The Final Word on Judd Legum's "Special Interests" ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Final Word on Judd Legum's "Special Interests"

Following my "The Ninth Ward" column about the claims of candidate Judd Legum's refusal to not accept PAC money that appeared last Thursday in The Capital, Legum had a letter in Saturday's The Capital that attempted to defend his record. He wrote:

"I believe that special interests have too much power in Annapolis. That’s why I’ve refused to accept any contributions from state lobbyists or PACs. In fact, I’ve returned thousands of dollars in unsolicited contributions from state lobbyists and PACs.
I’m running my campaign on the strength of tremendous support of individuals within Maryland. In fact, I’ve received contributions from more Marylanders than any candidate running for delegate in District 30, save Speaker Mike Busch.
I also want to clear up Paul Foer’s misconception (The Capital, Oct. 28) about ActBlue. ActBlue is simply a website, similar to PayPal, that allows political candidates to accept credit card contributions online. I’m pleased to have an active online campaign and to have received contributions from hundreds of individual Marylanders through my ActBlue webpage.
I’m doing everything in my power to reduce the influence of special interests in this campaign.
Candidate for Delegate, District 30"

Legum has consistently and repeatedly claimed that he is not accepting PAC money and that he is trying to reduce the power of "special interests". Just look at the video on his website, which by the way, I transcribed a portion thereof in my column in last week's The Capital. See

Because he has made this righteous claim such a central part of his campaign, I chose to investigate and what I found is that his claims do not add up. Thus I wrote my column about it and Legum was apparently given a special opportunity to respond with a letter immediately. In that letter he says I wrote a "misconception" about the ActBlue website which was responsible for raising so much money fro Legum--and so much out-of-state money. But let's look at the rest of his letter. In the first sentence or two he again says he refused to take state lobbyist of PAC money yet Team 30, of which he is a part, clearly did take PAC money. Team 30 also took a lot of money from Delegate Mike Busch. Busch in turn does take PAC money. There may not be a darn thing wrong with that at all--but Legum is claiming to not do something that he clearly is doing. 

He says he has returned money but how can we know? I have not seen such evidence. Every time I asked him for information about his contributions he simply referred me to the official databases. I asked him to provide detailed information because he made this repeated claim--the burden should have been on him and not a poor, little, small town blogger such as me. Yet when I clearly did the detailed research necessary to show him up, he says I am under a "misconception".

ActBlue clearly labels itself as a PAC!!! And Legum continues to say it is is simply a "clearinghouse," but here is how I suspect it can work. A PAC or a special interest group gets together with a candidate to raise money. Say for example, it might be a Washington-based group affiliated with the Democratic Party, or perhaps a group working for gay rights, just as a hypothetical.  The candidate says sure, we can do a fundraiser but we have to tell everyone coming to donate through ActBlue, and not through the special interest group, so he can claim it comes from individuals. Hence, he gets pages and pages of donations from contributors in Washington, DC on the same day. Get the picture?

If it is just like PayPal as he suggests, why not go through PayPal? I think it takes a smaller percentage than does ActBlue. Hey--there is a chance to save money!

Yet he continues to claim "I’m doing everything in my power to reduce the influence of special interests in this campaign."

I gave Legum multiple opportunities to provide comment and answer questions over two days before I wrote my column. He had ample opportunity to explain his idea of what ActBlue is--although its own website says it is a PAC! I quoted it's own web-site in my column. I went over everything I could find on the elections finance database web-site. I repeatedly watched and listened to Legum's speech video on his own blog and transcribed it. I looked all through the ActBlue web-site. I went all through his finance database. 

He has repeatedly made this special claim to make him appear special. He was fair game and so I researched it giving him ample opportunity provide details. He did not.

Last week I received the following unsolicited email from one of his opponents, Herb McMillan:

"Last night, at a Broadneck debate, Legum unbelievably made the exact same claim not to accept PAC money in his opening statement. Members of the audience had your article [The Capital's column] in hand---when challenged, he then said that he wasn't perfect, but he was working hard to reduce the influence of special interests, and took less PAC money than anyone else,and that ActBlue wasn't a PAC, but simply "like Paypal". I later pointed  out all the D-30 slate PAC contributions, and cited the fact that Legum had taken---according to the slate's own filing---6k from MSEA PAC. I had only received 4k of slate money out of the 120k I raised, so I had done a better job of being "your independent advocate" than he had. Legum then challenged me to "take this outside" when he was told he was out of time to reply. I told him I would prefer to stay right where we were and finish debating the issue, so that people could draw their own conclusions about his independence."
I was not there and I cannot verify what McMillan claims. However it may very well have been one of his supporters or a "plant" on his behalf in the audience. Legum and readers should know that I am not singling out Legum just to singly him out. He has singled himself out through his self-righteous claim of being special. This is not about Legum's politics of any of his other claims or promises. I say that if it makes a quack like a PAC, it's a PAC. Duck now!

Remember that Legum is deeply connected to the highest levels within the Democratic Party and was research director for Hilary Clinton's campaign for president. He was an operative in the Center for American Progress. He understands how all this high-powered, special interest, inside the beltway politicking works and he is using it to raise a lot of money--and much if not a majority of it from out of state--often pages and pages of consecutive donors exclusively from Washington DC and then from other states. Notice that he says not a word about that in his letter to the editor above?

But he does repeatedly tell us that he is doing everything in his power to reduce the influence of special interests.

By the way, one last thing. At a recent public forum,  Legum talked about how we must crack down on repeat drunk driving offenders. I had to laugh because his father and law partner is defending Carl Snowden, a darling of the Democratic Party and a walking special interest if I ever saw one. Snowden showed up last Friday night at the Josh Cohen-Mike Busch free spaghetti dinner all smiles and hugs with the local Democratic operatives.

Of course Snowden is entitled to legal defense, but a lawyer does not have to take his case. And the Democrats who give him fancy jobs such are not obligated to keep him on the public payroll either. But I suppose we could consider the public jobs he gets from Janet Owens and Doug Gansler are "special interest" jobs.

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