Hogan Reform Gambit Part I: Background Checks On Legislative Appointees

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Continuing with Larry Hogan’s run of “really shitty things that outrage Democrats but which are nevertheless strategically effective,” Larry Hogan has asked recent delegate appointees Jheanelle Wilkins and Nick Mosby to submit to background checks before he makes a formal appointment. Neither has agreed, and rightfully so, because he still has to appoint them barring something on the level of an indictment or similar occurrence.

Gov. Larry Hogan is asking people nominated to fill vacancies in the General Assembly to undergo background checks before taking their seats, infuriating Democratic leaders.

Two people recently nominated to fill seats in the House of Delegates — Baltimore’s Nick J. Mosby and Montgomery County’s Jheanelle Wilkins — have not yet been sworn in. Both were asked by the governor’s office to submit to background checks. Neither has complied.
“He doesn’t need to hold anybody up for a background investigation. I just don’t believe that’s appropriate,” said Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus.
A Hogan spokesman said the background check was voluntary.
“All we’re doing is asking,” said Doug Mayer, the spokesman.

All of that is really bad optics, and offensive to boot. So why ask? Here’s why:

Mayer said the governor’s request for background checks applies to all appointed lawmakers moving forward.

The new policy of requesting background checks is “made out of an abundance of caution, especially in light of recent, well-known news involving former, current and prospective members of the legislature,” Mayer said.
In one case, Gary Brown Jr., an aide to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, had been selected to fill a vacancy for a seat representing Baltimore in the House of Delegates. But his swearing in was abruptly canceled after Brown was indicted on charges of campaign finance violations. Mosby was selected for the vacancy instead.
And on the first day of the legislative session last week, Del. Michael Vaughn of Prince George’s County abruptly resigned, citing health reasons. That county has been rocked by a scandal involving its liquor board. Federal documents described an unnamed delegate from the Economic Matters Committee accepting cash to vote for a certain liquor bill. Vaughn is the only Prince George’s delegate on that committee who voted for the bill.
“This is a very common-sense, proactive policy change that simply seeks to hold these nominees to the same standards that we hold all our appointments to currently,” Mayer said.
The Attorney General’s Office advised House Speaker Michael E. Busch on Wednesday that the governor can ask for background checks, but cannot require prospective lawmakers to submit to them.
“The Governor can request that the nominee submit to a background check, but the nominee is under no obligation to comply,” Assistant Attorney General David W. Stamper wrote to Busch on Wednesday. “Regardless of whether the nominee submits to a background check, the Governor must make the appointment.”

A chance to smear Democrats as the party of corruption every single time there’s a new legislative appointment. Read my next post for part 2 of this strategically devastating gambit by Hogan, also unveiled today. We’re gonna be hearing about these kinds of issues from now through November, 2018, because our state leadership has failed to seize the opportunities for reform when we had the chance to do so over the past two decades. Now we’re going to pay for that failure, as we’ve allowed a GOP governor to grab the flag of reform and make it his own. Appalling, and an unforced error born of arrogance and hubris.

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