Two Time Bombs Ticking In MD-6... And A Call To Arms For The Good Guy
For the last 20 years, Maryland’s 6th District was one of two Republican strongholds in a generally deep-blue state. For 20 years, it’s been represented by Roscoe Bartlett, an eccentric octogenarian doofus who was Tea Party before Tea Party was "cool."
But in redistricting this winter, the 6th flipped from being R+13 to D+5. Bush won the old district by 31 points, McCain by 18. Obama beat McCain by 19 in the “new” district. So, a great pickup opportunity for Democrats in a tough landscape, right? And both parties know it. The Dems have it on the “red-to-blue” list, the NRCC has said they’ll spend whatever it takes to keep the seat.
There are three major candidates in the April 3rd primary (just 32 days away). The two “frontrunners” represent the worst the Democrats can offer, and would be savaged in the general election even with the Dem advantage. The other candidate is a doctor, Iraq war combat veteran and a true progressive who was endorsed this week by Howard Dean and the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus, Keith Ellison and Raúl Grijalva.
“So, A Lobbyist and a One-Percenter Walk Into A Bar...”
Could be the start of a funny joke, but in this case, the punchline sucks.
The two front-runners are millionaire business payday-lender John Delaney and state Senate majority leader Rob Garagiola.
John Delaney (who doesn’t actually live in the new district, but who does have a house in Switzerland) likes to call himself a “job creator.” But a 2006 article in that notorious left-wing rag Forbes magazine about Delaney was titled Loan Shark. The subtitle says:
“John Delaney has made a bundle lending money at high rates to small businesses. He’s also pretty good at avoiding taxes.”
Right out of college, Delaney took $15,000 and purchased a home health care operator. Again, according to Forbes, he quickly realized that the real dough was in lending to health-care companies instead. He raised $25 million from a hedge fund with the help of his uncle John Rowe (former head of Aetna Insurance) and started HealthCare Financial Partners in 1993.
The business model was simple. Find clients who could not secure conventional loans and provide them funds at high interest rates, secured by the client’s Medicare and Medicaid accounts receivable. Another Delaney company provided “management consulting services.”
The plausible scenario is that their advice was to use more creative billing techniques to increase their receivables. One such technique is to overbill Medicare and/or Medicaid. This can be easily accomplished by changing the wording on the submitted billing paperwork. As an example, instead of billing for an “eye exam” bill for an “extensive eye exam.” In this scenario, the billing technique utilized is legally referred to as fraud. Several Delaney clients have run into trouble regarding inflated accounts receivables on their books or outright bookkeeping inaccuracies (again according to the Forbes article).
Delaney is also the author of the Blueprint for Maryland, which has not been well received by labor (which he calls a “deterrent to business expansion”). According to a posting on the Maryland Juice blog, “[Delaney] made his fortune by rigging the system and has openly declared war on unions and collective bargaining rights for workers.” In one section of his report, Delaney asserts that collective bargaining rights in Maryland causes companies to move elsewhere. He goes so far as to indicate that Maryland should become a right-to-work state. (Needless to say, he contributed a couple hundred thousand dollars to Establishment shills in the Democratic power structure, Rahm Emanuel and Joe Lieberman, being the stand-outs and gave a cool $51,500 to the DNC and $25,000 to the DCCC. Predictably, Bill Clinton endorsed him.)
So, thank god we have an experienced well-regarded state Senator to turn to, yes? Umm, no; actually that one’s just as bad! Rob Garagiola has risen quickly through the ranks of Maryland politics, largely as a lapdog of Senate president Mike Miller, who rules Annapolis with the absolute power of Nero and the ruthless instincts of Jabba the Hutt.
Garagiola talks a lot about good-guy legislation he’s worked on in the Senate, but he carefully hides the other half of his professional career from view: his career as a lobbyist with Greenburg Traurig, the infamous lobbying firm run by Jack Abramoff. (You’ll recall that Abramoff and two other Greenburg lobbyists who were contemporaries of Garagiola’s went to Federal prison.)
Garagiola has said he had nothing to do with any of the stuff that led to indictments and convictions at Greenburg. Maybe, maybe not. But you sure won’t find anything on Rob’s campaign website bio page, Wiki page, Facebook page or campaign literature about it, and at debates he says that he just “worked at a law firm.”
So little does he like to talk about it that he failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of his lobbying income as required by the state ethics board. For six full years. As Baltimore Sun columnist Marta Mossburg noted Tuesday, Garagiola’s omission was pretty much just like the recent case of his state Senate colleague Ulysses Currie, who was stripped of his leadership post and nearly expelled.
He also doesn’t discuss the 60 or so lobbyists (including Greenburg Traurig’s PAC) that are major donors to his Congressional campaign. In fact, he’s a little thin-skinned about it. At a labor debate in Cumberland a couple of weeks ago, the subject was brought up by another candidate. Garagiola responded by getting up and jabbing his finger while he shouted “YOU DON’T KNOW ME! YOU CAN’T QUESTION MY INTEGRITY! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SACRIFICES WE MAKE TO BE IN THE STATE HOUSE. I COULD BE MAKING A LOT MORE MONEY DOING SOMETHING ELSE!”
And now, it gets way worse.
Campaign observers noted back in January that Garagiola had stopped wearing his wedding ring to events. In the past four weeks, a story has been spreading like a virus that Garagiola, voluntarily or per his wife’s request, had left his home and family and is involved with an Annapolis lobbyist. Other stories are circulating-- in the Senate and in the press-- that Senate President Miller not only knows about the liaison, but has been provided proof.
Ordinarily, “politician-leaves-wife-and-kids-for pretty-younger-blonde” is perhaps distasteful, but not necessarily shocking these days. But the lobbying firm the woman in question works for is one of the largest in Annapolis, and lobbies the Senate (and Garagiola’s budget committee) on scores of issues. The potential for ethical problems is obvious.
It’s Always Best to Bet the Worst-Case Scenario
The Republicans really want to keep this seat. It’s pretty safe to assume they know all about the points of attack on both Delaney and Garagiola. (It’s pretty safe to assume they know more than the Democrats do about them.)
It’s really safe to assume that the Republicans would love to run against either of these guys, if they have a choice. Endless mail to working-class voters talking about Delaney’s house in Switzerland, or a tearful nursing-home employee talking about losing their job because the bank foreclosed. Brutal TV ads, especially in the still-conservative Western part of the District, talking about “family values” and Senator Garagiola.
There’s Got To Be A Morning After... The Democratic Primary
You’ll remember I mentioned there’s a third major candidate. His name is Dr. Milad Pooran, and he’s a critical-care physician and 13-year Air Force veteran (including a tour as a combat medic in Iraq).
His family immigrated from Iran to the US when he was six years old literally to find the “American Dream.” (It’s worth noting that the “new” 6th has a very high percentage of foreign-born voters, who will empathize with this story.)
From a read of his website, Dr. Pooran’s a true progressive who wants a tax system that’s fair to the 99%, the restoration of Glass-Steagall and the end of corporate tax looting. (Quote from the site: “I am running for Congress because our country should not be ceding vast power to corporations while treating citizens as inconsequential.”). He’s a real champion for women’s rights, without qualification.
Earlier this week, he was endorsed by Gov. Howard Dean and Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raúl Grijalva. Here’s what they had to say about him:
Dean: “When I was running for President, I would tell people that the difference between doctors and lawyers in politics is that we doctors are fact-based-- we solve problems, not argue about them. Dr. Pooran is going to go to Congress to fight for working families and solve real problems. The 6th District has been poorly represented for 20 years, and this year is a real opportunity for Democrats to change that. There is only one true progressive in the Democratic primary, and only one candidate who can win in November-- Dr. Milad Pooran.”
Ellison: “Dr. Milad Pooran is exactly the kind of strong progressive we need in Congress. He will stand up for fair taxes and investment in people, and he’ll stand up against the special interests and bankers who benefit from the status quo. He has an outstanding record of service to our country in the military and in public health, and soon in the U.S. Congress. Voters in the 6th District have a clear choice in the April 3rd Democratic primary-- Milad Pooran.”
Grijalva: “We need Democrats in Congress who will fight for the government that our nation needs-- one that protects the American Dream for generations to come. Milad Pooran will be a strong voice for investing in jobs, infrastructure and education, and that is why I am pleased to endorse him.”
This primary is just weeks away. We can’t piss away our chance to win this seat with a true progressive. Please consider contributing to Dr Pooran at our ActBlue page