Friday, March 7, 2014

Another Kach Kampaign Kaper

Looks like Wade Kach and his campaign team are up to their old tricks.

A few days ago, Kach sent out an email message promoting an upcoming campaign event using the same template he uses for his official communications as a state legislator. The dynamic part of the email includes a campaign email address. Ethically speaking, this would appear to be a step in the right direction, as previous communications had openly encouraged voters to contact him at his state delegate email account. Still, at the bottom of the template, there was a link to Kach’s state email address.

By the way, sources tell me only 12 people showed up to the event advertised, and that Kach spent most of the time accusing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz of corruption without offering any specifics or evidence.  

Just today, Kach sent out an email pertaining to legislative business using the very same template. In this version, the aforementioned state email link is no longer present.

In politics, perception is more important than reality. And, the perception that Kach and his aides are projecting is that they either don’t understand or have simply chosen to disregard ethical requirements which all candidates for office should follow.

There should always be a firewall between campaign and official activities. Using an email template created specifically as a vehicle for official communications to promote campaign events or messages is inappropriate.

So, Delegate Kach, who designed that template for you? And, more to the point, did you pay them with campaign or official funds?

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Kach Kampaign Goes Negative

Funny the things you stumble across on social media channels.

Last night, as I was futzing around on Facebook, I noticed the Todd Huff campaign in Baltimore County was promoting an upcoming fundraising event. I also noticed that Evelyn Kach, the wife of Huff's primary challenger, was quick to leave a comment.

Five minutes after it had been posted, the comment was gone. I guess it did not occur to Mrs. Kach that some troublemaking blogger might get a screenshot of it.


Anyway, here is a bigger version of her Facebook profile picture.

Someone should tell Mrs. Kach that her husband is running for county council, not delegate, and that perhaps a new picture is in order. Still, as is evident by the hubris that Team Kach has shown in co-mingling state and campaign resources, clearly they don't waste a lot of time sweating the details.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Kach Kampaign Does It Again

A few days ago, I blogged about the fact that Maryland Delegate Wade Kach, a forty-year veteran of the Maryland General Assembly now running for Baltimore County Council, sent out a campaign mailing in which he inappropriately offered his official state legislative email address as the response vehicle for a campaign questionnaire.

Well, Kach just sent out an email edition  of the same communication he snail mailed to voters earlier.

When you click on the email link, guess which email address comes up?

Clearly the man is either arrogant, clueless, or both. Sitting on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates and using a state-issued smartphone or laptop to field campaign inquiries is not what I would call doing the job he was elected, and reelected, to do.

Will someone who received either the mailed or emailed version of this communication contact the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and report this outrageous behavior?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Kach Kampaign's "No-No"

Recently, someone sent me a copy of a campaign mailer issued by veteran Baltimore County Delegate Wade Kach.

In the mailing, the forty year legislator announces that this will be his final session in Annapolis as he is “now a candidate for Baltimore County Council.”

He then opines that he has “grown increasingly distressed” by the county’s present leadership, and that he can “no longer stand to watch those entrusted with decisions affecting the livelihoods and health of thousands cavalierly presuming to know best.”

The mailing then segues into a “questionnaire” soliciting citizens’ thoughts on two issue areas which would seem to highlight perceived vulnerabilities of Kach’s primary challenger, incumbent Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff.

Hey, I get it…politics is a full contact sport. Kach is free to employ such tactics, even though they seem to be a violation of his pledge not to run a negative campaign.

What he is not free to do, however, is to use state resources in the process.

In the mailer, Kach solicits feedback to these questions by email, and lists his official state delegate email address as a proper response vehicle.

That’s a no-no, folks.

The purpose of the mailing is clearly political and should, therefore, only have solicited feedback via campaign communications tools.  

One would think that Kach, an educator by profession first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, would have learned this lesson a long time ago.

Kach’s use of his state email account for political purposes demonstrates the kind of arrogance we have come to expect from Annapolis politicians. It reflects a belief that firewalls aren’t necessary, that state and campaign resources are ultimately fungible when one’s own political ambitions are involved.

One wonders if he voluntarily crossed an ethical line, or lost his ability to see it was there a long time ago.

I’m curious to see if this mailing results in a complaint filed before the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. During my time working for Governor Ehrlich I can remember a few stories of legislators pinged for engaging in campaign activities via their state email accounts. Minimally, Kach should apologize for what was, at best, a major lapse in judgment on the part of his campaign.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ANT Revealed

So, I must admit…I’m on Facebook a lot. And I get a lot of questions from people based on some of my more cryptic posts.

The two most frequently asked questions are:

1) Who is this Felicite character you keep bantering with?

2) Who or what is “ANT”?

As for the first question, that’s probably best answered in a book rather than a blog post, other than to say she’s a lovable, wonderful, sometimes zany friend of mine. 

But I am now prepared to answer the second question.

I mean…not that it’s a state secret. As people have asked me I have told them…but you kind of have to have had some level of involvement in Maryland politics to fully get the joke. 

Anyway…drumroll please…

“ANT” is Aaron N. Tomarchio, departing chief of staff to Harford County Executive David Craig. Tomarchio, who has served in that capacity since 2006, is leaving to accept the position of Director of Corporate Affairs for Erickson Living.

I first met ANT when we served together during the Ehrlich Administration. Aaron was chief of staff to Maryland Planning Department Secretary Audrey Scott, a frequent subject of this blog.  

Tomarchio had all the qualities I have witnessed in every good chief of staff I’ve encountered in politics: efficiency, loyalty, diligence, and a penchant for balancing disparate personalities.

Tomarchio’s affability inspired me and another Ehrlich Administration chief of staff – David Marks, then at MDOT and now a Baltimore County Councilman – to speculate as to whether Aaron’s nice guy image masked a dark side. 

In a playful, tongue-in-cheek way, we wondered if, perhaps in some parallel universe, Aaron was in reality a feared, sinister political boss that ruled Harford County with an iron fist.

Think Ernst Blofeld meets Boss Tweed meets Vlad Tepes, and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

I guess the concept was loosely inspired by a classic SNL sketch in which Phil Hartman portrayed Ronald Reagan as a secret micro-manager and mastermind, as opposed to the genial septuagenarian everyone remembers.

Anyway, our silly musings grew to the point that every time something bad happened – either in Harford County or globally – it was due to the machinations of “ANT.”

A car accident occurs in Joppa: ANT.

A freak weather event happens halfway across the world: ANT.

A space probe fails millions of miles away in space: ANT.

Someone’s cat turns up missing: ANT.

Marks and I had a lot of fun designing a back story around ANT’s sinister alter ego. For example, we speculated that, during the ANT regime, the HEAT Center in Aberdeen had become something akin to the “Ministry of Love” in 1984. We envisioned dozens of men in lab coats worked there, carrying out the will of the all-powerful ANT such as one would see in a James Bond film. 

Anyway, one has to have met Aaron to really get the joke. As for him, he was an exceptionally good sport about it, even as his dark mythology grew and more people keyed in on the joke. 

For the most part, that is.

Anyway, Tomarchio served County Executive Craig well, and I wish him the best in his new endeavor. 

That said, if I go missing tomorrow…you know who’s behind it.  

(I’m kidding).

Monday, February 10, 2014

John Lofton vs. Larry Hogan: Who's Bad?!?!

So, when I got home from the office, my Facebook feed was a-buzzin’ over an interview GOP gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan did with a guy named John Lofton.

Well, I’m not sure you can even call it an “interview,” as it consisted of one vaguely out-there question: “What do you think is the purpose of government?"

To me it sounds like a perfect essay question for a Political Science 101 final. Anyway, it seems that Hogan disagreed with its validity - and probably Lofton's as well. He called it “the craziest question I’ve ever heard” and cut the interview short.

So who is this John Lofton guy?

According to his Wikipedia page, he is a longtime conservative activist who worked at the RNC more than 40 years ago. He then served as a columnist for United Features Syndicate in the 1970s, then as a columnist for the Washington Times for seven years in the 1980s. Later he was an adviser to two presidential candidates: Pat Buchanan and some guy named Michael Petrouka.

I had heard of Lofton prior to this dustup with Hogan, but my knowledge of him was confined solely to an appearance he made on the now-infamous Morton Downey Jr. Show in the late 1980s.

In the episode, Downey hosted panelists with deeply held crackpot opinions. For example, one of Lofton’s fellow panelists patiently asserts why Ronald Reagan was definitely the anti-Christ.

Anyway, I guess the YouTube gods were with me tonight, as I found the actual episode. Lofton’s segment comprises approximately the first 12 minutes of this clip.

Lofton came armed with a folder full of research which he claimed demonstrates that Michael Jackson’s signature crotch-grabbing dance moves were a byproduct of a disease resulting from a tarantula bite.

One wonders why Lofton and his armload of research didn’t resurface at the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of unintentionally killing Jackson by administering to him a lethal dose of Propofol, a powerful anesthetic rarely used outside of an operating room setting.

Perhaps Jackson’s alleged earlier affliction – known as “tarantism”– played some as-yet undiscovered role in the singer’s death. 

Anyway, it seems that Lofton went through a phase in which he liked attacking pop icons. Here is a now famous encounter he had with musician and native Baltimorean Frank Zappa regarding the musical labeling controversy of the 1980s.

As for his encounter with Hogan, Lofton calls it “the shortest interview of my career.”

I’m not sure you can really even call it a “career”…but I digress.

Anyway, I’m not sure why Lofton is now interjecting himself in MDGOP politics, but I think we already have enough crackpots in Maryland political circles to go around.

But, if he wants to go back to his pop culture bashing roots and hate on Justin Bieber, I'm all for it.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Curious Case of Wade Kach

Recently I had an op-ed published in the Frederick News Post which describes the so-called “walking dead” of Maryland politics – characters who continue shuffling around the state’s political landscape even though they have or retain little practical relevance.

I wanted to follow up on one of the walkers (as they call them on The Walking Dead TV show): outgoing Delegate Wade Kach (R-5B).

I have a particular interest in Delegate Kach because, being a native northern Baltimore County boy, he was one of my delegates for much of the time I lived in the area. Indeed, he was first elected to the Maryland legislature in 1974, when I was eight years old.

At one time his fellow delegates from the old Timonium-centric 10th Legislative District were Ellen Sauerbrey and Bob Ehrlich. Sauerbrey served as minority leader and was nearly elected governor; Ehrlich was elected to Congress and eventually became governor himself. Next year, Kach leaves the Maryland House of Delegates after 40 years in state government.

Genteel and affable, Kach built a reputation among those of us in Baltimore County GOP circles as something of a lone wolf who, despite his longevity, didn’t really have much to show for all his years in Annapolis. A few of us called him the “papier mache delegate” in that, while everyone agreed he was a nice guy, none of us had a clear picture of what exactly he stood for.

So why is Kach leaving the legislature after 40 years? 

Some of it might have to do with the realities of legislative redistricting in Baltimore County. But I think the main reason lies with the political realities of reversing his position on perhaps the most controversial issue to come before the Maryland General Assembly in a generation: gay marriage.

After consistently been on record as opposing gay marriage for his entire career, Delegate Kach flip-flopped just prior to the General Assembly’s vote on gay marriage legislation in 2013.

At the time, Kach issued the following statement:
Over the span of my career in the Maryland General Assembly, I have worked hard to take thoughtful, considered positions on laws that affect the rights and liberties of our friends and neighbors.
“My constituents sent me to Annapolis to represent them and use my best judgment. They did not send me to sit in judgment of the lives of others.
"As a proud member of the party of Lincoln, I believe that we as legislators should be more concerned with relieving the tax burden of families than telling them how to behave in their own homes.
"Like so many others, my thoughts on the issue of civil marriage have evolved over the course of recent months as a result of much reflection and listening to good people on both sides of this issue. Instrumental to my decision are the enhanced protections for churches, clergy, and faith leaders in my community and in communities around the state.
"While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families -- who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others.
"Tomorrow I will cast my green vote with great confidence that this bill protects religious freedom and that the issue will ultimately be decided by the voters of our state."

By the way, I just checked the still-active Wade Kach for Delegate website. The statement above is conspicuously missing from the press releases section of the site.

Anyway, at the time Kach revised his position, his former seatmate Ellen Sauerbrey told The Patch, "If his was the one vote the governor needed then he will be held accountable by a lot of people."

Now, my quarrel is not with Kach’s ultimate stand on the issue. I too ultimately came to support it (after some aggressively lobbying by a few Generation Y friends who changed my thinking), and I blogged and voted accordingly.

Rather I fault Kach for the ostrich-like manner in which he handled this issue with respect to his constituents. He materially changed his position, issued a statement which did little to explain an abrupt change in principles, and now seems content to never speak of it again.

In my view, a responsible legislator would have organized a town hall-style meeting in order to have responded proactively to the concerns of his largely conservative constituency. A teacher by profession, it surprises me that Kach neglected this obvious opportunity to educate his constituents. The fact that he failed to do so has fed various conspiracy theories as to why exactly Kach flip-flopped his position.

According to my fellow bloggers at Red Maryland, Kach changed positions after the O’Malley Administration dangled a juicy six figure state government job in front of him. To date that has not materialized, but that doesn’t mean it won’t at some point, perhaps when O’Malley’s anointed successor, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, succeeds him.

Another theory is that Kach received promises of support from Senate President Mike Miller and others should he decide to take on renegade Democratic Senate Senator Jim Brochin, a thorn in the side of the Annapolis establishment.

This scenario has not materialized either for several likely reasons. 

First, Brochin is a ferocious campaigner with a history of success attracting crossover Republican votes. Second, marriage equality failed to pass in Baltimore County, and it performed especially poorly in the areas of northern Baltimore County encompassed by Brochin’s redrawn senatorial district. Chris Cavey, a former Baltimore County GOP chairman with solid conservative credentials who has announced his candidacy, can be expected to club Kach over the head with his flip flop should he enter that primary race.

When lawyers are looking to file a lawsuit, they engage in the process of forum shopping. In other words, they look for the most favorable court in which to bring their case. That seems to be much the process in which Wade Kach and his supporters find themselves now.

Realizing that his career in state elective politics is over, Kach now seems to believe that he can reset his career by parachuting into Baltimore County politics instead.

This summer, Kach announced he was challenging first term incumbent County Councilman Todd Huff (R-3rd). While Huff has had his challenges, he has amassed a record of accomplishment, demonstrated strong fundraising prowess, and drawn bipartisan support across the Baltimore County political establishment.

While the Kach for County Council campaign team has demonstrated a white tube-socked sense of earnestness based on some of their campaign trail pictures, it also exudes a sense of confusion. Case in point:

  • There is no Wade Kach for County Council web page. Instead, visitors to the old delegate site are invited to click on a button leading them to a newly-created subpage referencing Kach’s attempted change in careers while offering few specifics.

  • On her personal Facebook page, Wade Kach’s wife Evelyn’s profile picture shows her holding up a Wade Kach for Delegate sign, and wearing a Wade Kach for Delegate tee shirt, as opposed to a photo tailored to the new campaign. 

Look, I think Kach is a decent citizen-legislator who got caught up in a very difficult issue that, politically speaking, he could have handled better. But forty years of service on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore County in Annapolis is not only a record to be proud of, it’s enough.

Rightly or wrongly, Kach’s flip-flop has given many Baltimore County residents reason to associate him with the kind of “get along to go along” they hate about Annapolis politics. Will they be willing to bring it to the Towson Courthouse?