: a candidate who drafts a questionnaire for other candidates with an endorsement on the line.” I’d like to correct the record with examples to the contrary:

Serving as a member of the Maryland General Assembly is considered to be a part-time job. State delegates and senators frequently have other means of employment concurrent with their service in elected office. Indeed even members of the Montgomery County Council, which is considered by many to be a full-time legislative body, have additional part-time positions. Just as many members of the legislature and many candidates for elected office have other jobs, so too do I as the host Public Interest Podcast. It is entirely within the realm of accepted practice for candidates and elected officials to be involved with political organizations and for those organizations to issue endorsement questionnaires.

I’d like to add that Public Interest Podcast is a non-partisan entity and, much like The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and other periodicals, issuing endorsements in no way diminishes the non-partisan nature of the endorsing organization. Endorsements will be issued by Public Interest Podcast based solely upon candidate responses to the questionnaire regardless of party affiliation and regardless of whether those candidates’ views are aligned with my own political views.

Seventh State Disagrees.

Adam: I am not defending those other organizations. But there is a difference here: they involve more than one person and can establish recusal procedures. You ARE Public Interest Podcast. There is nothing else there other than you recording interviews with people.

David: I called out Progressive Neighbors four years ago for having a ridiculous number of candidates on their board. Dana Beyer even sent a questionnaire to her opponent. I believe that they’ve fixed the problem and have no candidates on their current Steering Committee. Adam is also correct that PIP is you of course.

Jordan’s Response:

I hadn’t thought of a recusal process before. I could very well have someone else go through the endorsement responses and give them metrics for endorsement, say 7 of 9 questions have a Yes. That would be very fair wouldn’t it? In any case I can assure you that Republicans with whom I disagree personally on many issues will receive a Public Interest Podcast endorsement. I just don’t see a conflict of interest here. Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. I did ask quite a few people before I sent out the questionnaire if they thought it was ethical or would present any problems and they told me that as long as I keep the campaign separate from the podcast there’s no reason why I shouldn’t use this opportunity to get candidates speaking about some of the issues I raised that no one else is talking about.

Final Thoughts

David: People frequently misunderstand that someone who recuses themselves from a process does not participate in it. Someone who designs a process for rating other candidates has not recused himself. I don’t see how one can keep the campaign separate from the podcast.



Did Simonaire Violate Ethics Rules with Commercial?

Sen. Bryan Simonaire’s (R-31) Commercial

Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-31, Anne Arundel) has done a commercial for Walt Eger’s auto service center. In the commercial, shown above, Sen. Simonaire uses his title and appears in front of his vehicle complete with Senate license plate and a Simonaire-State Senate sticker on the front of the hood.

The ethics laws governing conduct by members of the General Assembly prohibit commercials like this in a clearcut manner:

Use of Prestige of Office (§ 15-506) The Ethics Law prohibits the intentional use of a legislator’s “prestige of office” for private gain or that of another, but allows the performance of usual and customary constituent services that are provided without compensation.

Even more specifically, the ethics guidelines state:

Do not publicly endorse a commercial entity or product under circumstances that invoke one’s position as a legislator.

Unfortunately for Sen. Simonaire, this is exactly what he did.

If Sen. Simonaire got paid to do the commercials, that would move the problem to selling the prestige of office instead of just using it for the private gain of another.

Simonaire Serves on Ethics Reform Committee

Sen. Simonaire serves currently on the Senate Special Committee on Ethics Reform. In the past, he also was a member of the Work Group to Review Disclosure Requirements of the Public Ethics Law. While ignorance of the law would not serve an excuse, it seems especially thin in this case.

Eger Made Campaign Contributions to Simonaire

Sen. Simonaire received $1000 in campaign contributions from Walt Eger in 2014 election cycle, according to his campaign finance report filed on October 19, 2014.

This same report also reveal loans by Sen. Simonaire in the amount of $54,100 to his own campaign. The most recently filed report indicates that the loan amount remains the same, so it does not appear that the Eger’s contribution has been used towards reimbursing that loan.

The reported cash balance for Simonaire’s campaign committee is $36,701.47. Simonaire could conceivably use funds to pay back the loans. But many legislators never reimburse themselves for these loans and carry them forward for many years.


This could all be friendly in the sense that Walt Eger likes Sen. Bryan Simonaire enough to donate to his campaign. Similarly, Sen. Simonaire could want to help out his friend’s business.

The problem is this sort of cozy relationship that works to the commercial benefit of Walt Eger and the political benefit of Sen. Simonaire is exactly what the General Assembly’s ethics rules are designed to prevent.

This likely serious violation of ethics rules will provide a test for not only how the General Assembly handles these problems–including the leadership of both parties–but also how Gov. Larry Hogan addresses problems within the party that he heads.