The Banana Republic of Maryland
The Maryland State Ethics Commission released its updated listings of the state’s top earning lobbyists and employers spending more than $50,000. The disclosures reveal a cozy and lucrative relationship between certain lobbyists, a politically connected public affairs firm and their clients.
According to the list lobbyist Lisa Harris-Jones ranked third on the list of top earners. Harris Jones close relationship with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made headlines after the Baltimore Brew revealed Rawlings-Blake presided over the Harris-Jones swanky Las Vegas marriage to fellow Harris Jones Malone LLC lobbying partner Sean Malone, a former top aide to Governor Martin O’Malley.
Rawlings-Blake also recently vacationed at Harris Jones’ Delaware beach house.
Harris Jones does a video podcast, Politics Inside Out for the website Center Maryland, with Damian O’Doherty a principle of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs. Center Maryland is a project of Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Affairs. Governor O’Malley’s former communications director, Steve Kearney, is O’Doherty’s partner.
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Center Maryland markets itself as a centrist news organization offering “the news you need straight down the middle.” However, the site doesn’t do any original reporting, it’s merely a highly selective aggregator with opinion pieces featuring like-minded political commentators. The firm does not disclose its clients, which begs the question is content on this “news” site really propaganda for a paid client?
Kearney and O’Doherty are far from the non-partisan centrists the would have you believe. In fact, they are hyper-partisan political creatures. Kearney was a key player in O’Malley’s political rise from Mayor of Baltimore to governor, and O’Doherty is a Maryland Democratic Party Trustee—a high dollar party donor program.
In 2010, the pair organized high dollar fundraisers or Governor O’Malley’s reelection campaign, acted as unregistered lobbyists for O’Malley’s push to expand gambling, and assisted the governor’s campaign to enact Maryland’s gas tax increase, which took effect Monday.
During the 2012 special legislative session to expand gambling, Center Maryland blurred the line between media and lobbying when a KO Public Affairs employee was on the Senate floor wearing Center Maryland media credentials. At the time KO represented MGM Resorts, which is bidding for the license to operate a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
The KO team and Harris Jones and Malone are also the lobbying team that brought speed cameras to Maryland and expanded their use in some jurisdictions.
According to the latest commission employer report Malone and Caitlin McDonough—daughter of Maryland Secretary of State John P. McDonough—another Harris Jones & Malone lobbyist did work for Steve Kearney.
Perhaps KO has figured out a way to lobby for their clients without actually registering as lobbyists…just hire their friends to do it for them.
Harris Jones and McDonough also lobbied for the Greater Baltimore Committee for the past several years. The President of the Greater Baltimore Committee is Donald C. Fry. Fry is a regular columnist for Center Maryland. Center Maryland does not disclose this information in any of his columns.
State Center LLC—the politically connected developers of the stalled State Center project in Baltimore—have been Harris Jones clients since 2011. The Maryland Public Policy Center labeled the State Center project a $127 million taxpayer handout to the developers.
Last year a city judge ruled that the O’Malley administration violated state procurement law in selecting the State Center LLC team to re-develop a mixed-use office park in downtown Baltimore. Lobbying disclosure reports show State Center LLC hired Harris Jones during the period of O’Malley administration’s legislative attempt, led by Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, to insert a provision into the state’s public private partnership law that would have killed a lawsuit brought by a coalition of city businesses against the State Center project.
State campaign finance records show the developers were big donors to O’Malley, Rawlings-Blake and Brown. KO Public Affairs principle Steve Kearney was a member of the State Center LLC development team. For more on the State Center boondoggle see here.
Harris Jones’ high profile clients include The American Federation of Teachers, the American Petroleum Institute, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Delta Airlines, East Baltimore Development Corporation, Genentech, Lorillard Tobacco Co., Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, Penn National Gaming, Verizon, Wal-Mart, and Xerox Business Services.
According to data from the Maryland Funding and Accountability website, Maryland paid Verizon and Xerox over $42 million in vendor payments.
Like Goldman Sachs was to the housing bubble, the propagandists at KO Public Affairs and the lobbyists of Harris Jones Malone LLC are the vampire squid of Maryland. They make money by influencing their friends in government to suck more of our money in order to give to their clients. This is the type of banana republic influence peddling that flourishes in one-party regime.
Yet Marylanders consistently reelect the politicians who allow their cronies to fleece them.
Top five lobbyists in order of earnings
- Gerard Evans ($1.1 million)
- Joel D. Rozner ($909,000)
- Lisa Harris Jones ($865,000)
- Timothy Perry ($813,000)
- Frank D. Boston ($711,000)
Top five employers in order of lobbying expenditures
- Maryland Hospital Association ($380,00)
- MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society ($303,000)
- Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos ($ 290,000)
- Maryland State Education Association ($287,000)
- Baltimore Gas and Electric Company ($277,000)