Thursday, December 12, 2013

JON CARDIN INTERVIEW PART 3: Attorney General Candidate Talks About Marriage Equality, Lockheed Martin, Taxes & More

This is part 3 of 3 of Maryland Juice writer Dan Furmansky's exclusive interview with Delegate Jon Cardin (a candidate for Attorney General).



DAN FURMANSKY: On your website you call yourself a strong advocate of marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights, including transgender equality. You know I was the executive director of Equality Maryland from 2003-2008 and I lobbied in 2009 for them, so obviously I have an unique vantage point of who I see as a strong early supporter, and I probably wouldn’t place you in that category. I mean, I would not place you in that category.

JON CARDIN: Because I didn’t cosponsor the bill?

DAN FURMANSKY: You didn’t cosponsor the marriage equality bill in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 and you didn’t speak up publicly for the legislation either, and I do recall instances where you were on the radio talking about civil unions long after the marriage equality train had left the station.

And I don’t believe you cosponsored the legislation to ban discrimination transgender Marylanders. That doesn’t negate the fact that you voted the right way on these issues, and quietly committed your vote early on to your colleagues. But you weren’t out there and in front. So given that you’ve taken a backseat on issues like LGBT rights, where the current AG was very bold with his opinion about out-of-state marriages, why would Marylanders who deeply care about these issues trust you to fight for them in the future?

JON CARDIN: Okay, I would respectfully disagree. I would only say that I came out publicly, uh, in support of the legislation every year that it came up. I believed that the legislation, it could have been done better and I, in fact, what you didn’t hear but I was saying is that I believe that all marriages ought to be civil unions. And I still believe that we should not have religion be involved in marriage, period.

DAN FURMANSKY: We don’t really. All we do is allow for clergy to sign to marriage licenses and act as agents of the state in this regard. We certainly should allow anyone to sign a marriage license and act as an agent of the state.

JON CARDIN: Okay, fine. Let anybody, or let only agents of the state do it that are really agents of the state—judges, clerks of the court, captains of ships, whatever it is. That’s my own personal belief and look, if I’m going to tell you, that’s the way I think it ought to be. I think that solves everybody’s problems and it upsets all groups basically…it upsets all groups equally. That’s my own…

DAN FURMANSKY: …I don’t agree…if we didn’t have a system whereby civil marriage is the terminology in the case law, in how family courts dealt with it…

JON CARDIN: The year before, when I was on the Marc Steiner show, before he left WYPR, along with the two, the couple, the female couple…

DAN FURMANSKY: …Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane…

JON CARDIN: Yes. I was on there with them and they pushed me on this. I made it clear that…was my philosophy. It wasn’t that I was saying we should just have a civil unions bill. Of course, I would have supported whatever wound up coming out. It wasn’t in my committee so I didn’t have a chance to necessarily be an author and doing amendments. It wasn’t an area in which I had enough street credit to be able go out and start amending the bill. Now, the year it didn’t pass, the year when Jill Carter walked out on it, you hopefully would recall that I stood on the floor, after I talked to my constituents, my very emotional constituents, who demonized me, by the way, demonized me for not being a cosponsor, told me that they would do everything they could in their efforts to make sure that I would not get re-elected simply because I didn’t cosponsor it. I found that to be so incredibly insulting as someone who made it clear that I was a supporter of the legislation, just because I didn’t cosponsor it.

When I say co-sponsorship is meaningless, it is really meaningless in the broader scheme of legislation. There are bills that have one sponsor and they get passed. And then there are bills that get 85 sponsors and they don’t even see the light of day in committee.

DAN FURMANSKY: Sure. But co-sponsorships can be a barometer for the general public about how much support there is behind a piece of legislation.

JON CARDIN: I’m not disagreeing with you that there is an opportunity there but the fact is that as an organization of advocates, there needs to be more sophistication because you don’t want to alienate your proponents, your supporters. I made it clear that I was going to be a supporter, even if I didn’t agree with 100% of it. This happens not just with this bill but with any bill, it happens within the environmental community. There’s lots of bills where I get upset because I want to know the specific details, the specifics, and there are lots of bills that I don’t agree with but I want to support the concept and I’m going to sometimes have to close my nose or close my eyes and just vote…but I came out and I publicly supported the bill on the floor, not knowing that they didn’t have the votes. I didn’t realize at that moment when I got up there and I supported it that they didn’t have the votes. And they didn’t. And I was floored when it was withdrawn.

DAN FURMANSKY: You mean that we didn’t have the votes?

JON CARDIN: Yeah, we, they being the Whip and the Speaker. When I say “they,” I mean the Whip and the Speaker. So I was floored when that happened. I was amazed that I was still being demonized. But I supported it. And then the next year, the law, you being the advocates who came around, lost a dozen cosponsors, but you got two: me and the Speaker. And it passed that year, with a loss of a dozen cosponsors. Now, I think that’s a very telling story. And have always been, I mean, look at my voting record. You can call me out on the DREAM Act if you want to, that’s fine. But in terms of equal protection of the LGBTQ community, I would say I am as…

DAN FURMANSKY: Your record is solid, no doubt about that. I was just calling out your characterization of being a strong and early supporter.

JON CARDIN: Hmm, I mean…I could go into my own, constituency, where they come from and all of that. The fact is, that’s what I believe and I’m happy to stick by my record.


DAN FURMANSKY: Many forces in the General Assembly support tying the lowering of the corporate tax rate to a raise in the minimum wage, despite the fact that an overwhelming number of Marylanders already support the long-overdue minimum wage increase. And I guess according to Gonzales polling I saw this morning, an overwhelming number of Democratic Party voters are opposed to the lowering of the corporate tax rate as well. What’s your take on this?

JON CARDIN: I think that this is probably one of the more contentious issues that’s going to be, if there’s any, this year, an election year, this is one of them. We all want to see people be able to afford to live in our communities working…on…low wages. And so we want to make sure that’s available. We also want to make sure that companies can survive so that we have an employment base here in the state, so you know, it’s going to be a good solid debate and I’m looking forward to figuring out how we can bring those two together.

DAN FURMANSKY: So, are you inclined to support the lowering the corporate tax rate?

JON CARDIN: I’m inclined to…see movement. Whether it be on one or the other, and if it means bringing them together...philosophically I don’t have a problem with that.

DAN FURMANSKY: I had a conversation with your colleague, Delegate Ariana Kelly, who has been a big proponent of paid parental leave, which every other country in the world has. I don’t even know if we have one state that has mandated this. And I said to her: don’t you wish we were tying a lowering of the corporate tax rate to something truly controversial that needs movement such as paid parental leave, as opposed to the minimum wage increase?

JON CARDIN: Uh, I could see that. I mean, I’m not sure how much traction a paid parental leave bill is going to have, but…

DAN FURMANSKY: Fair enough. It just seems like the minimum wage increase should be a foregone conclusion and shouldn’t be the stepsister or stepbrother of the corporate tax rate.

JON CARDIN: Yeah. Well look, the other thing, I know that progressives think that we all, we, and me, as a progressive, we know we’re right. But we also have to get things done. And how do you do that? We live in a democracy. In a democracy we have to get…seventy-one votes in order to pass a bill. How do we make sure that happens? So…you don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


DAN FURMANSKY: You were the only candidate for Attorney General who supported a bill this year that provided tax break for Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s most profitable companies. In a year when we saw the gas tax raised on Marylanders, how do you justify giving away Montgomery County tax dollars against the wishes of the Montgomery County Council?

JON CARDIN: In my opinion, that is an issue of fairness. And if we’re interested in taxing Lockheed Martin, which provides over a $100 million to the state of Maryland in fees and taxes, then let’s tax them. But don’t use a law that…a policy that has been created that is not appropriate to that particular company. That’s my… there needs to be transparency on that. Let’s be perfectly honest. They are taxing them as a hotel, and the facility that is being taxed as a hotel isn’t a hotel. And that to me is disingenuous. And, there needs to be, just…look, if they need the half million dollars they are getting from them, then tax them. Put it in a bill that taxes them. But don’t try and suggest that it is something that it is not because you can’t get that bill passed.

DAN FURMANSKY: Lockheed Martin was aware of the tax when they built the facility and from what I understand they have housed people beyond just Lockheed employees. They house contractors there, vendors there, other people they welcome. And there have been occasions where they have required individuals to stay at that facility and not allowed them to stay at other hotels in Montgomery County, which of course all have to apply the lodging tax.

JON CARDIN: I have no comment on that because I have not heard any of that.


DAN FURMANSKY: Ok…let’s move on and talk about good government bills. Good stuff, right? So we had a big year for campaign finance reform in Maryland and you’ve been a strong proponent of this for several years, including for public financing of legislative races. Thumbs up! What do you believe are the next steps for expanding transparency – particularly by special interests such as corporations and independent expenditures?

JON CARDIN: Well, let’s pass the public funding bill. That’s a great way to do it. We’ve just passed some amazing piece of legislation out of the campaign finance commission, to increase transparency on independent expenditures, as well as on special interest contributions, requiring addition reporting dates, and lowering the threshold of the reporting in terms of the amounts of money. I think those are really good changes and I would like to continue to see that. Everybody has… the First Amendment right to make contributions, but it’s just that we also have a right to have complete and total transparency. And that’s where I think we ought to go. And I think that once we have a public funding system that is functioning and working, you’re going to see people having to really justify why they’re using significant dollars from very small numbers of special interests.

DAN FURMANSKY: You voted to support the congressional redistricting map that some say was an exercise in political gerrymandering that spliced and diced communities and diluted minority neighborhoods. The map was upheld as constitutional by the federal courts and upheld by a majority of voters, some who cast their ballots as a badge of allegiance to the Democratic Party. All of that aside, do you believe we need a new process for redistricting in Maryland and, if so, what would that look like and how would we get there?

JON CARDIN: As chairman of the Election Law Committee, I am very open to looking at new ways of doing redistricting. There [are] obviously other practices out there across the country. As an unapologetic Democrat, I will say that I use caution when I think about these things because Maryland is one of two states where…there is a partisan nature to it and it is owned by the Democrats, which have the majority. And the other…15 states that do this are all Republican and then the rest of them are nonpartisan. So there are nonpartisan ways of doing it, there is setting up commissions that makes the recommendations…and I’m totally up for doing that.

The question is… gerrymandering is…has its good aspects and its bad aspects. But the fact is while we want to make things simpler and more representative, we also want to make sure that minorities are adequately represented, that communities are not somehow disenfranchised by being cut through…an artificial boundary that is done for political purposes. And so…I think there has got to be a balance that is struck.


DAN FURMANSKY: Any particular legislation that you are working on for in 2014 that you’re excited about and you think it has a chance of passing?

JON CARDIN: We have our, um, revenge porn legislation. We call it cyber sexual assault but you and the rest of the press will call it revenge porn.


JON CARDIN: Again, maybe not you but the rest…

DAN FURMANSKY: I will call it what you call it.

JON CARDIN: Cyber sexual assault, which would criminalize putting up pornographic images of another person without their consent. Simply put, it is…it is criminal to jeopardize somebody’s reputation, their job prospects, their family relationships and their psychological and emotional stability, simply because you click the mouse and put their picture up on a public website.

Number two: trying to…a bill that is geared towards reducing sexual assault on college campuses.

Campaign finance reform, obviously, with public funding of campaigns.

There is a gaping loophole in the gun legislation, which, as you know, there is a seven-day waiting period, and if you don’t have…if the background check is not done within seven days, a seller is allowed to give a purchaser the gun without having the background check completed, which I cannot believe, fathom, that that loophole is in there, but it’s permitting these guns to be put out. I think there has been examples of more than thirty individuals who have gotten guns that have been prohibited because of a background check reveal that they were not eligible for a certain reason having to do with their criminal records. And we’re going try to close that loophole.

The last thing is, I want to dedicate, I did put it in last year and I’ll put it in again. I want to dedicate 100% of the revenue of ammunition and firearms sales to screenings for the disabled and for the mentally impaired.

[Andy Carton, Cardin’s campaign manager: Sexual orientation conversion therapy].

JON CARDIN: Oh yeah, another one that we drafted, I don’t know if we pre-filed it, but I think we’re going to pre-file it, is to criminalize the use of sexual orientation diversion programs…otherwise known as...

…What do they call it? [asking Andy Carton]

[Carton: Gay therapy…]

Gay therapy…anti-gay therapy.

DAN FURMANSKY: Otherwise known as reparative therapy.

JON CARDIN: Reparative therapy…which I wanted to put in last year and I spoke to the Equality Maryland leadership and they did not want us…they did not want to focus on that issue last year.

DAN FURMANSKY: Are they now more enthusiastic about its prospects and putting support behind it?

JON CARDIN: They are much more enthusiastic.

DAN FURMANSKY: Is this your dream job—Attorney General of Maryland?

JON CARDIN: Yeah. I think that given my background, my legal background and legislative accomplishments, this is exactly where I can realize my potential. And I think that Marylanders want somebody who is both progressive and pragmatic, so I’d love to be that guy.

DAN FURMANSKY: Anything else you want to say to Maryland Juice readers?

JON CARDIN: My daughter is nearly two… Have you heard me tell this…?

DAN FURMANSKY: I have not.

JON CARDIN: My daughter is nearly two and…before she learned how to walk, she was already playing music on my wife’s iPhone and has maintained a complete relationship with her grandparents over Skype. So this is a new world that…our kids are wired to and they are wired to it, and growing up in it. And whether its cyber bullying, cyber security, online privacy, uh, environmental protection, getting trash out of the Bay: this is the next frontier that we’re going to have to contend with. As Attorney General, I think I can deal with the next generation issues, and focus on the old, persistent problems that you brought up…the agricultural certainty and point source and non point source pollution.

DAN FURMANSKY: Great. Thank you, thank you for the time!

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