Is O'Malley annoyed that he's still governor?

Fighting for his gambling legislation, explaining his initiatives to constituents seem too much a bother

October 09, 2012|Marta H. Mossburg

Somewhere on his path to Washington Gov. Martin O'Malley tired of the little people.

Nowhere was it more evident than last week when he berated Penn National Gaming CEO Peter Carlino for defending his business.

He took particular exception to Mr. Carlino telling voters the truth: that tax dollars raised from a proposed sixth state casino will all but certainly not increase money for public schools.

"I would have expected more from Mr. Carlino, but I guess there's enough money at stake that he has to run these falsehoods," he said at a press conference called to discuss the power grid. "I mean, what's the guarantee that a house won't fall on Mr. Carlino tomorrow?"

He knows that the money from gambling going into an education trust fund is replacing, not adding to money that would have otherwise come from other sources. And there is no guarantee that the trust fund won't be raided to pay other bills like so many other special funds. But I guess Gov. Transparency Awards doesn't want people to know how their money is used.

And he's mad at being called out on it by a casino operator who is so … three years ago and small fry. He's Martin O'Malley, rising star after all. It's as if Mr. Carlino is a pimply playmate from grade school Mr. O'Malley wants to shed so he can hang out with the popular crowd in high school.

Why else would he use a state-sponsored press conference to berate an individual who disagrees with him? It shows a petulant streak that his carefully scripted, smiling national media persona belies and should remind people of President Barack Obama's imperious lecturing of Supreme Court justices sitting in front of him at the 2010 State of the Union. It also shows he has little tolerance for people who fight his machine.

Apparently it's news to him that he can't campaign around the country for President Barack Obama as head of the Democratic Governors Association and people will just vote for legislation at home because he endorsed it and because, "it's for the children!"

And this is no mundane bill. He called a special session this summer to craft a law ultimately designed to benefit a casino owner — MGM Resorts International — and a major developer after that gaming megalith said it could only operate in Maryland if the tax rate went down — weeks before legislators were recalled. The legislation that emerged was both rushed and written behind closed doors despite the significance of gambling law changes proposed. Regardless of all that, he expected Maryland residents to accept it as good on face value like he was doing a "got milk?" campaign?

Maybe he should start spending less time hanging out in cable TV green rooms in D.C. and more within Maryland.

And that is not the only instance of his impatience with the cranky wheels of democracy, even in majority Democratic Maryland.

Last month his administration tried to get the state's Capital Debt Affordability Committee to authorize $750 million in extra bond debt with no documentation for how the money would be used.

According to Maryland Reporter, "There were apparently no reporters or other observers at the meeting because there had been no public notice of the meeting as is required under the Open Meetings Act for public bodies created by statute, such as the debt committee."

At a subsequent meeting, the Capital Debt Affordability Committee said that the state could float $150 million of new bonds in fiscal year 2014, far less than the amount originally requested by the administration for what it described as a jobs program. But the fact that the governor wanted to saddle residents with $750 million of new debt at a time of chronic deficits, rising unemployment and potentially sizable defense industry cuts — without public notice — shows the hubris of someone who has already called the movers.

After Gov. O'Malley's incessant talk about "shared sacrifice," "One Maryland" and the need to "Believe," it's clarifying to see the real man emerge publicly. Whether voters throughout America want the kind of haughty, dismissive politician these events reveal Mr. O'Malley to be is for him to find out. Those traits didn't work very well in the presidential debate last week, though.

Marta H. Mossburg is a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute and a fellow at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Her column appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun. Her email is

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.