Congressman Andy Harris, whose district includes the entirety of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has yet another Democratic challenger in his 2012 bid for reelection, a fellow physician. Dr. John LaFerla of Chestertown officially filed his candidacy forms for the U.S. House of Representatives with the Maryland State Board of Elections. Along with Cockeysville businesswoman Wendy Rosen, LaFerla is the second Democrat signed up to run against Rep. Harris, R-Md.-1st.
A U.S. congressman from Maryland is fighting to keep toll fees from going up in Maryland. Under a new recommendation the cost for some state tolls might double by the fall. Representative Andy Harris says the proposed hikes are like tax increases for drivers and could hurt middle class residents and area businesses. The proposal would boost the toll for the Bay Bridge from $2.50 to $5.00 in October, then up to $8.00 in 2013. Harris accused state officials of unfairly going after rural residents’ money and even said Congress should withhold federal funding for transportation from states that do not spend it equally on urban and rural projects. Harris is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. MTA is proposing a $210-million package of hikes that will affect every toll road, bridge, and tunnel in the state.
By LAURA E. LEE
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Less than six months out from their 2010 victories, Maryland’s House of Representatives’ members are already raising funds for their 2012 campaigns, some more successfully than others, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.
In the 1st Congressional District, Republican Andy Harris won a narrow victory over Democratic incumbent Frank Kratovil in 2010. Now-incumbent Harris has nearly $100,000 more cash on hand than he did at this point in the last race.
“Incumbency will give him an edge, no matter what,” said Matthew Crenson, political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. But Harris may need more money to retain his seat in a largely Democratic state.
Harris was one of the tea party members to ride the revolutionary wave in the 2010 midterm but it is unclear if the energy for tea party outsiders will have the same effect in the 2012 election.
“What role the tea party will ultimately play over the course of the next year-and-a-half remains somewhat to be seen,” said Todd Eberly, interim director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College. “They clearly were effective in motivating voters and helping to motivate money in 2010. I see no reason to doubt that they will be effective in 2012 as well.”
Harris’ campaign finances could benefit from tea party enthusiasm. Crenson said some of his support in the 2012 race will likely come from tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the Koch brothers, and FreedomWorks, led by former House Republican leader, Dick Armey.
Harris reported raising more than $210,000 in the first quarter of this year, more than double his fundraising in the first quarter of 2009. Even with a robust war chest, he could face a significant challenge to re-election if his district is redrawn.
The Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly will convene for a special session to address redistricting and they may try to draw the lines of the 1st District to give Democrats a better chance, Eberly said.
The competitive district could mean an increased need for cash by all candidates in the race.
“Harris will be well-financed, and whoever runs against him will also be well-financed,” he said. Kratovil’s campaign committee continues to file with the Federal Election Commission, but did not report any contributions this quarter.
Harris is not alone in continuing to build his coffers. In the 3rd District, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, raised $233,000 this cycle, bringing his total cash on hand to more than double his total in 2009.
Five of Maryland’s eight House members have less cash on hand at present than they did at this stage of the last race.
“Safe” Democratic candidates in Maryland may not need as much money to fund their races in 2012 because the presidential election will bring their party members to the polls to re-elect Obama, Epperly said. “You’re gonna ride that wave to some extent, regardless of how much money you spend.”
Of the three members with less money at this point in the cycle than they did in 2009, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, has the most notable difference of $455,000.
“The reason that he doesn’t have to be hustling right now is that he’s probably not going to get any significant opposition in the Democratic primary,” Crenson said. “He’s in a pretty good position. He doesn’t need to scramble.”
For Ruppersberger, it may be too soon to know whether he will need to spend a lot to maintain his seat. “It would be too early to try to make a determination as to whether the field of candidates this election would be as competitive as last time around,” said Ruppersberger’s press secretary, Jaime Lennon.
In 2010, the average cost for House victors was $1,376,254, according to an analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute, a research organization that studies election funding. The amount of money spent by House winners has steadily increased in the last decade, said Brendan Glavin, the Institute’s data manager.
Overall totals for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, are down 31 percent from last cycle — understandable considering his change in position in the party and lack of registered opposition in the 2012 race. Van Hollen is the only member of the delegation with more than $1 million cash on hand now. He leads the delegation this cycle, as he did in the last campaign. This quarter, Van Hollen’s campaign committee reported more than $1.75 million cash on hand — almost $800,000 less than he had in April 2009.
Even though his total exceeds that of the next-closest member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, by more than $900,000, Van Hollen has significantly less money than in 2009 when he headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that helps elect Democrats to the House.
Campaign finance laws permit candidates to give unlimited amounts to the organization, which can then spend the money in tight races, and party leaders traditionally give large sums to the group. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, is a major contributor.
Hoyer led the delegation in fundraising this quarter, posting more than $500,000 in receipts. More than two-thirds of that money came from other political committees, like PACs.
Other delegation members have considerably less to work with. Cummings’ receipts of about $60,000 this quarter nearly matched his receipts of $66,675 from the first quarter of 2009. His overall cash on hand is up 38 percent from the same time in the last race.
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, trailed the rest of the delegation this cycle and last cycle. According to the latest report, her campaign has about $41,000 cash on hand. In April of the previous cycle, her committee reported $64,000 cash on hand.
Longtime congressman Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, raised the least money this quarter, bringing in $44,400. The 84-year-old announced that he will run for his 11th term in Congress in 2012.
The next FEC reporting deadline for candidates is July 15.
Republican Representative Andy Harris, who famously complained about having to wait a month for his federal health insurance to kick in, has decided to keep his private health plan. Democrats pounced on the complaint Harris made last year during orientation for freshman lawmakers. At the time, they noted that millions of Americans would be left uninsured if Congress did not pass health care reform legislation Harris had campaigned against.
On Tuesday, Harris said he will continue receiving coverage under his private Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance plan. He said his orientation comments, reported by Politico, were quoted accurately but misconstrued. “The comment was just a tongue-in-cheek comment about the federal government’s efficiency at delivering a health care … insurance product,” he said. “Even at that time, I was leaning toward keeping my insurance. There was no reason for me not to.”
The November story in Politico reported that Harris reacted “incredulously” on learning that his government-subsidized coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the same insurance available to all federal employees, would not take effect until February 1. Following the story, more than 60 Democratic House members said that Republicans who backed repealing the health care reform law should decline taxpayer-subsidized health care themselves.
Congressman-elect Andy Harris will be serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Natural Resources committees when he starts his job on Capitol Hill. As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Harris says he will be able to concentrate on efforts to get tougher laws and a bigger effort toward Chesapeake Bay restoration.
By RICHARD ABDILL
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Republican Congressman-elect Andy Harris and Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, unlike other Maryland congressional candidates, did not provide health insurance, cover payroll taxes or pay for unemployment insurance for their campaign workers, a practice that may skirt IRS rules.
The politicians avoided these costs by paying their campaign staffs as independent contractors instead of regular employees, according to expense reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Health care benefits have been a recurring theme for Harris, whose anti-“Obamacare” stance was a key plank in his hard-fought campaign in Congressional District 1. And, after not providing health care for his campaign workers, Harris grabbed national headlines last week when he complained at a House freshman orientation session that his government-subsidized health care would take almost a month to kick in. The complaints were originally reported in Politico.
While employers are not legally mandated to provide health care for workers they classify as employees, they are required to pay part of the Social Security and Medicare taxes assessed of employees — which can add up quickly, said accountant Garrett Isacco, who has worked with small businesses in the D.C. area for more than 30 years. Independent contractors pay these taxes themselves.
“Some employers would very much not like to do that because it can get quite expensive,” Isacco said, adding that the taxes do get paid either way. “At the end of the day it probably evens out; it’s just a question of whose pocket it’s coming out of. … For the worker it’s definitely better to be an employee.”
Some workers for the Harris campaign do not appear to qualify as independent contractors.
An Edwards spokesman said her campaign only had three staffers who worked part time and as such considered themselves contractors. Edwards had scant opposition in Republican Robert Broadus, who she beat with 83 percent of the vote.
Harris representatives declined comment last week. Harris himself declined comment Friday, saying he was busy with orientation for incoming House members.
The Internal Revenue Service’s line between worker and contractor is sometimes blurry. The legal test, according to a training manual for classification auditors, is “whether there is a right to direct and control the means and details of the work.”
Former IRS trial attorney Bruce Gardner reiterated that, saying, “the crux of that test” is the authority that supervisors have.
“If (the employers) dictate what time they have to be there, what they have to do … if they designate the place, if they review the person’s work,” Gardner said, “if you’re trying to establish that the person was an employee, then that’s something you would look for.”
These are also the points on which Harris’s workers may fail. While it’s possible that some campaign workers were functioning as contractors, it’s odd that the Cockeysville Republican doesn’t have a single employee on the books, said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, a conservative group that opposes most forms of campaign finance regulation.
“Campaigns do regularly have people who are independent contractors. It’s usually on the high end, like a consultant,” Parnell said. “Often times it doesn’t make sense to have a full-time accountant or full-time attorney, but for everybody to be an independent contractor, I don’t know I’ve ever seen that.”
There are 14 individual workers paid for consulting in Harris’ records earning a total of $212,606, though few of the payments appear to be for one-time services; almost all are regularly-spaced payments for identical amounts.
Harris campaign manager William Lattanzi, for example, was not classified as an employee, despite receiving bi-weekly paychecks for $2,750 beginning in February. As of the last FEC filing Oct. 13, Lattanzi received a total of $48,750 for “strategic consulting.”
Gardner said it was possible there was a contract that called for the payments, but Lattanzi wouldn’t qualify as a contractor either way if he was supervised by Harris.
Patrick Daly, who received payments for “campaign consultant services,” was a legislative assistant in the Maryland General Assembly and now lists himself on Facebook as an employee of the United States Congress as “Assistant to Congressman Andrew P. Harris, M.D.”
During the campaign, however, Daly was paid as a contractor and received regular payments totaling $16,398 from Harris’s camp for consulting since January 2009, and another $11,100 for “data entry services.”
Early in his congressional career, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, also did not pay workers’ unemployment and other payroll expenses, a move blasted in May 1993 by the Baltimore Sun editorial board, which said he “displayed a serious lack of judgment.”
“(Bartlett) may believe all tax money is squandered, but taxes also pay for benefits his employees are entitled to have,” the board wrote. “Mr. Bartlett apparently has to be coerced into following the laws most of us follow voluntarily.”
Bartlett’s records do not list any payments for these items in the 2010 election either, but there are also almost no payments to individuals and none for consulting.
All other incumbent Maryland U.S. representatives list payments for payroll taxes.
Side-stepping employer tax costs could save candidates a significant amount of money, especially on larger campaigns with staffs as extensive as Harris’. For example, Harris’ opponent, outgoing Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, lists five campaign employees making a total of $62,120 for this election. Kratovil spent almost $27,825 on payroll taxes, health benefits and unemployment insurance.
Harris and Kratovil combined spent almost $3.9 million dollars on the race in Congressional District 1. Kratovil declined to comment for this article.
Lisa Lester, a spokeswoman from the Maryland Comptroller’s Office, said the classification question “wasn’t our issue” because the taxes are all ultimately paid by someone, but that the candidates “should have been paying unemployment for those people.”
But Stanley Block, a Baltimore tax attorney since 1961, said it’s “not just a black and white thing” — there are straightforward regulations in place, but small differences could change a lot.
“He may hire 10 different people, three may be employees, seven may be independents,” Block said. “It’s really hard to say.”
Isacco said he encouraged his clients to be especially careful if there was any question about how to classify workers.
“It can be really harsh,” Isacco said. “If the IRS comes in and audits you and says you misconstrued your employees, they will levy all kinds of back taxes and penalties and interest.”
But there are myriad ways that these lines are blurred. For example, Edwards, D-Fort Washington, last paid payroll taxes for her campaign workers in June 2009, according to FEC records. In 2010, she spent about $28,700 in “consulting fees” for campaign manager Adrienne Christian and communications director Dan Weber; both also work in her congressional office.
Weber said Edwards’s three campaign workers were accurately classified as contractors and attributed 2009’s payroll costs to an employee who has since “switched” to contractor status.
“We don’t spend the majority of our time working for the campaign,” Weber said. “We are independent contractors.”
Maryland’s newest congressman is defending comments about congressional health care that critics are calling hypocritical. Representative-elect Andy Harris, a Republican who has said he would vote to repeal Congress’ health care overhaul, is facing criticism over questions during a Monday orientation on why his congressional health coverage did not begin immediately upon taking office. Harris told Baltimore’s WBAL-TV that he asked about the start date because members of congress are going to have to align their current insurance with their new insurance. Harris pointed to what he said was the irony in requiring American’s to have health insurance when federal employees who are not hired on the right day of the month have to go without health care for a while.
By JON AERTS
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Every member of Maryland’s congressional delegation won re-election Tuesday, except Rep. Frank Kratovil, whose two-year incumbency in the Eastern Shore district was the only one of the state’s seats affected by a nearly universal call for change.
“There was obviously a wave of nationwide change — swapping out incumbents with newcomers — that didn’t materialize in Maryland,” said Eric Wargotz, who lost his bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. “But even though we weren’t victorious, the nation was victorious.”
Republicans won 60 more seats in the House of Representatives, as of late Wednesday, to take over the majority. Democrats lost six seats in the Senate, but retained their hold on the majority.
Wargotz fell to Mikulski by 438,489 votes, or 36 percent, to Mikulski’s 61.8 percent.
Of the seven congressional incumbents who retained their offices, District 4 Democrat Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, enjoyed the largest margin of victory, garnering 149,566 votes, or 83.5 percent, to Robert Broadus’s 29,234, or 16 percent. The district includes portions of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
Longtime incumbent Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, who will soon lose his post as House majority leader after a tide of nationwide Republican triumphs flooded the House chamber Tuesday, beat his tea party challenger by some 30 percent in District 5, which encompasses Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties, as well as portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties. While Republican Charles Lollar netted a formidable 79,359 votes, Hoyer won with 145,411 votes.
District 2 Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, routed his GOP opponent, Marcelo Cardarelli, 64 percent to 33 percent of the vote, or 127,110 to 66,382 votes out of 198,485 ballots cast, according to unofficial counts. The 2nd District includes portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties, as well as Baltimore City.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, trounced Republican Jim Wilhelm, by 24 points. Sarbanes’s district, which gave him 137,058 votes to Wilhelm’s 81,916, includes portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City.
District 6, the only reliably red district in Maryland, returned nine-term Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, to office, rejecting Democrat Andrew Duck’s bid by a comfortable 66,777 votes. The 6th district encompasses Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, as well as portions of Baltimore, Hartford and Montgomery counties.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, also won handily over his nearest opponent, Republican Frank Mirabile Jr., gathering 142,395 votes to Mirabile’s 43,930 in District 7, which includes portions of Baltimore and Howard counties in addition to Baltimore City.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, who as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may end up with some of the blame for the huge Democratic losses in the House, will also see another two years. Van Hollen drubbed Republican Michael Lee Philips with nearly 73 percent to 25 percent. Van Hollen collected 137,909 votes this time around and won by about 90,000 votes.
In Maryland’s only real swing district — it’s gone from Republican to Democratic and back again in six years — freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. conceded to state Sen. Andy Harris shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday in a 1st District race that surprised pundits by not being as close as they thought.
“The results tonight … show us that the American Dream is still alive,” Harris told the 200-or-so attendees at his after party at Harris Crab House on Kent Narrows. “We’re going to make sure America remains a land of opportunity.”
As of Wednesday evening, Harris tallied 146,272 to 111,237 votes, or 54 percent to 41 percent of the total votes cast, according to Maryland State Board of Election figures.
Charles Dyes, a 55-year-old businessman at the party, supported Harris because, he said, Kratovil has been largely unresponsive to his constituents. “Where’s (Kratovil) been?” he said. “He’s been a ghost.”
In another crab joint not far from Harris’s election-night jamboree, Kratovil’s supporters were more somber.
“There’s a bad image of the Democratic Party and I think he’s (Kratovil) taken the brunt of it,” Matt Pinder, a 25-year-old Kratovil supporter said.
Official election results will be certified on Dec. 1, after all provisional and absentee ballots are counted.
By RICHARD ABDILL and JON AERTS
Capital News Service
KENT ISLAND – State Sen. Andy Harris made this round look easy — toppling freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in their rematch for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.
Kratovil spoke to his supporters at the Crab Deck restaurant a little before 11 p.m., saying that he was “consistently overwhelmed” by his supporters and praised the electoral process.
“The battles we have we fight at the ballot box and not on the battlefield.”
With 77 percent of the vote in, Harris was leading Kratovil 54 to 42 percent. The Washington Post called the race for Harris. Last time around, in 2008, it took a week before the race between the two was official.
Frank Kratovil Sr., 77, from the Crab Deck restaurant, said he was “apprehensive” most of the night.
Just a half mile away at Harris Crab House, Kathryn Harris, the candidate’s niece and a nurse, said she was “very confident” that her uncle would pull it off this time.
“He will use his platform as a doctor to affect change in Congress,” she said.
But perhaps the biggest deciding factor in the race may be the mood of the electorate. In 2008, Kratovil was helped by enthusiasm for President Obama, although Sen. John McCain won the district. This time, it’s a rising tide of Republicanism and a call for change that is lifting Harris.
“It’s time to take the trash out,” said Bernie Parkinson, 62, a retired firefighter and registered Democrat who voted for Harris. “Everybody wants change” this year.
That’s the feeling, too, of Charles Dyes, a 55-year-old Dorchester businessman at the Harris party.
“Politicians are playing puppets with us all,” he said. “We need change.” And he said that Kratovil has been unresponsive.
“Where’s (Kratovil) been? He’s been a ghost.”
Even House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th District got a taste of the mood. Republican Charles Lollar was close enough after early results were in that it was the only other federal race in Maryland not called almost immediately. Hoyer went on to beat Lollar. Marcella Drain, 31, who voted on Kent Island in the 1st District Tuesday, demonstrated the 1st District’s swing nature. She voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, and also for Kratovil.
“What I like about him is he’s local,” she said of Kratovil, the former Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney. “I like his history and track record.”
Kratovil and Harris first butted heads in 2008, when Harris unseated nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary.
That time around, the general election was so close it took a week for Harris to concede. Ultimately, 360,480 votes were cast in District 1 and official results left Kratovil the winner by 2,852 votes, or a .8 percent margin. On election night, however, Kratovil led by just 915 votes.
The lead-up to this year’s race has indicated it could be just as close: an Oct. 6 poll published by The Hill and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland had the candidates statistically tied; another, an automated poll from Monmouth University two weeks later, had Harris ahead 53 percent to 42 percent. On Oct. 25, the Baltimore Sun released yet another poll, this one with the two candidates tied at 40 percent.
The Washington Post and other media outlets already called the U.S. Senate race for Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski, and all other congressional incumbents except the 1st District and 5th District, where House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was wrangling with tea party leading light and Republican Charles Lollar.
By far the closest House contest in the state, District 1 had more spending than the rest of the races combined: while final tallies won’t come in until early next month, Federal Election Commission reports show the two candidates spent a combined $1.3 million between Aug. 26 and the end of September. The other House races combined spent less than half a million dollars.
More than $1.1 million of Kratovil and Harris’s spending has gone into several heated television spots in which each accused the other of dishonesty in ways that may have been dishonest themselves.
Kratovil accused Harris in an ad of supporting a 23 percent sales tax, a mischaracterization of a bullet point on Harris’s website saying he “can support either the flat tax or the fair tax.” Harris demanded Kratovil stop running the ad and said Kratovil cited a report that never mentioned the fair tax. The report, compiled by a committee commissioned by President George W. Bush, mentions the fair and flat tax programs more than 30 times.
Harris mirrored the strategy of many Republican challengers nationwide, attacking Kratovil’s association with the current Democratic administration by pointing to his votes in favor of the economic stimulus and the cap-and-trade energy bill. The Harris campaign also put out a statement attacking Kratovil for a recent fundraiser headlined by Vice President Joe Biden.
Kratovil has banked on his independence, a necessity in his deeply Republican district. He pointed to votes against the final version of the health care bill and the 2010 budget, as well as endorsements from Chambers of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, which supported Harris in 2008.
Harris, like Kratovil, did get an A rating from the NRA and said he didn’t get the endorsement because groups tend to support incumbents. Harris did once again get the endorsement of the Gun Owners of America.
The Republican Party also considered Harris a rising star, with National Committee Chairman Michael Steele bringing his “Fire Pelosi” (for getting rid of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) to Harris’ campaign headquarters in the final weekend before the vote.
In 2008, the Obama wave didn’t quite reach the Eastern Shore. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain won the 1st District by 19 points, but Harris still lost to a Democrat. A win for him this time around would signal just how much discontent there is with Democratic leadership, even with those who have not voted the party line on key votes.
With less than two weeks until the district’s contentious House race between incumbent Representative Frank Kratovil, D-Md.-1st, and Republican challenger Andy Harris, spending has far eclipsed any other House race in the state. Together, Harris and Kratovil spent more than $1.3-million between August 26 and September 30. The state’s other seven districts combined spent less than half a million dollars. Kratovil has spent $857,661; Harris has spent $457,535.