O'Malley's thuggish side

Governor wants the world to see a kind and inclusive Maryland — but don't you dare disagree with him

January 03, 2013|Marta H. Mossburg

Attention national media: You know Martin O'Malley, defender of the underdog. It's time to get to know Martin O'Malley, thug.

The Maryland governor, widely rumored to harbor presidential aspirations, canonized himself in the progressive movement for championing gay marriage and in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants in the last election. He also deftly weaved a portrait of Maryland as a green energy, public-education utopia during his many appearances on national cable TV news during election season as President Barack Obama's surrogate.

But the man who says that we should celebrate diversity cannot tolerate those who oppose his political viewpoints.

Here are three examples from the past year:

•The champagne had not stopped flowing from celebrating big wins for gay marriage and the Dream Act (the in-state tuition bill) before Governor O'Malley told WBAL that it is "a little too easy" to petition a law to referendum. (Both laws had been passed in the General Assembly and were pushed to the ballot via the referendum process by opponents.) "We've been best served in our state over the 200 or more years of our history by a representative democracy, rather than plebiscites," he said.

How clever of him to use the language of democracy to undermine it. It is not simple to move a law to the ballot. Thousands of signatures must be collected and then verified by the state, part of the reason no statewide referendum had made it to the ballot in the previous 20 years. And there is no mechanism to put new laws on the ballot; only one to refer laws previously approved by the state legislature.

In addition, the pro-Dream Act advocacy group Casa de Maryland sued to remove that question from the ballot. The Democratic Party sued the state to remove another referred law, which placed the new, outlandishly drawn congressional map to a vote of the people. And MD Petitions, the force behind putting the congressional map, the Dream Act and gay marriage on the ballot, sued the state — and lost — in an attempt to get accurate ballot language for the congressional map question. MD Petitions, which largely automated the petition process online, received pro bono legal help from Judicial Watch because it did not have the means to defend itself — unlike Casa de Maryland, which receives millions from the state and local governments, or the Democratic Party, which dominates politics in this state.

So for Governor O'Malley, the democratic process works best when he can push his agenda unopposed and when the Internet can be used only to help Democrats.

•In the run up to the election Governor O'Malley strongly supported a ballot measure to expand gambling to Prince George's County. Perhaps frustrated by polls showing the question up for grabs (it eventually won 52-48), he unleashed a tirade against Peter Carlino, CEO of Penn National Gaming. The company opposed expanding gambling in the state and funded ads that debunked supporters' claims that public education would receive more money as a result of the ballot measure's passage.

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

Enough said.

•The O'Malley administration supports State Center, a $1.5 billion taxpayer-financed project in Baltimore City whose developers happen to have hired some allies of the governor. A group of plaintiffs sued to stop the project, claiming the process for selecting the developers violated competitive bidding laws. The O'Malley administration tried to dismiss the case, failed, then countersued plaintiffs for $100 million and lost. Plaintiffs are still waiting for the state to turn over documents in the case as ordered by court. In the meantime, the O'Malley administration tried to push through legislation in the General Assembly that would have rewritten the law for the project retroactively and circumvented existing rulings.

Lesson: if you are not a multi-millionaire like Orioles' owner Peter Angelos, who is bankrolling the plaintiffs, don't try to oppose the governor.

How many more examples are necessary to show that Mr. O'Malley's inclusive, tolerant veneer chips easily and reveals a man who, whether through temperament or proximity to power, sees the law as something to use or disregard for his own good?

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 marta@martamossburg.com.

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