D.C., Maryland and Virginia Politics

Mark Plotkin
WTOP Political Commentator
Tuesday, June 5, 2007; 2:00 PM

WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin was online Tuesday, June 5 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the latest news from Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The transcript follows.

Archive: Mark Plotkin discussion transcripts

Plotkin joined WTOP after 10 years as a political analyst for WAMU radio. He has been active in D.C. and national politics since attending George Washington University in the late '60s.

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Washington: Keep it up on D.C. voting rights! Ignore these idiots who suggest that Washington doesn't deserve it for one reason or another. Democracy is the birthright of every human being on this planet. Period. We need not earn it or deserve it. We were born with it.

Mark Plotkin: It looks like there will be a mark-up on this bill next Wednesday, June 13. The Democrats are not expecting any defections. The real issue will be how many Republican votes it gets. The last time this committee, chaired by Lieberman, had a bill similar to this, the Republicans didn't bother to show up. I do remember Fred Thompson, the ranking Republican, couldn't have been more unfriendly and hostile to the issue. This time they are concentrating their efforts on Collins (Maine), Voinovich (Ohio) and Coleman (Minnesota). If Lieberman gets any of these, or all three, that would be a coup.

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Arlington, Va.: What're you whining about now? What's the latest issue to get your undies in a knot?

Mark Plotkin: I don't think I'm whining. But I do have some concerns. I spoke of them last week. I'd like to see Fannie Mae -- that's the giant corporate tax evader -- pay its fair share of local corporate income tax. Because they are a Government-Sponsored Enterprise, they are exempt from local corporate income tax. They make more than $2 billion in profit. They are the ninth-largest corporation in the world (yes, you read that right). And they refuse to pay a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

They have been disgraced and discredited and fired their two top executives, Frank Raines and Timothy Howard. They supposedly have a new corporate culture and I have invited Daniel Mudd, their new CEO, on my show and I will continue to invite him. My colleague, Mark Segraves, broke the story last week that the mayor will ask them to make a payment in lieu of taxes and he will go to Sen. Chris Dodd to ask him to review the provision that exempts them from paying local corporate income tax.

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Columbia, Md.: So if Barry knew he had an employee who used crack, he would have fired her?

Mark Plotkin: This story deserves further examination. What we know now is that the individual charged was an employee of a temporary employment agency and the assumption is that Barry had no role in hiring her nor is there an inference that he knew her. She has worked in his office as a clerical assistant since April. She is a former resident of Ward 8 and went to Ballou High School. Barry's chief of staff, it is reported in The Post today, was sent to the council office. He said that he did not know Tonya Bell. She now lives in Oxon Hill, Md.

I'm intrigued by the remark by Barry's chief of staff that he "didn't know her well." Does that mean he never had met her before she started her employment? And what is not addressed is, did Marion Barry know her before she started working in his his office? She had many convictions for drug use and that obviously raises questions about any possible past association with Barry. I'm not saying that they know each other but the question rightly should be asked. Also, why it is against the law, as I've been told by a council member, for any employee to work in a council office who does not live in D.C.? How many employees are there working in council offices who are not residents?

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Baltimore: A Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates (can't recall his name) announced that he will run against Wayne Gilchrest for Congress. And supposedly there also will be Republican primary opposition. Does anyone have better than a snowball's chance in hell of unseating Rep. Gilchrest?

Mark Plotkin: Wayne Gilchrest is one of my favorites because he has shown great political courage over the years as a member of the U.S. House. In 1993 he was the only Republican to vote for the D.C. statehood bill. And as you know, recently he was one of two Republicans to break with his leadership and administration and vote against funding for the war. His opponent will be a member of the Maryland legislature named Harris, and he is a physician from Baltimore County. The entire Republican party thinks that Gilchrest is a rhino (Republican in name only). In fact, I think they feel he is really a Democrat. Anyway, the Republican establishment will back Harris to the fullest. Gilchrest in the past has fended off conservative opposition because he is so well-known, well-liked and admired for his courage of convictions. This will be a tougher fight because the Republicans really want to teach Gilchrest a lesson.

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Franconia, Va.: Hibbert's coming back! How do those Hoyas look next year?

washingtonpost.com: Green to Leave for NBA, Hibbert to Stay (Post, May 24)

Mark Plotkin: I have to admit that Georgetown will be tough. They will miss Jeff Green but they are still a strong team.

Final point on my ongoing crusade to get George Washington to play Georgetown. Steve Trachtenberg says "let the coaches decide." That's bogus. The presidents of Georgetown and GW should instruct each coach to put this game on their schedule. The coaches, I thought, work for the university -- and the president is the head of the university. This is just an artful dodge.

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Spokane, Wash.: Awfully quiet chat today. Perhaps Tony Kornheiser could help liven up the discussion

Mark Plotkin: Glad to get such a national representation. Thanks for logging on, but I don't need your suggestion. He knows precious little about politics. Now if you're talking "American Idol," he seems to be an expert. I refuse to dumb-down this medium and resort to common pop culture. If that's your thing then contact the aforementioned.

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Arlington, Va.: Why is it such a big deal about Tonya Bell? You can't swing a dead cat in Washington without hitting a crackhead, so why is it a surprise one works in Barry's office?

washingtonpost.com: Suspect Has Long Record of Addiction (Post, June 5)

Mark Plotkin: Things are picking up a little. I knew this subject would spark controversy. I repeat, I just instinctively feel that there is more to this story and our intrepid investigative reporter Mark Segraves will, I'm sure, be working on developing this story further. Marion Barry is unbelievably prone to getting himself into embarrassing situations which, consequently, embarrass the city.

 Right now it's just a coincidence that the temp agency hired somebody and Barry was saddled with this person. Is this the whole story? Did Barry know this person or arrange for her employment? Maybe none of these things are true or relevant but they definitely should be asked. Right now Barry has said that he will not take any other employees from this temp agency and he hopes the story goes away and is over. It's our responsibility to dig further and to see if this is the real end of the story. I'd like to hear comment from others on whether or not this is truly the end of the story. This is not to sensationalize the story but to get to the bottom of it. So let's hear your thoughts.

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Washington: Why does it appear that Mayor Fenty is trying to take control of almost everything in the city? First schools, now this Economic Development Authority -- what's next? I think he will end up doing more harm by not truly delegating these tasks and working with the agencies that exist.

washingtonpost.com: Fenty, Brown Face Fight to Revamp Agencies (Post, June 5)

Mark Plotkin: I admire him for taking on these functions. His motto seems to be "hold me accountable." His predecessor, Tony Williams, spent the last three years of his term traveling the globe and never really seeming interested in issues or topics that a mayor should be concerned with. Fenty seems interested in everything and has enormous energy and lives and breathes the job. This only can be an asset for the city. I think that sometimes he should sit back and think a little bit -- he doesn't have to be constantly moving. But he is the polar opposite of Williams in that he enjoys being a big-city mayor.

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Washington: Did I see you wandering around the lower deck at RFK Stadium last week while the Dodgers were in town?

Mark Plotkin: Yes, you caught me. I was there and I do walk around. I guess I've been spotted. I am still trying to become a National League fan. Growing up in Chicago, rooting for the White Sox, I was a devoted American League fan. But I love going to the games, and after 36 years it's great to have a team in town.

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Washington: I read in your last chat about your opinion of Sen. Stevens (Alaska). Can I just agree with you? I watched him ask questions in a hearing about Hurricane Katrina and I was amazed, and I mean, amazed at his attitude and rudeness. What is Alaska smoking that they keep electing this guy? I actually lived there when I was younger and I'm just shocked. I felt so bad for the witnesses, some of whom were hurricane victims, who had to deal with his questions.

Mark Plotkin: Thanks for agreeing with me. He is a particularly embittered and, at times, ugly human being. His response to my question about D.C. voting rights was so unnecessarily hostile and mean-spirited. The reason he gets re-elected is that he has brought home the bacon to Alaska. He is the most senior Republican, having been elected in 1968, and was, until the Republicans lost the Senate, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee -- you remember the highway to nowhere. He is given deference, I think, just because of age and seniority, not ability.

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Baltimore: It seems to me that if I sent in a comment that involved Tony Kornheiser, you simply could have ignored it and moved on. Don't you think taking a swipe at him in a forum like this is rather petty?

Mark Plotkin: No, I don't think it's petty. It gave me an opportunity to voice an opinion. He never has been fair to me and he deserves this sentiment. I didn't bring it up, but I responded to it.

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Springfield, Va.: Can we please have your predictions for the primaries coming up next week? Besides lots of signs hidden by all of the tall grass, I have seen little or no polling on any of the races.

Mark Plotkin: Tune in Tuesday. Hank Silverberg and yours truly will be giving some election reporting and analysis. I'm particularly interested in the primary in Richmond for the Senate seat where the incumbent is being challenged. You remember he left his party and supported George Allen. I asked Gov. Kaine whether he was going to take a role in this primary fight and he said he never does get involved in primaries unless its an "extraordinary situation." Well this sure is an extraordinary situation. I know there are races in Northern Virginia that are interesting, and we will talk about them on Tuesday night. So please tune in to WTOP 103.5 FM. You know that in the Virginia State Senate the Democrats are just four seats away from taking the majority. In the House, they are 11 seats short. Virginia is becoming not a blue state, but a purple state. We will see if the trend continues.

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Prince George's, Md.: During session there was talk of Peter Franchot aligning himself to run against O'Malley in the Democratic primary. I know it's early, but do these rumors have any substance behind them? And would he stand any chance?

Mark Plotkin: Peter Franchot's ambition knows no bounds. I say this as a compliment. The Baltimore Sun and The Post (Franchot Expands Role of Maryland Comptroller, May 28) recently wrote articles attesting to this attribute. The Sun told the story of how at a meeting of the Board of Public Works Franchot introduced his daughter in the room who was standing behind some TV cameras, obviously shunning the limelight and the governor spontaneously said that Franchot's daughter obviously took after her mother. I don't think he ever would run against O'Malley in a primary but sure is waiting to run once O'Malley finishes his two terms. Of course, he will have to face Doug Gansler, the Attorney General, who has just as much ambition as Franchot.

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D.C. Schools: Any news on those 20,000 signatures needed to postpone Fenty's definitive takeover of D.C. schools? I for one am in favor him taking them over -- we've got to do something different. If he is able to take them over, do you think he actually will be able to make an impact?

Mark Plotkin: No I don't. This is almost an impossible task in such a short time and I have not seen much evidence of people collecting signatures. It would amaze me if they succeeded. I think Fenty didn't want to see this measure on the ballot because he was worried that it very well would pass and his control of the schools would be in jeopardy. His self-imposed cautionary admonition is "take nothing for granted." I think this applies to this situation.

That's all for this week. See you same time, same place next week. Thank you.

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