Tag Archives: Brandy Brooks

Progressive Maryland Endorses for County Council

By Adam Pagnucco.

Progressive Maryland, an umbrella organization containing several influential progressive groups, has announced it is endorsing the following candidates for County Council.

At-Large: Brandy Brooks, Will Jawando, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm

District 1: Ana Sol Gutierrez

District 3: Ben Shnider

District 4: Nancy Navarro

District 5: Tom Hucker

Progressive Maryland has previously endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Ben Jealous for Governor.  Brooks is an employee of the organization.  Hucker founded the group’s predecessor, Progressive Montgomery.

Two things strike us as interesting here.  First, this is the first major institutional endorsement not received by at-large incumbent Hans Riemer.  (SEIU Local 500 has endorsed three non-incumbents in the at-large race but left a spot open for Riemer contingent on further events in Rockville.)  Second, Progressive Maryland’s affiliates include MCGEO, UFCW Local 400 (grocery store workers), the SEIU Maryland/D.C. council, NOW and ATU Local 689 (WMATA), all of whom play in MoCo elections.  Does Progressive Maryland’s decision provide insight on which candidates may be endorsed by these other groups?


Democratic Socialists Endorse Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Metro DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has endorsed Marc Elrich for County Executive and Brandy Brooks, Danielle Meitiv and Chris Wilhelm for Council At-Large.  DSA is the successor to socialist organizations once led by Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.  It has grown to become the largest socialist group in America in the age of Trump.

DSA’s endorsement announcement on Twitter.

The Metro DC chapter has posted its questionnaire responses from Elrich, Brooks, Meitiv and Wilhelm on its website.  Pertinent information includes the following facts.

All four are members of DSA.  Brooks said she was not a member on her questionnaire but her campaign manager, Michelle Whittaker, informs us that she is.  Elrich joined decades ago.  Wilhelm joined in November 2017.  Meitiv said, “I am a DSA member. It would be personally disappointing for me if I did not get the organization’s endorsement.”

Elrich and Wilhelm oppose “privatization” of the liquor monopoly.  Wilhelm wrote, “I do not support privatizing the Department of Liquor Control because it provides good jobs for hundreds of county workers and it also generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the county. We cannot afford to eliminate this source of funding.”  Meitiv opposes most privatization, but supports it for the liquor monopoly, writing, “With regard to the County Liquor Department, I am of a different mind. I think that the liquor business is not an essential government service and is an artifact of temperance movements and pay for play corruption. I would favor allowing for locally owned and operated private liquor stores.”  Brooks’s position is unclear.

Elrich, Meitiv and Wilhelm favor decriminalization of sex work.  Brooks does not commit to decriminalization, citing the problems caused by human trafficking.

All four support having Montgomery County act as a sanctuary county for immigrants.  Currently, county officials do not consider the county to be a sanctuary jurisdiction.

All four believe undocumented immigrants should have the right to vote in elections.

All four support rent stabilization laws.

All four support tuition-free community college, though Elrich says, “However, we do not currently have resources at the county level (and probably not at the state level, either) to fund it. We should work towards lowering the cost of college, but our ability to do that is constrained by what resources we have.”

The Metro DC chapter of DSA’s logo.

DSA asked, “Do you identify as a democratic socialist?”

Elrich responded, “Democratic socialism doesn’t have a hard and fast definition; I see it as a philosophy that envisions a more democratic society. I believe in democracy in both the political and economic spheres. What does socialism mean now? We are living in the 21st century, and simply reducing political analysis to a debate between 18th century capitalism and 19th century Marxism doesn’t help us find solutions. There are ideas that have worked and have moved society forward that have evolved from both perspectives, as well as things that haven’t turned out so well from both. So a lot of the ideals of democratic socialism contribute to my thinking, but they don’t entirely define my thinking.”

Brooks responded, “I believe strongly in the ability of everyday people being able to ‘freely and democratically’ set the vision for their government and community. That is the essence of the participatory governing strategy I will bring to elected office. On core issues of economic, social, and racial justice, we must also recognize how capitalism and corporate influence on our policies and politics negatively impacts our people, our planet, and our communities. We must remove the influence of corporate money in our politics and policy to create systemic reform.”

Meitiv responded, “I joined DSA because I found a community of activists who share my values and policy goals. As for identifying as a democratic socialist, I am still exploring what that label means, to DSA members and to the public generally, as well as my own understanding. For example, I’m reading about distinctions being drawn by theorists regarding Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism. There should be no question about whether I share the ideals and concerns of the group, or whether I am concerned about publicly acknowledging DSA membership. I am a little hesitant to put myself in a box with a neat label, but I am absolutely comfortable with identifying as a member of DSA for those reasons.”

Wilhelm responded, “Yes.”


At-Large Candidate’s Proposal Breaks Campaign Finance Laws

By Adam Pagnucco.

Council At-Large candidate Brandy Brooks, who is participating in MoCo’s public financing system, would like to help natural disaster victims.  That’s a laudable goal.  But she is proposing to spend campaign contributions to do so.  The problem is that’s illegal under state and county campaign finance laws.

On her website and on Facebook, Brooks promotes an initiative that she calls “Power 100,” in which she invites 100 contributors to donate a combined $2,500 to her campaign, half of which would be paid out to a number of charities helping natural disaster victims.  The charities include organizations helping victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, a mudslide in Sierra Leone and floods in South Asia.

Brooks supporter Ed Fischman went a step further in a posting on the Our Revolution in Montgomery County Facebook page, asserting that public matching funds would be used for disaster relief.  To be fair, it’s unclear whether Fischman speaks for Brooks and Brooks has not yet qualified for public matching funds.

State and county campaign finance laws prohibit these kinds of expenditures.  According to the State Board of Elections’ Summary Guide, there must be a nexus between campaign account expenditures and the promotion of a candidate’s campaign for those expenditures to be legal.  The guide specifically addresses charitable contributions, stating:

Generally, campaign funds may not be used solely for charitable purposes. Maryland law requires campaign funds to be used for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate, question, or political committee. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that contributors give to campaign committees for one important reason – they want to support the committee’s candidate, question, or political party. When campaign funds are spent for a non-campaign related purpose, it frustrates the intent of the contributor.

However, there are instances when a charitable donation is permissible because it is for a campaign purpose. For example, a candidate may permissibly use campaign funds to attend a charitable event since attending the event increases the candidate’s visibility and allows the candidate to network with potential voters and donors.

ง 13-247 of state election law does allow certain kinds of charitable contributions to be made by accounts that are closing and liquidating their assets, a case that clearly does not apply to Brooks.

Additionally, Montgomery County’s public campaign financing law states, “A participating candidate may only use the eligible contributions and the matching public contribution for a primary or general election for expenses incurred for the election.”  This statement is repeated in the county’s summary of the law.  No one could construe helping disaster relief victims as a primary or general election expense.  It’s noteworthy that the county’s language applies not just to public funds but also to individual contributions made under the public financing program.

Your author really hated to write this blog post but it had to be done.  Generally speaking, when we have examined campaign finance issues in the past, we have sometimes seen behavior that may not be ethical but is legal.  This case is the opposite: what Brooks is doing comes from the best of intentions but does not comply with the law.  Brooks is free to discuss the plight of disaster victims all she wants.  She could also organize a private fundraiser for victims separate from her campaign account.  But if she goes ahead and uses her campaign funds for disaster relief contributions, she will risk sanctions from the state, the county or both.