Thursday, January 14, 2010

Andrews: Interest Group Leaders "Want to Defeat Me"

In a recent fund-raising solicitation, Council Member Phil Andrews cites MPW research demonstrating his reliance on individual donors and asks for contributions because "interest group leaders... want to defeat me."

Andrews' solicitation, which we will print in graphic form below, reads:

January 2010

Dear Friend,

Each day that I enter the County Council chamber I look at the County Seal that bears the motto, Gardez bien, which means “Guard well.” That is the primary job of a public official: to ascertain and guard well the public interest, to guard well the integrity of government, and to guard well the treasury to ensure public funds are wisely spent. I have done my best to guard well since I raised my hand on December 7, 1998 and was first sworn in as a member of the County Council.

Guarding well is why I championed the County’s Smoke-free Restaurant law (the region’s first) and the County’s Living Wage law. It’s why I’ve led the battles for property tax relief, and to preserve the Office of the Inspector General, the County’s watchdog against waste, fraud and abuse. It’s why I’ve worked hard to protect communities from overdevelopment and intolerable traffic congestion. It’s why I have strongly criticized the $12 daily roundtrip ICC tolls as both self-defeating and exclusionary. It’s why I’ve led the fight against ambulance fees. And guarding well is why, as president of the Council last year, I led the effort to ensure that the County addressed a large shortfall in revenues in the wisest and fairest ways possible: by spending less while protecting education, public safety, and the most vulnerable; by avoiding employee layoffs through eliminating $125 million in pay raises; and by holding the line on tax rates.

A recent comprehensive analysis of campaign contributions to federal, state and county elected officials in Montgomery County from 1999 to 2009 published by the blog Maryland Politics Watch found that I received a larger percent (98.8%) of contributions from individuals than any other official. As executive director of Common Cause/MD, I led the successful fight for the first limits on political action committee (pac) contributions in Maryland elections. Since I first ran for the County Council, I have refused contributions from PACs and development interests because maintaining public confidence in government is the responsibility of every official.

As I campaign for re-election in 2010, I again will depend on the generosity of you and other public-spirited people for campaign contributions, since I refuse funds from interest groups. In standing up for the public’s interests, I have angered the leaders of some interest groups who want me to put their groups’ interests first. These leaders want to defeat me. If you agree I’ve guarded well the public interest, I ask that you support my campaign by sending a check to Friends of Phil Andrews, using the enclosed envelope. Thank you for your help.

With best wishes for 2010,

Phil Andrews

P.S. Every dollar you contribute helps. Please send a check today to Friends of Phil Andrews. Also, please provide your email address, which I will keep confidential, on the response form. Thanks.

P: 240-683-3777
Andrews' solicitation refers to our Follow the Money series, in which we found that he led all other MoCo candidates in percentage of contributions from individuals, received zero money from unions and almost no money from businesses and obtained almost 96% of his contributions from in-state donors. Andrews has always rejected contributions from developers and PACs. We did not examine the former issue, but we found that he has kept his promise to turn away PAC contributions. Andrews' self-imposed contribution restrictions have not hurt him as he has always had enough money to compete and blew away a sitting Rockville City Council Member in 2006.

Which interest groups want to defeat Andrews? The business community dislikes his views on restricting growth, but more than a few respect his fiscal conservatism on the budget. They have not targeted him in a serious way since Doug Duncan's End Gridlock slate ran Bob Dorsey against him in 2002. Labor was at first a fast friend of Andrews, supporting him in his 1998 upset of incumbent Bill Hanna. Andrews was so close to labor in his early days that the Gazette once accused him of being in bed with MCGEO, the county government employees union. The Gazette wrote the following in a 1999 editorial opposing Andrews' living wage law:

Why is this legislation suddenly before us?

Because the government employees union wants to handcuff officials seeking cost effective ways through privatization to provide services that its high-cost bureaucracy can no longer afford.

The union, in effect, reached an understanding with the bill's sponsor, Phil Andrews. It would staff his telephone banks and get out the vote for him on election day, and in return he would introduce this bill.

What irony! This is the kind of quid-pro-quo that would have sent Andrews scurrying to his fax machine to issue a denunciation during his days at Common Cause.

Instead, he does the bidding of a union that has tried to obscure the pursuit of its self-interest by positioning itself as a champion of the working poor.
While we cannot locate any evidence that the Gazette's accusation was true at that time, this sort of arrangement is inconceivable today. Since 2003, Andrews has been a reliable vote against most things desired by the unions. His lone wolf opposition to the Fire Fighters' 20-year retirement clause was just a prelude to his later efforts to crack down on all county employee compensation. The unions' problem now is that Andrews' relentless door knocking and superior constituent service makes him nearly invulnerable in his Rockville-Gaithersburg district. In any event, no challenger has yet stepped forward to take him on.

The real question with Phil Andrews is not whether he wins re-election. He almost certainly will. Instead, we are interested in whether he will endorse any candidates in the County Council at-large race and the District 17 Senate race. And we are also interested in where he will be going in 2014.

We reprint Andrews' fundraising letter and an accompanying flyer below.