Candidates and legislators cannot represent their constituents if they are not accessible
to them and responsive to their concerns. Effective government is impossible without full
transparency, communication and accountability to the voters. Unfortunately, in Maryland as
in many other states, elective office has at times become the domain of an elite group
that fights to preserve its status by manipulating rules and relying on
large corporations and special interests donations.
Such politicians have a vested interest in keeping the affairs of State government hidden from
public scrutiny and preventing communities from having a true voice in Annapolis.
I pledge to fight the status quo. I fully support all efforts to make Maryland government
fully transparent and to give citizens ready access to all details of government activity.
The more the public knows about what our representatives are up to and how our tax dollars are
being spent, the better.
My No-PAC, No-Corp Pledge
To ensure that I remain responsive to the voters in my Distrisct, I am financing my campaign through individual donations only. In October 2005 I announced that I will accept no donations from corporations or Political Action Committees (PACS). I refuse to be beholden to deep-pocketed organizations who always expect favorable treatment from the legislators they support. I want to be free of even perceived obligations, so that I may vote my conscience and the will of the voters who elect me. And I challenge other candidates in this election to do the same.
Voter-Verified Paper Receipts
Fair elections rely on the accuracy and integrity of vote counts, and Maryland's 2006 elections could prove to be an integrity nightmare. Maryland has a $75 million contract with Diebold Corporation to provide electronic voting machines through 2008. Independent testing shows that these machines are vulnerable to electronic manipulation, which means that hackers could corrupt vote tallies and alter election results. And because the machines produce no paper receipts -- no way for voters or election officials to check against manipulation -- election tampering could go undetected.
Diebold makes voting machines that produce paper receipts, but because state law does not require such records, they were not chosen for purchase. Maryland election officials are aware of this problem but claim that, because of cost and lack of time, nothing can be done in time for the 2006 elections. This is a situation that should incense all voters and raise strong suspicions about Maryland's electoral process. Although nothing apparently can be done over the coming months, I pledge to fight hard to make sure that voter-verified paper receipts are instituted in time for the 2008 election cycle.
To see a Washington Post article about this subject, click here.
Publicly Financed Election Campaigns
The costs of political campaigns in Maryland are out of control. During every election cycle, millions of dollars are spent, raising serious questions about whether our democratic process is about issues and voters -- or money and influence.
I strongly support fundamental campaign finance reform for Maryland. I favor proposals for free airtime and public funding for candidates who can demonstrate a certain level of public support. Maine, Arizona and Connecticut have passed legislation for publicly financed campaigns. We urgently need such legislation here.
When wealthy individuals can simply "buy" seats in public office, well-connected individuals can rely on corporate and PAC warchests to win elections, and truly qualified candidates are unable to run for office because of the high price tag, we all pay the price. A democracy based on wealth is not a democracy at all. To solve our problems and ensure a strong future, Maryland needs the best leaders we can find -- not the best leaders money can buy.
To see a Gazette article about this subject, click here.
Legislative Scholarship Reform
Each year Maryland legislators are given scholarship money to award to those who need it most. Each State Senator is alotted $158,000; each Delegate $31,000. Although this Legislative Scholarship Program has a noble intent, it is seriously flawed.
The problem is that no criteria exist to ensure that the money goes to students in need. In theory, it could be given to family members of campaign contributors or just about anyone else. No other state in the Union has such a system, and with good reason. It is a relic of the post-Civil War era and is vulnerable to abuse. A progressive state such as Maryland cannot continue to fund any program that functions outside the system of governmental checks and balances.
I strongly support scholarships for Maryland's college-bound students; however, we must
find a more equitable way to distribute these funds on a need-based system (while still equally apportioning the money amongst Maryland's 47 legislative districts).
There must also be on-line public access to the names of recipients of Legislative Scholarships.
There is no other way to ensure that funds are allocated fairly.
I pledge to fight for these reforms when I am elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. And until they are enacted, I will follow the lead of the few wise Delegates and Senators who each year give their allocations to state scholarship funds for distribution.
To see a Washington Post article about this subject, click here.
Open committee hearings and votes including Joint Conference Committees
All legislative committee hearings and voting sessions, except those that deal with issues of State security, should be open to the public. The growing number of closed meetings dealing with non-security matters has one purpose: to allow legislators to conceal their true positions on politically sensitive issues. Voters have the right to know if the people they have elected are representing them or representing special interests. The practice of closing legislative sessions must stop.
Strict adherence to the Code of Ethics for both Legislators and Lobbyists
The State of Maryland has a well-defined Code of Ethics for legislators and lobbyists. These standards are designed to avoid conflicts of interest and even the appearance of such conflicts. I will hold myself and my colleagues in Maryland government to the highest standards of conduct, and I pledge to pursue the strongest appropriate disciplinary action against any violators.
Online Access to Expense Records of All Public Officials
Maryland residents have the right to know how legislators are spending tax dollars, especially when it comes to travel expenses and other discretionary expenditures. Legislators must be able to use public funds to conduct state business; however, they must also be held accountable for the use of those funds. I strongly support the right of citizens to examine legislators' expense records via the Internet, just as they are able to access information about campaign donations.