Tag Archives: Robin Ficker

Perennial Candidate Ficker Reprimanded for Ethics Violation Again

Ficker Reprimand by David Lublin on Scribd

Robin Ficker has been reprimanded yet again by the Maryland Court of Appeals for a legal ethics violation. Specifically, he failed to show up for court and left his client unrepresented, and also employed a disbarred lawyer without the appropriate required notice.

Ficker blamed a conflict and communication problems with the judge’s office for why the judge didn’t know that he wouldn’t appear. Did the client know that Ficker was leaving in the lurch? On the second violation, Ficker plead ignorance of the law as his excuse:

“I did not know about that rule. There was not a single Maryland case which had ever mentioned that rule or any ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals,” Ficker said, adding that he stays up to date on developments in the state’s highest court.

Ficker is a frequent flier at the Court of Appeals for ethics violations and has been previously suspended from the practice of law. When Ficker was suspended in 2007, one judge wrote:

If disbarment is not warranted in this case for these types of issues, with a respondent with this history, it will never be warranted. If it is never going to be warranted in these types of cases, we should modify the rules to say so. I would disbar.

Taking into account his history, Ficker was lucky to once again get away with just a reprimand.

This will not affect his chances of being elected Montgomery County Executive, as those remain nil.

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Will Taxpayers Fund Ficker’s Next Campaign?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As MCM and Seventh State have reported, MoCo political heckler Robin Ficker is running for County Executive.  That’s not shocking – Ficker has a long history of running for office and almost always losing.  What’s new is that Ficker is planning on acquiring a new source of campaign funds.

You, the public.

Ficker’s campaign website explicitly refers to the county’s new public financing system, under which the county matches campaign contributions made by individual residents (but not PACs, corporate entities or non-residents).  The system is opt-in; candidates can use the traditional financing system if they wish.  Ficker created a public financing account to run for Executive on February 8.  But that doesn’t mean he will necessarily get public funds.

Ficker’s campaign website home page.

The county’s system does not distribute taxpayer money to everyone who participates.  Instead, it sets up a number of thresholds candidates must reach before they are eligible for public matching funds.  Under the law, a candidate for Executive must receive at least 500 contributions of $150 or less from county residents totaling at least $40,000 before he or she is eligible for public funds.  The candidate cannot accept money from PACs or businesses and cannot take individual contributions of higher amounts.  Once eligible, the candidate can collect up to $600 in taxpayer funds for each $150 contributed by an individual.  Lesser matching amounts apply to smaller contributions on a sliding scale.  Lower thresholds and different match levels apply to those running for County Council at-large and district seats.

Could Ficker get public money?  Ficker has used two campaign accounts over the last decade, the Robin Ficker for Homeowners Committee (which he used in two runs for County Council) and the Fickers for 15 Slate (which he used to run for the General Assembly along with his son in 2014).  The two accounts together raised $262,762.  Of that amount, Ficker self-financed $259,108, or 99% of his take.  A total of 33 individuals other than Ficker gave to the two accounts.  So Ficker has a long ways to go to get public money.  However, he does plan to use his term limits petition information to raise contributions.  Ficker gathered 17,649 signatures.  If just three percent of those folks contribute $150 or less to his campaign, Ficker will qualify for public matching funds.

And so here is the cost of public campaign financing.  If taxpayers are to fund the campaigns of candidates they might support, they may also have to fund the campaigns of those they do not.  Even the clown prince of political hecklers.  Even Robin Ficker.

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Perennial Candidate Robin Ficker Joins Executive Race

It never rains but it pours. After reporting that Councilmember Marc Elrich (D-At Large) has entered the public financing system to run for Montgomery County Executive, Robin Ficker (R-Running for Office Near You) is doing the same.

Despite winning one disastrous term in the House of Delegates in 1978 before being turfed out by voters, Ficker is best known for his persistent heckling at sporting events and his repeated brushes with the law and legal ethics.

Ficker has since run fruitlessly for a multiplicity of offices, desperately attempting to link himself to more popular pols as far back as Ronald Reagan. In 2016, he linked himself to the Cruz and the Trump campaigns at the same time. The following accounting of Ficker failure may not be complete as the online records die out in the early 1980s.

2016: Came in fourth for in the Republican Primary for the Sixth Congressional District with just 11% of the vote.

2014: Lost the general election in D15 for the State Senate with 39% of the vote.

2012: Came in fifth in the Republican Primary for the Sixth Congressional District with just 7% of the vote.

2010: Lost in the general election in MoCo Council District 2, previously won by Republicans, with 40% of the vote.

2009: After making a potentially fraudulent filing for office, Ficker lost a special election for MoCo Council District 4 with 39%.

2008: Robin took this year off, perhaps due to the suspension of his law license in 2007.

2006: Ficker ran as an independent for County Executive, gaining only 9% of the vote.

2004: No Robin!

2002: Ficker lost the general election for the D39 State Senate seat with 34% of the vote.

2000: Ficker came in fourth for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate with just 15% of the vote, losing to fellow perennial candidate Ross Pierpont and other unknowns.

1998: According to my search of the records, Ficker didn’t run for anything, even with all the federal, state and local offices on the ballot! Again, this may have something to do with an earlier suspension of his law license.

1996: No Ficker!

1994: Ficker came in fourth for the Republican nomination to the House of Delegates (D15), the office he previously held, and didn’t move on to the general election.

1990 and 1992: No Ficker! He claimed credit for an anti-tax initiative that Blair Lee reports he did not lead.

1988: A Ficker twofer! Ficker ran to be a delegate for Pat Robertson at the Republican National Convention from CD6, and lost with 3% of the vote. He also ran a losing race for MoCo School Board. (Earlier version of this post missed the School Board race.)

1986: Ficker-free election!

1982: Lost reelection to the House of Delegates (D15) to Democrat Gene Counihan.

1980: Lost Republican congressional primary.

1978: Won his sole disastrous term in the House of Delegates as a Republican from D15.

1972: Lost the Democratic Primary for the U.S. House.

Mistaking his term limits victory as a yearning for Ficker, we now know that the campaign will be loud and annoying but not dull.

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Did Ficker Commit Election or Tax Fraud?

Bethesda Beat caught local gadfly and perennial Republican candidate Robin Ficker in a shocking admission the other day:

[In 2009], Ficker lost to council member Nancy Navarro, 7,364 to 4,263, in a special election for the council’s District 4 seat. Ficker said Friday he used his parents’ Silver Spring address to run in that race.

However, the Montgomery County Charter says that you’re supposed to reside in the Council District in which you run:

Each of the five other members of the Council shall, at the time of Nomination and election and throughout the member’s term of office, reside in a different Council district, and shall be nominated and elected by the qualified voters of that district. Any change in the boundaries of a Council district after a member is elected shall not render the member ineligible to complete the term for which the member was elected.

You’re supposed to use your own address, not that of your parents, when you run for office, so did Ficker violate the law? Notice that Ficker did not say that he moved to his parents’ house to establish residency but that “he used his parents’ address.”

According to the Montgomery County property tax database, Ficker has paid property tax on his home in Boyds since at least 1999. As Adam Pagnucco covered at the time, Ficker was still claiming the homestead exemption on his principal residence–his home in Boyds.

How did Ficker establish residency in Council District 4? Was his parents’ home his domicile? Did he live with his parents or with his wife in their home? Did Ficker file taxes at his own home or that of his parents? Did he obtain a new driver’s license with his parents’ address? Did he switch his voter registration, and if so, was that also done legally?

Put bluntly, did Robin Ficker establish legal residency in Council District 4? In light of the obvious evidence and Ficker’s public admission, does the State’s Attorney intend to investigate violations of either tax or election law?

Additionally, do Ficker’s actions violate the Maryland Code of Legal Ethics? The Code states:

A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. . . .

A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office. . . .

Robin Ficker is an attorney and would no doubt claim that he complied with the law. Some might hesitate to take his word for it, as “Ficker has been a frequent flyer in disciplinary matters” related to ethical requirements for the practice of law:

ATTORNEY GRIEV. COMM’N OF MARYLAND v. FICKER, 319 Md. 305, 572 A.2d 501 (1990). Reprimand.

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND v. Robin K.A. FICKER, 349 Md. 13, 706 A.2d 1045 (1998). Law license suspension.

Private reprimand (1998).

Private reprimand (2002).

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND v. Robin K.A. FICKER, 399 Md. 445, 924 A.2d 1105 (2007). Indefinite law license suspension.

Although Ficker’s law license was reinstated after a year in the last case, the dissent in the opinion stated:

If disbarment is not warranted in this case for these types of issues, with a respondent with this history, it will never be warranted. If it is never going to be warranted in these types of cases, we should modify the rules to say so. I would disbar.

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MoCo Revolts

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a thundering rebuke to Montgomery County’s governing establishment, voters have passed term limits by a 38 point margin with early votes and election day votes counted.  Folks, let’s call this what it is.

A Revolt.

This year will see one of the largest electorates in Montgomery County history.  While the absolute number of voters may be declining in our mid-term elections, it has been steadily rising in presidential general elections.  County residents voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (by 54 points as of this writing).  But they also voted for term limits despite the fact that most county voters are Democrats and all county elected officials are Democrats.  This year was reminiscent of the 2008 general election, during which MoCo voted for Barack Obama by 45 points but also approved Robin Ficker’s charter amendment restricting property tax hikes by just 5,060 votes.  This demonstrates the capacity of county voters to keep national issues and local issues separate when they so desire.  The big difference between 2008 and now is that the margin of term limits’ passage was so titanic that it’s possible that half of all Democrats voted for it.

The scale of this upheaval is virtually unprecedented.  Sure, County Council incumbents have been defeated here and there and a sitting County Executive was beaten in 1990.  But the voters voted against all the incumbents this year, or at least put an expiration date on their services.  To find something comparable, you would have to go back to 1962, when five of seven Council Members were ejected, and 1966, when six Council Members were defeated.

Former County Council Member Steve Silverman astutely characterized term limits supporters as “a convergence of strange bed-fellows.”  County employees upset about reduced raises, business people unhappy about what they see as an unfriendly business climate, residents opposed to new master plans with more density, Republicans and unaffiliated voters angry about being marginalized, opponents of the county’s liquor monopoly, people upset about the recent Giant Tax Hike and nanny state laws, and those who genuinely regard term limits as facilitating good government came together as they never have before.  As David Lublin wrote, these groups may have had incompatible visions of what county government should be, but all of them believed the way to get there was to get rid of the incumbents.

Term limits opponents made two primary arguments.  First, they described term limits as “an attack on progressive government.”  This had the effect of making the term limits question a referendum on current county elected officials, a perspective actually shared by many supporters.

term-limits-opposition-fundraiser

And second, they tried to make term limits toxic by emphasizing their support by figures like Donald Trump, Robin Ficker and Help Save Maryland.

term-limits-trump-ficker

That strategy didn’t work for two reasons: the opponents were vastly under-funded as they were going uphill and the message itself was not calibrated for a general electorate that is less liberal than Democratic primary voters.  Social media proved to be the weapon of choice for both sides, and in terms of Facebook likes, supporters outgunned opponents by a ratio of 13-1.  Opponents were counting on the Democratic sample ballot and the Apple Ballot, both opposing term limits, to win.  But whereas the sample ballot is often mailed to all county Democrats, this time around it was mailed only to those who had newly registered.  And the teachers union did not supplement its Apple Ballot poll coverage with multiple mass mailings as they do in mid-term years.  Accordingly, the impact of both ballots was blunted.  Opposition organizer Tom Moore made a valiant effort, but this was an unwinnable campaign from the start.

To be fully understood, this year’s vote must be put into the context of recent history.  Since 2008, county voters have decided four major ballot questions and each time they took what was arguably the less progressive position.  Put those four votes together and here is the message from the voters:

We don’t want more property taxes.  We don’t want more government fees.  We don’t want a labor union running the police department.  And even though most of us are Democrats, we are telling the Democrats who run the county government that twelve years in office is long enough.

This is pretty much the opposite of the long-standing posture of the county’s political establishment.  And it’s not just coming from flakes, fanatics and fringe types like Robin Ficker and Help Save Maryland – it’s coming from a majority of county voters.  If there was ever a moment for the governing class to do some soul searching, this is it.

Opponents of term limits may be right about one thing – they may change the names of elected officials, but not the type of them.  Democrats, often very liberal ones, will continue to be elected because of our closed primary system.  But the combined message of the last four ballot questions imposes a hard choice on the elected officials of today and tomorrow.  They can try to balance the interests of various constituencies across the political spectrum at the possible cost of losing the progressive support that influences Democratic primaries.  Or they can stay the course and watch more moderate general election voters pass even more restrictive ballot questions, including perhaps the ultimate bane of progressivism – a hard tax cap.

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On Term Limits

This year’s term limits vote is the hot local topic of debate in Montgomery County. Or it would be, if either the pro or anti-term limits campaigns had any money to broadcast their message. Voters will largely have to decide for themselves whether they want term limits for the County Executive and County Council.

Political scientists tend to oppose term limits as anti-democratic. The exception is that presidential term limits often seen as preventing an unhealthy concentration of power. In emerging democracies, presidential term limits are increasingly seen as a good means to promote the rotation of power.

So why are so many Montgomery County voters ready to approve term limits that anti-democratically limit their own rights to reelect people to public office?

The Selectorate

A key reason is that many people don’t feel that they have much say over their government. This isn’t just hot air. Unless you vote in the critical Democratic primary that effectively decides elections for all partisan offices, you don’t.

Consider that the Census estimated Montgomery’s voting-age population at 788,043. (Note: this figure includes non-citizens, so it is an  inflated estimate of the potential voters.) Among the eligible population, 630,355 were registered voters including 354,078 registered Democrats at the time of the 2014 primary elections.

Only 88,007 people participated in the hotly contested Democratic primary for County Executive. That’s just 11% of the voting-age population, 14% of registered votes, and 25% of registered Democrats. It’s also just 33% of 2014 general election voters, and 19% of 2012 general election voters.

Moreover, the Democratic primary selectorate is skewed heavily toward the more Democratic areas of the County. It’s no accident that so many councilmembers live very close together in the southeastern corner of the County–and most people never cast a vote in the key election to choose them.

Beyond the overwhelming strength of the Democrats, Republicans offer very weak alternatives. As a result, the general election, held in the lower turnout midterm election, feels more like a kabuki ritual even if the outcome accurately ratifies the preference of the voters for Democratic over Republican nominees.

The Fantasy

The great advantage of term limits compared to the status quo is that every voter can imagine that the new Council will be more responsive to whatever their political bent–even though some of the major dreams advocated are contradictory.

Robin Ficker touts lower taxes as County unions envision a Council  willing to raise their pay higher. Civic associations imagine a Council less in thrall to developers while Chamber dreams of a more business friendly Council.

These claims cannot all be true but that doesn’t prevent voters from comparing their fantasy government to the much less glamorous reality. As the same people will choose new councilmembers by the same process, change may be more elusive than imagined.

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Term Limits Opposition in Shambles

By Adam Pagnucco.

With the challenge to Robin Ficker’s petition signatures having failed in court, the opposition to term limits has hit a new low.  Opponents have less than three weeks left and over 400,000 prospective general election voters to reach.  Tick tock says the clock.

How do you win on term limits?  Here’s a theory: voters will vote in accordance with their perceived self-interest.  Whoever wishes to sway them must address their self-interest and take account of how they see it.  Failure to do so means losing the argument.

So far, the opponents’ arguments against term limits seem to be that they are unfair to elected officials, that Robin Ficker is a baaaaad man (he is), that county Republicans favor them, that nativist extremists were involved in gathering petition signatures (they were), that Nancy Navarro would be denied three full terms under Ficker’s language, that Donald Trump favors term limits and that term limits supporters are like Brexit supporters.

Well, OK.  But what do any of these arguments have to do with the voters’ self-interest?

And then this happened.

“Oh wait a minute.  Never mind, voters.  Forget about what we told you.  We are going to court so you won’t be able to vote!  What’s that?  You will be voting after all?  Oh.  Well, remember what we were saying…?”

Adding to the above is that most prominent opponents of term limits have a personal self-interest in the issue.  Several incumbent Council Members have spoken publicly against them.  Tom Moore, the opponents’ organizer, is a former Rockville City Council Member who ran for County Council in 2014 and might do so again.  Almost all of the scanty funding for the anti-term limits committee came from Council Members, their staff, their family and a non-profit receiving county money.  Are there any non-politicians (aside from Charter Review Commission Chair Paul Bessel) who are willing to work to defeat term limits?

Ficker, on the other hand, does have a narrative aimed at voters.  His sales pitch is that, according to him, current elected officials are “self-serving” by awarding themselves large salary increases and voting for big tax hikes filled with goodies for interest groups that help them get reelected.  The costs of all this are passed on to taxpayers.  Ficker proposes breaking this cycle by instituting term limits and getting new people elected with “fresh ideas.”  Put aside for a moment that there are numerous problems with his theory, including that there is already substantial competition in county elections and that the 2014 public financing law could promote even more competition.  Ficker is speaking directly to the pocketbook interests of voters while the other side is currently not.

Right now, all the momentum is with term limits supporters as many factors are working in their favor – especially the council’s Giant Tax Hike.  Opponents are going uphill, with a tremendous amount of work to do and very little time.  At this point in the 2000 term limits battle, legendary Duncan operative Jerry “Darth Vader” Pasternak had put together a massive coalition to fight Ficker, and the opponents ultimately won by just eight points.  In contrast, little of this work appears to have been done this time around. The opponents’ Facebook page has just 69 likes (FAR less than the 4,699 likes on Ficker’s page) and there is no money for a mail budget.  The opponents are relying on the Apple Ballot, the Democratic sample ballot and prayer.  Compare this to the 2000 effort, during which Darth Pasternak’s Empire did at least three mailings plus 130,000 robocalls.

Paul Bessel’s scholarly dissertation on term limits is helpful, but is anyone other than a handful of insomniac college professors going to read it?  Opponents need a direct, relevant message.  Something like this:

Come on, voters!  Is it really in your self-interest to disenfranchise yourselves?  Do you want to prevent yourselves from reelecting an official whom you believe is doing a good job?  Do you benefit from a government that is run by bureaucrats and lobbyists?  Do you really think a County Council jam-packed with lame ducks is going to act on your behalf?  What exactly are YOU getting out of all this?

There’s nothing here about Ficker, Help Save Maryland, Trump or Brexit.  It’s about the voters, stupid!  Just like it’s supposed to be.

Term limits opponents need message, resources and scale – and they need those things yesterday.  Because at this moment, Ficker is on pace to win, perhaps by double digits.

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Judge Tepid on Term Limits Foes’ Arguments; Ficker Still Ficker

Attorney Jonathan Shurberg made the argument for No on B–the group fighting term limits–but the judge wasn’t inclined to buy because (1) he doesn’t think he’ll rule that the Board of Elections improperly validated the signatures, and (2) they didn’t have enough evidence to support their case.

No on B has over the weekend to continue to hone their argument and put together their evidence. But I’d expect council term limits to go to the voters. Meanwhile, Bethesda Beat reports that Attorney Robin Ficker is still Robin Ficker:

Ficker, who fought for and won the right to be a defendant in the case Wednesday, arrived nearly two hours after the hearing started. He told Greenberg he needed to leave at 3 p.m. to be at CNN studios in Washington where he was taping “Nancy Grace.”

This is after Ficker fought to become a co-defendant in the case. He’s laser focused on press attention. Not so much on the case.

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Term Limits Goes to Court

Today, at 9:30am, the Circuit Court will hear arguments as to whether No on B’s case against the referendum on term limits can go forward. The argument is purely about whether the proposal has met the legal requirements to be placed on the ballot–not the constitutionality of the referendum.

No on B’s argument rests on two points: (1) Robin Ficker marked up the petition pages and made changes before their submission to the Board of Elections in violation of the law, and (2) the petition lacks sufficient number of legal signatures. Having checked 28% of the pages so far, they have found 63% of the number of flaws required to knock the referendum off the ballot.

Weighing heavily on the pro-referendum side will be that the Board of Elections–the main defendant in this case–has certified the petition has a sufficient number of valid signatures. The judge could well regard the Board as more neutral party, as their job here is to carry out a bureaucratic process, not to advocate. At the same time, neutral does not immunize them against legal errors–and they may not have known of Ficker’s changes.

Robin Ficker, the petition’s proponent, has received permission from the Court to be an additional defendant. Whether Ficker’s brand of obnoxious vocal advocacy aids the case remains to be seen. While bringing strong support for the referendum, his presence could undermine any view of the Board as a more neutral party.

There is also the little underlying problem that Ficker is a walking advertisement against his own proposal. After all, the voters managed to unseat the Republican after his one and only term in the House of Delegates. While irrelevant to the case, it isn’t the sort of background that aids the pro-term limits side.

Democrat Jonathan Shurberg, a former candidate for delegate in District 20 who now blogs and has remained active in County politics, will serve as the attorney for No on B. While No on B aspires to pay him, they have not raised the funds so far.

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Help Save Maryland, GOP Push Term Limits

By Adam Pagnucco.

Brad Botwin, Director of the anti-immigration group Help Save Maryland, has sent out the following email promoting term limits.

*****

UPDATE ON THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY TERM LIMIT PETITION – CITIZENS WORKING TOGETHER CAN SUCCEED!

Recent e-mail I received on the status of the Term Limit Petition which will revitalize the MoCo County Council and County Executive if passed this November 2016 by the voters.  The professional politicians are getting nervous!

Dear Concerned Voter:

Thank you for signing the non-partisan term limits petition for Montgomery County.

We did it!  You and nearly 18,000 registered voters in Montgomery County signed the term limits petition (only 10,000 signatures were required).  The signatures were submitted on August 8, which means you’ll be able to vote on the term limits question on the November 2018 general election ballot.   When passed — and we need your vote to pass the measure — it will limit County Council members and the County Executive to serving no more than three consecutive terms, or 12 years.

One week from today, on Wednesday, August 24, you will have an opportunity to support term limits at a Montgomery County Charter Commission hearing.

Here is information about the hearing: http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=16281

In order to testify, you must notify the commission in advance by e-mailing them at: charterreview.commission@montgomerycountymd.gov

If you can’t attend, but still want to convey your support for the term limits petition; email the commission at the same e-mail address in the previous sentence.

If you don’t want to speak out publicly on the 24th, please come to the hearing and stand with your neighbors in support of term limits for the County Council and County Executive.

If you want to know how you can help or need more information, let us know.

Thank you,

Montgomery County Citizens group in support of Term Limits   sohenc@gmail.com

*****

The gmail account above belongs to Sharon Cohen, a member of the Montgomery County Republican Party’s Central Committee.  This reinforces the central role played by both Help Save Maryland and the Republicans in pushing Robin Ficker’s terms limits charter amendment.

The state’s election law requires groups advocating on ballot questions to register with the State Board of Elections and file campaign finance reports.  According to the state’s summary guide on campaign finance laws, “Once the petition process to place a question on the ballot is completed, a ballot issue committee must be formed before money is collected or spent to promote the success or defeat of the ballot issue.”

So far, no committee on Montgomery County term limits has registered with the state.  Hopefully, any group advocating on the issue will obey the law, file reports and show their funding.  Voters may find that information useful as they consider whether to support term limits.

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