Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Indicted Anne Arundel Exec John Leopold Spied on "Enemies" // Flashback to Ehrlich Spy Scandal, Democratic Complacency

The emerging story of Anne Arundel's recently indicted County Executive paints an embarrassing caricature of small-town political corruption in the Free State. Yesterday, we talked about how Anne Arundel's top Republican official John Leopold (aka "Indictment-Guy") allegedly forced on-duty police officers to:
  1. deliver his campaign lawnsigns
  2. aid and abet in his sexual conquests,
  3. and even empty his urinary catheter bag (eww!)
POLICE MONITORING REVEALED: The Baltimore Sun today reports on more details within Mr. Leopold's indictment, including allegations that he used police to research and monitor his political enemies:
The indictment handed down Friday against Leopold, who is in his second term, accuses Leopold of requiring executive protection officers to assemble dossiers on people he considered to be political rivals. According to the document, those people included Joanna Conti, who unsuccessfully ran against him in 2010, Carl O. Snowden, who heads the state attorney general's civil rights office and is a local activist, and potentially others.

The indictment says Leopold's security detail "did not consider these people to be a security risk."
FLASHBACK TO THE EHRLICH ERA: This sounds eerily similar to GOP Governor Bob Ehrlich's spying scandal. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the details of that case, Adam Pagnucco of Maryland Politics Watch wrote a great deal about it. In short, during Mr. Ehrlich's tenure as one-term Governor of the Free State, State Police were used to spy on ordinary citizens engaged in ordinary political protest (ie: Quakers marching against the death penalty or young people protesting war). Only three-and-a-half years ago, Pagnucco commented on the need to reign in the government's abuses of power and willy-nilly attitude toward privacy:
Spygate is the ultimate example of big, arrogant government seeking power over law-abiding citizens. So we would expect the Free State’s conservatives to condemn it, right? Wrong....

On Red Maryland, Mark Newgent justifies the spying because the anti-death penalty protestors may have included members of the American Friends Service Committee, a left-wing Quaker-affiliated group....

The response from the left has been more complicated. While conservatives have unquestioningly backed a former Republican Governor, liberals have stood up to the Democratic incumbent even though the spying did not happen on his watch....

Paul Gordon has said that the current Governor “fails civics 101” for not supporting any legislation to prevent another Spygate. Eric Luedtke disagreed with the Governor’s position against legislation, saying “This situation has proven that the current system is vulnerable to abuse. It isn't enough to say sorry, blame it on the last guy, and promise it will never happen again. There needs to be a law, period.” ACLU lawyer David Rocah has also stated a preference for legislation over reliance on promises from the current Governor to prevent future spying.
Maryland Juice keeps trying to press this fairly obvious point on politicos: civil liberties issues have a hugely vocal and angry political constituency attached to them (read: mega-enthusiasm gap). Notably, the support for civil liberties is bi-partisan/non-partisan and continues to be a mostly leaderless movement. The Internet has become the place where civil libertarians gather and press forward, and young people in the post-Baby Boom population bubble will push these issues to the forefront in the future. Maryland should be no different, as Free Staters have long held deep value for civil liberties. Unfortunately, too many Maryland Democrats -- like those across the nation -- do not see civil liberties as a true priority. Hence the slippery slope we've all slid so far down.

ACLU WANTS SECRET FILES: Meanwhile, advocates press on. The Sun wrote that in response to the new Leopold accusations, the ACLU of Maryland is trying to gain access to the contents of his clandestine research on political opponents:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is trying to publicly open the files that Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold is accused of keeping on political enemies, the organization said Wednesday.

The Office of State Prosecutor accused Leopold of keeping dossiers on political opponents, and of using his taxpayer-funded security detail for personal and campaign tasks. The ACLU also said it is sending a letter to the County Council calling for an investigation.

The records request, made under the Maryland Public Information Act, was prepared by both the ACLU and Carl O. Snowden, director of the civil rights office for the Maryland attorney general.

"The ACLU and Mr. Snowden are deeply concerned about this misuse of government resources infringing upon the political freedoms of law-abiding Marylanders simply to further Mr. Leopold's personal political agenda. We demand disclosure of full information about these activities," states the request, dated Tuesday.

Dave Abrams, spokesman for Leopold, declined to comment.
Indeed, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold is Maryland's own Mayberry Machiavelli. But Indictment-Guy's website shows how pathetic the Republican bench is in Maryland:
In 2000, the National Republican Legislators Association named Mr. Leopold Legislator of the Year. Mr. Leopold also holds the distinction of being the only elected official in the United States to be elected into office in Hawaii and Maryland, after living in each state only one year.
So Indictment-Guy moves to Maryland from Hawaii (!!!) -- and he's immediately the best candidate in the GOP field. Then while in office, the Republicans also decide he was their best legislator in the entire nation. I've got a bag of urine, two jilted lovers, and a squad of pissed off cops that beg to differ.

CONCLUSION: Democrats cannot just use civil liberties issues to embarrass Republicans and win votes. If the Party does not walk the walk, it should not talk the talk. I am still waiting for Obama's response on Guantanamo, torture, medical marijuana raids, deportation and more. And to all those Democrats who keep reauthorizing the Patriot Act -- PLEASE STOP. It is truly embarrassing when you look back on Democrats' statements about civil liberties and Ashcroft/Cheney -- and then realize they're not actually doing anything to stop it. Not until we demand progress.

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