Wandering Eye: The honeymoon with CEO Thornton is over, inside Baltimore's campaign financing, and more

One more thing to worry about is the consolidated power of political fundraising consultants, according to this more-than-provocative rant by Zachary Gallant, who says he was running someone's campaign for "a city-wide race" years ago but quit in disgust when, in secret and at the behest of a potential donor, they agreed to back "martial law for the poorest black neighborhoods." The rest of the piece does a reasonable job of unpacking the hidden power of the region's dominant campaign consultants. If you haven't heard of Colleen Martin-Lauer and Rachel Rice, the rival fundraisers Gallant discusses, that's kind of the point. Martin-Lauer raised millions for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Martin O'Malley before her, plus "Jim Kraft, Nick Mosby, Bobby Curran, Pete Welch, Mary-Pat Clarke, Brandon Scott, Sharon Greene Middleton and Bill Cole, as well as an astonishing number of other elected Democrats across the state, including the Baltimore Uprising's hero-of-the-day, State's Attorney Mosby," Gallant writes. "That's at least nine of the fifteen-member council, plus the Mayor herself." Rice is big in legislative races, Gallant informs us. But what about that bombshell "martial law" pledge, which Gallant makes the linchpin of what the headline of his piece calls "Baltimore's White Supremacist Politics"?  Gallant drops a clue as to the candidate's identity: "It's hard to call it specifically racist," Gallant says of the "martial law" pledge, "since the candidate was black." Gallant's LinkedIn shows one citywide campaign in Baltimore: In 2007 (when he was still an undergrad at Antioch) he was "Senior Campaign Consultant" for Michael Sarbanes' failed bid for City Council president. But the martial law candidate he writes about can't be Sarbanes, who is oh so white. SRB, meanwhile, parted ways with Martin-Lauer just yesterday, The Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports. She's hired Binetti Political Strategies. Gallant doesn't even mention them. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Media Twitter is a-twitter over a Ben Terris' Washington Post profile of Benny Johnson, the Buzzfeed meme-maker who got caught plagiarizing and now makes memes at the conservative site Independent Journalism Review. The profile was "flattering," to quote Gawker, which immediately jumped into attack mode with tweeted pictures of Terris and Johnson together, implying the favorable coverage came because the two are friends. Enter another Washington reporter named Ben—this one being Freed, of Washingtonian—to explain that the D.C. press corps is not "a big orgy of professional back-scratching." He explains how he and Johnson were once photographed at a press event because they both wore gray suits and gingham shirts. The picture got tweeted out, but its existence does not mean they suddenly became best buds. And for the record, Freed writes, "there is no secret 'Ben caucus' in which Johnson, Terris, Jenkins, and I—along with the Associated Press's Ben Nuckols, National Journal's Ben Pershing, Johnson's former boss Ben Smith, Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilly, Poynter's Ben Mullins, New York Times Jets scribe Ben Shpigel, Streetsblog's Ben Fried, the Ann Arbor News's Ben Freed, and the ghost of Ben Bradlee—plot to force even more people named Ben into the media landscape." Well that's a relief. (Brandon Weigel)

 

It's fair to say the honeymoon is over with Baltimore City schools CEO Gregory Thornton, who, in July, will have been in the position for a year. This week, the City Council went off on Thornton for firing 59 school-based employees after assuring the council that all layoffs would be from the central office. When a Thornton staffer explained that the school-based cuts were necessary because of union rules, City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton was having none of it. "How dare you blame it on collective bargaining," she said. "It's so disrespectful. It's disheartening." Thornton is also facing a major fight over the closing of Langston Hughes Elementary, and of course was the subject of considerable mockery over his handling of the snow this year. Thornton was only too happy to take credit for school serving breakfast and lunch to all students—which is a great development—sending a robocall to all system parents, personally informing them of the "great news," but the truth is that it's a federal program and the General Assembly cleared the way for its implementation. It all makes us wonder if Thornton still thinks, as he told us when we talked to him last fall, that things were "a little more complex" is his last job, in Milwaukee, than they are in Baltimore. (Evan Serpick)

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