Periodically we are going to have guest posts to this blog from all sides of the political spectrum. We give each guest the opportunity to write about anything they want and their posts are unedited by this blog. The first guest post is written by Steve Lebowitz also affectionately known as “justdafacts”. See his post below:
Healthcare Hecklers: Grassroots or Harris & Ehrlich Proxy
Professional and well funded Astroturf operations on both sides of the healthcare debate have attracted national attention, but little has been said about their presence in Maryland. Someone from the other team can ferret out pro-Democratic activity in the Free State; I’m after Republicans.
At least two Washington groups tied to the GOP have set up camp in Maryland with an emphasis on targeting Rep. Frank Kratovil:
Americans For Prosperity (AFP)
Consistent with its record of moving into states either during tight races or after Democrats win tight races, AFP appeared in Maryland, its 25th state, soon after Rep. Kratovil narrowly won a packed Republican district.
AFP hired Maryland state director Dave Schwartz, a longtime Ehrlich aide, straight from the Harris congressional campaign. Mr. Schwartz stayed on with the Harris campaign after the election, drawing his last paycheck on February 1, 2009; by March 2, 2009 he was blogging on the AFP website on behalf of “AFP Maryland.” From Harris to AFP—Same goal, new boss.
Another 1st CD GOP activist, Nick Loffer, appears to be on the AFP payroll. Nothing wrong with that [correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Loffer] but it underscores the absurdity of AFP’s claim to be a non-partisan organization.
AFP Maryland’s volunteer affiliate, AFP Lower Shore, has been a principle promoter of anti-Kratovil protests, although they were not responsible for the effigy incident as widely reported elsewhere.
AFP has been busy in Maryland with much more than drumming up opposition to Rep. Kratovil, but Mr. Schwartz or a spokesperson from AFP would be strained to deny that targeting the 1st CD incumbent isn’t high on the agenda. We won’t know for a long time how much money AFP is spending on its agenda right now, but in 2007, the most recent year for which I could get my hands on their returns, AFP and AFP Foundation spent $9.5 million in 20 states. That’s a lot of “change in a teabag.”
In 2007 the going rate for AFP state directors was $72,000 to $115,000 annually, and that year AFP reported a combined $2.3 million in payments for “consulting. Would someone please call the Ehrlichs’ WBAL radio show tomorrow morning and ask if AFP or any of its affiliates are paying his firm’s Strategic Communications Team or any other entity of his firm for any services. Gov. Ehrlich remains the Maryland GOP’s eight hundred pound elephant, and he forgot to mention his ties to Mr. Schwartz last week on his radio show (he has disclosed that in prior appearances) so it’s fair to ask what role he might be playing in Maryland’s take on the tea party/town hall craze.
Institute For Liberty
This boutique of a Washington conservative political operation is part think tank and part action center. Its prolific president, Queen Anne’s County resident and Maryland GOP central committee member Andrew Langer, is no stranger to these pages. By coincidence of residence if for no other reason, Mr. Langer has trained the resources of his organization on Rep. Kratovil. The Institute For Liberty ran an orderly picket of a Kratovil district office [notice the AFP sign in the photo], and somehow, Mr. Langer’s “personal press release” picking on Rep. Kratovil found its way onto the Institute For Liberty’s Scribd page, alongside lofty tomes like, “Property Rights: Twin Promises for Postwar Iraq” and “How to Brew a Tea Party.”
What if, after all the tea parties, tracking, and district office pickets, Andy Harris loses the GOP primary to Sen. Pipkin or another ambitious colleague? No matter; re-election might be a squeaker for Rep. Kratovil, but there’s more to the 1st C.D. electorate than tea partiers, and many of those attending his town hall meetings have been leaving very pleased with the way their new congressman handles his job. I predict his re-election.
– Steve Lebowitz, Annapolis