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Crony Capitalism and Maryland’s Political Machine

Crony capitalism is the grease that oils Maryland’s political machine. And, at last Monday’s Baltimore City Council meeting, we saw a brazen example of how the machine uses political thuggery in pursuit of crony capitalism.

According to the Baltimore Brew:

Following Monday’s City Council meeting where Carl Stokes stood out as the only councilman vocally opposed to a $107 million TIF financing subsidy for Harbor Point, the developer’s public relations consultant marched up to the councilman with a blunt message.

“You’re done,” Steve Kearney told Stokes, according to two witnesses. “I’ll make sure you’re through in politics in Baltimore.”

According to the witnesses, Stokes replied, “You don’t determine that.” Kearney then told Stokes he better hope that his “dinosaurs” come through with political support in the next election because “I’m going after you….”

Harbor Point developer, Michael Beatty, hired Kearney’s firm KO Public Affairs, and according to the Brew article, Kearney has been active in pushing the City Council to approve the $107 million subsidy.

Kearney was Governor Martin O’Malley’s communications director, and also served in that capacity when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore.  Kearney’s partner Damian O’Doherty was a top advisor to former Baltimore County Executive, and now Secretary of Transportation, Jim Smith.  O’Doherty’s brother, Ryan was top aide to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, until he resigned late last month.  Kearney and O’Doherty organized high dollar fund raising events for O’Malley’s 2010 reelection campaign.

That Kearney would threaten Stokes shows how much the city (and state’s) ruling political machine will brook no opposition.  KO Public Affairs is key cog in the wheels of the machine.

KO Public affairs was instrumental in the approval of Maryland’s speed camera program, created an astroturf organization to pressure the General Assembly to adopt O’Malley’s gas tax, acted as unregistered lobbyists for MGM Resorts during the 2012 special session to expand gambling, and acted as consultants for the developers for the State Center project, which was a judge ultimately found to have violated state procurement law.

Kearney and O’Doherty’s business model is based influencing their friends in government to take money from taxpayers to give to their clients.

The total amount of taxpayer subsidies proposed for Harbor Point is $400 million, and Kearney and the machine will brook no opposition.

Kearney and O’Doherty even have their own media outlet, Center Maryland, which, bills itself as “the news you need straight down the middle.”  However, Center Maryland features pro-O’Malley propaganda, and content that advocates for the agenda of their clients.

Welcome to the Banana Republic of Maryland.


Mark Newgent

Mark Newgent is a contributing editor to Red Maryland, the premiere blog of conservative politics in the Free State, voted one of the best state political blogs by the Washington Post two years in a row. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and more. Twitter: @MarkNewgent

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Categories: Cronyism, Must Read, Politics
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