Monday, March 08, 2010

Top Blog Posts, February 2010

Here are the most-viewed blog posts on MPW in February 2010.

1. Snap Your Whip at Bethesda’s Pimping Castle!
2. Top Snow Totals in Maryland
3. MPW Poll: Most Amazing MoCo Fundraising Achievement of 2009
4. British Lucky Paul’s Pal
5. Rushern Baker on the Spot, Part One
6. Pimping Castle Raided by Police
7. Rushern Baker on the Spot, Part Three
8. Pimping Castle Makes Fox 5
9. The Campus is the Wrong Place for a Hospital
10. Rushern Baker on the Spot, Part Two

Snap Your Whip, the blog post that broke the insane British Lucky Paul story, easily spanked the other posts raw last month. The fact that posts related to the Bethesda Pimping Castle accounted for four of our top ten suggests that perverted sex may have a bigger fan base than state and local politics. Who knew?

Cheryl Kagan, a candidate who last ran for office in 1998, beat out Sam Arora and Saqib Ali in an MPW poll that was heavily swamped by Facebook friends. As of this writing, here are the results:

Question: What is the Most Amazing MoCo Fundraising Achievement of 2009?

Kagan Outraises Forehand Two Years in a Row: 166 votes (34%)
Ali Outraises King: 120 votes (24%)
Arora Breaks Six Digits: 111 votes (22%)
No Indictments: 51 votes (10%)
Duchy Outraises Everybody: 48 votes (10%)

We know our readers love Kagan, Ali and Arora, but we think they underestimated County Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg. Trachtenberg’s eye-popping haul of nearly $300,000 last year has had Rockville insiders buzzing for weeks.

Former Montgomery College trustee Gene Counihan’s guest post opposing Holy Cross Hospital’s proposed new facility on the campus drew coverage from the Washington Business Journal and aroused the ire of at least some current trustees. As one of MoCo’s most renowned civic and political leaders, Counihan’s opinions carry significant weight. The Holy Cross-Adventist battle is so enduring that it has actually outlasted MoCo’s Democrat vs. Republican battle, which was won by the Democrats conclusively with the ousters of GOP County Council Member Howie Denis and Delegate Jean Cryor (D-15) in 2006.

Finally, our series on Prince George’s County Executive candidate Rushern Baker has amplified and prolonged the scrutiny of his campaign finances that began in the Post and the Gazette. Other than the blog PG Politics, which has linked to all of our posts on Baker, the traffic to this series is not coming from any particular source. The story seems to have gone viral as many of our individual posts are receiving direct entries from emails, listservs and Google searches.

A footnote on Baker’s slate. The State Board of Elections (SBE) website shows only one member – Baker – on that slate, an apparent contradiction of state law. The Gazette has also reported that “forms for County 1 Now only list Baker as the group's intended candidate” and that Baker’s spokesman “said last month that County 1 Now is also supporting two longtime delegates: Tawanna Gaines (D-Dist. 22) of Berwyn Heights and Barbara Frush (D-Dist. 21) of Beltsville. Neither delegate is listed on the slate's paperwork, and no donations have been made to Gaines or Frush so far.”

After our series on Baker’s finances, the Post reported that a “clerical error” was responsible for omitting other members from the slate. We asked SBE to send us the slate’s paperwork and they sent the paperwork to the Post instead. So Baker’s slate definitely has two other members and any reliance on SBE’s online record - including ours - is incorrect.

Now, two more issues have sprung up involving the slate. First, campaign spokesman James Adams told the Gazette that state law forbade him from disclosing slate donors prior to the next report deadline and was contradicted by SBE. Second, Adams also said, “ our knowledge, no candidate has ever reported its donors immediately after they contributed.” That is not true. During the 2008 County Council District 4 special election, Don Praisner regularly updated his website to list new contributors regardless of the filing deadlines. Praisner’s commitment to transparency benefited him as he won the contest.

So do all of the revelations concerning Baker’s secret slate transfers, use of an official from an anti-worker company to head his slate, six-digit mystery loans and acceptance of $750,000+ from one Virginia apartment owner - none of which has been denied by his campaign - amount to anything politically significant? Not necessarily. Baker was the favorite before the scandals got underway because of his big advantages in name recognition, money and organization. None of that has changed. From a campaign perspective, the many barrels of ink that the Post, the Gazette and this blog have spilled on this issue constitute a gold mine of opposition research, but there is no sign that any of the other candidates have made any real use of it. Just add “passive opponents” to Baker’s long list of reasons for victory and he still looks like a winner.

More of your picks next month!