Posted by: Ann Corcoran | February 19, 2012

Guest column: Have you hit the snooze button?

Readers:  This is a guest column by Cathy Trauernicht a founding member of the Maryland Conservative Action Network and of Election Integrity Maryland   Cathy testified this past week on the Voter ID bill under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly and here are “musings” about her day in Annapolis.

After the last election (2010), have you hit the snooze button, waiting to wake up when the 2012 election alarm sounds?  A lot of people do that.  Then they wake up and wonder, “What happened?  Why are my taxes going up? Why can’t the State legislature deal honestly with the budget?  Where’s my tax money going?  Why do they want more and more and more?  Why do the legislators seem so out of touch?”  Well, maybe it’s because we’re snoozing.

Even though I’m a citizen activist, I can’t possibly keep up with everything that’s going on under our noses.  No one can.  So while we’re either snoozing or contending with a fire hose of information, there are other activists out there who feed happily at the government trough for their existence.  And all too often, they are the ones who show up on a regular basis in the Assembly committee hearing rooms.  Most other citizens tend to arrive in Annapolis when higher profile legislation makes its way to the public square.

So last week was an eye opener for me.  On a small scale, I got to peer into the world of those special interests who come regularly before the legislators pleading for funds.  As I was waiting to testify about a voter ID bill, I listened to discussion about setting aside a portion of federal transportation funds to train the jobless.  The parade of people with their hands out included some familiar names:  CASA de Maryland, someone from a Catholic organization, and another from the Methodist church.  One of them testified that the training program already was in effect.  (The bill being considered would write into law that these funds would always be set aside.)  To my amazement, not one committee member asked, well, if the program is already in effect, what’s the track record?  How many people are being trained for the amount of $$ spent, and where do they land in the workforce afterward?  For all I knew, some members may have been sitting there playing computer games.

Then it came time to debate the voter ID bill.  Speaking against the bill were people from: the League of Women Voters, the MD Alliance for the Homeless, Common Cause, MD Nonprofits, and Health Care for the Homeless.  (By the way, the HCH person said they treat 10 million people a year, in a state whose population is 5.7 million!)  Another person testifying against the bill represented a housing organization.  When asked by a legislator how many of their clients spoke about having difficulty voting, her response was that every week they get 20-40 people at their “meeting” and they all talk about how they want to vote.  She says her group works for “systemic change.”

If all the legislators see is a parade of people with their hands out, no wonder we get the laws we do!

When it came time for my colleague and me to testify in favor of the voter ID bill (representing Election Integrity Maryland), we were invited to sit with the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Kipke.  EIM announced that morning that we were filing our first 5,400 challenges to the voter rolls with the MD State Board of Elections, citing address errors, duplicate registrations, and deceased voters remaining on the rolls.  And these 5,400 citations were out of a total 7,000 records researched so far.

Despite this news of our challenge, the committee members directed their questions solely to Del. Kipke.  We were not asked a single question.  We took this as a possible indication that they did not want to deal with us at all, as the organization that seems to be uncovering the potential for fraud.  Their questions were more theoretical, with some of the members focusing on the fact that no fraud had actually been proven yet … despite stories offered by Delegates Kipke and Ron George of apparent voting violations.  As long as no one has proven any wrong doing, some committee members may feel safe in opposing voter ID.

After the hearing, I went to the Capitol building to put EIM’s press release in all the press cubby holes.  As I walked into the press area, I noted a metal filing cabinet with Democrat candidate stickers all over it, and wondered if that is permissible.  Hum-m-m-m.

My last stop of the day, before heading home, was in the room where George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783.  It is a humbling atmosphere in that room.  I spent a few moments quietly reflecting on the state of our state and our nation.  Outside that hallowed room, what monumental financial weights are being heaped upon our government, what potentially lethal attacks are being waged against our freedoms, how many alarm bells are sounding across the land, and how many citizens are hitting the snooze button?

Thanks Cathy!

We welcome guest columns!  Have you had an experience you want to share to help fellow Marylanders better understand our political process in the hope that we can begin to reform the Old Line State (that has gotten pretty crooked over the years as too many of us slept-in!).


Responses

  1. I want to thank Cathy for her column. I believe that she is correct, about 90% of the reason that we are getting unwanted legislation shoved down our throats, unwanted taxes, fees, fines, etc.imposed upon us is that we quit paying attention.. We used to assume that the people that we elected to office were looking out for our best interest, but now we know that isn’t true.

    Hence, the nationwide tea party movement, Maryland CAN, EIM, citizen journalists, and all the rest. If you are not involved, get involved. if you are involved, stay involved, we can win back our government!

  2. Cathy,
    I applaud your “wake up” call to Marylanders. The corruption has become so deep that few notice it anymore. I have seen the corruption and distortion of truth for over 30 years — a tragic confirmation of the basic idea: wrong actions always bring wrong results. We keep doing wrong things, and wonder why there are wrong results. duh!

    So, we the people need to rise up and reassert our responsibility for civil order as embodied in the government. Where I live, there is barely anyone running against the incumbent legislators who hold their office year after year without challenge. Is it any wonder the people are asleep.

    I know, we would all like some grownups to come in the room, like at the end of “Lord of the Flies” But until we realize that WE are the grownups, the wait for “someone else” will be long indeed. Better reserve your spot in the graveyard where you can truly “rest in peace.”

  3. Cathy: Is Casa de Maryland, not a 501(c3) organization, which is not supposed to “Lobby” the legislature for money? I think they were doing just that when they sent their representative in support of that .1% of transportation funds that they need for those who come to them looking for work. Not one legislator questionned them on that – yet the Immigration group that just filed a lawsuit against CASA de Maryland for that very same violation would be interested to probably hear that CASA de Maryland was there

    • Alexandra — I have run several 501(c)(3)’s in my career, so I want to clear up some misconceptions about what they can/cannot dol

      1) Asking the government for money is not “lobbying.” That’s called “fundraising” or “development” and is an essential part of 501(c)(3) activity.

      2) Educating politicians and the public about an issue is not “lobbying.” That’s called “advocacy” or “education” and is the core mission of most 501(c)(3)s.

      3) Supporting or opposing the passage of a particular bill or regulation is “lobbying.” Contrary to what many think, a 501(c)(3) can lobby, as long as that is not a “substantial part” of their activity, usually defined in terms of money spent on lobbying. That is one of the issues IRLI has accused CASA of.

      4) Supporting or opposing any candidates for public office is “campaigning” and is strictly forbidden. There is no “substantial part” rule.


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