Sunday, March 10, 2013

OUTRAGE: MD Politicians Urge Millions In Corporate Welfare for Lockheed Martin / PLUS: Bill Sponsor Dating Their Lobbyist?

BACKGROUND - The following true story is a textbook example of what makes voters sick and tired of our current political system. Though the controversy below concerns the state of Maryland, it is a damning snapshot of how policy decisions too often get made all around the nation. The story is that the uber-successful multi-national Pentagon contractor Lockheed Martin is lobbying aggressively for a multi-million dollar taxpayer giveaway from Montgomery County, Maryland (where they are headquartered). This sort of crony capitalism is nothing new and shouldn't shock voters -- except that this time the hackery has gone too far, and Lockheed clearly thinks it owns Maryland's Democratic politicians. It's time for Marylanders to prove them wrong (again).

Lockheed has been trying for three years in a row to persuade Democratic lawmakers to give them a handout of millions of dollars in exchange for nothing at all (ie: no new jobs), and twice already the Montgomery County Council has rejected this proposal. But Lockheed has not given up and is now trying to circumvent the decisions already made by MoCo's elected Councilmembers.

A handful of State Senators and Delegates (including some Democrats from Montgomery County!) have introduced a law trying to force Montgomery County to give Lockheed $1.8 million, and another $450,000 every year in the future. Of course, our elected state lawmakers have not proposed how MoCo would pay for this or what the county should cut from its social services budget as a result of the new financial obligation. The fiscal note for the bill itself calls this handout a "mandate on a unit of local government":
Local Effect: Hotel rental tax revenues in Montgomery County decrease by $1.8 million in FY 2014 and by $450,000 annually thereafter. Hotel rental tax revenues in other jurisdictions may be affected to the extent specified corporate training centers are located in other jurisdictions. Expenditures are not affected. The bill imposes a mandate on a unit of local government.
In 2012, Lockheed recorded sales of $47 billion, netting them $5.6 billion in profits. They paid their shareholders $2.4 billion in dividends in 2012 and have a backlog of $82 billion of future contracts already lined up. But for Lockheed, apparently that's not enough taxpayer money.

NOTE: This bill may come up for a vote at any moment. Please contact your State Senators & Delegates and urge them to reject Lockheed Martin corporate welfare. Please also contact Montgomery County Councilmembers and urge them to speak out against this plan. You can email all nine Councilmembers by sending a message to:

PROCEDURAL SHENANIGANS - To be clear, the proposed corporate welfare bill applies only to Lockheed Martin's private hotel in Montgomery County. So why does the bill and the fiscal note act like "hotel rental tax revenues in other jurisdictions may be affected"? The answer is shenanigans. Indeed, no other business in the state of Maryland has had the resources to build their own private hotel and conference center -- certainly not one that costs $100 million. And since this law only affects one county, it would normally be filed as a "local bill" and would therefore originate with Montgomery County's state legislative delegation. In turn, the MoCo delegation's decisions would ordinarily be respected by the full House and Senate. But apparently those customs do not apply to Lockheed Martin.

Notably, the MoCo State Senate delegation is chaired by Senator Jamie Raskin, an outspoken opponent of the Lockheed welfare plan. But it appears that this year, the State Senate is trying to shotgun the bill through the legislative process, and Lockheed backers are using a truly shady tactic to circumvent the Montgomery County legislative delegation. Some State Senators are now disingenuously claiming that the Lockheed welfare bill applies to many other counties, like Anne Arundel County, thus allowing Senate President Mike Miller (a bill sponsor) to try and ram this through to passage. But lawmakers from counties mentioned in the bill are puzzled as to why their jurisdictions are included. Remember that the bill only applies to a single building in Montgomery County. As a result, during a State Senate debate on the bill last week, Sen. Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County objected to Anne Arundel's inclusion in the Lockheed welfare plan, noting that nobody from his County had requested that. Shady, indeed.

A BILL SPONSOR FOR THE LOCKHEED WELFARE PROPOSAL MAY BE ROMANTICALLY INVOLVED WITH A LOCKHEED LOBBYIST - Clearly, Lockheed's political allies planned out an aggressive strategy to obtain taxpayer dollars for their favorite weapons manufacturer -- and they still might get away with it. According to ethics filings with the state government, Lockheed's lobbyists include powerful Maryland figures, like Cas Taylor, Maryland's former House Speaker. But even more interesting is the allegation that a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin may be dating one of the bill's sponsors in the State Senate. Several Annapolis sources are now indicating to Maryland Juice that State Senator Rob Garagiola is currently romantically involved with lobbyist Hannah Powers of the Alexander & Cleaver firm. But Garagiola is a sponsor of the Lockheed welfare bill, and Powers is a lobbyist for Lockheed. If true, this seems like a conflict of interest. See the public filings below:

This list of sponsors of the Lockheed bill includes Sen. Rob Garagiola

This lobbyist filing shows Hannah Powers working for Lockheed Martin

LOCKHEED WELFARE PLAN BECOMING A CAMPAIGN ISSUE - Political opponents of some of the sponsors of the Lockheed welfare bill are clearly gearing up to make a campaign issue out of this proposal. Notably, the bill's lead sponsor in the State Senate is Nancy King of Montgomery County, but she barely beat her 2010 primary opponent, former Delegate Saqib Ali. King won her primary by a mere 227 votes, and now Saqib Ali has provided Maryland Juice with a statement about the Lockheed welfare proposal:
SAQIB ALI: As one of her constituents, I really can't figure out why Nancy King is pushing corporate welfare for Lockheed Martin -- one of the world's most profitable companies. We have been told innumerable times that state and county budgets are very tight. She even voted to raise taxes on Maryland citizens for this reason. And she will soon vote for an increased gas tax. So why does she now want to give Lockheed Martin a $1.4 million gift?
To be fair, Maryland Juice received an email newsletter this week from Senator King, and she suggests she's been going line-by-line in the budget to eliminate inefficiencies, but this seems like a major omission:
SEN. NANCY KING: For the past nine weeks, my colleagues and I on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee have participated in over 147 budget hearings and briefings, and we have gone through the budget line-by-line to evaluate government programs and to eliminate inefficiency. Our counterparts in the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee have been going through the same process and they will be presenting their recommendations to the full House this coming week.

But its not just Saqib Ali who is challenging King on her sponsorship of the Lockheed welfare bill. County Councilmember George Leventhal has been posting criticism on Facebook:

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

THIS IS A TWO-PART STORY: Up Next, Debunking the Policy Myths of Lockheed Welfare Supporters & How You Can Get Involved!

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