The Baltimore Sun reported on a Friday night event in Annapolis featuring House of Cards star Kevin Spacey organized by a lobbyist pushing for more money in tax credits for film production in Maryland. The story, written by Michael Dresser, included quotes from a candidate for Lt. Governor and a candidate for Governor:
Del. Jeannie Haddaway of Talbot County, the running mate of GOP candidate David R. Craig, said she’s a big supporter of the program.
“On the Eastern Shore we’ve seen the benefit of the film industry, most recently with “Wedding Crashers” in St. Michaels,” she said.
For Del. Ron George, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, the party was only a few steps from his Annapolis jewelry store.
George, an occasional actor who said he’s probably the only Maryland lawmaker with a Screen Actors Guild card, expressed support for the film tax credit program as he headed in to meet his union
“I will do whatever I can to attract them here, but I don’t take kindly to threats,’ he said.
George was an especially desirable guest because he sits on the Ways and Means Committee, which will decide the position the House will take in its negotiations with the Senate. [emphasis added]
Mark Newgent wrote about the bill Saturday. Here’s what he said about the bill itself:
House of Cards has already benefitted from $26 million in taxpayer subsidies, and The House is considering an O’Malley administration sponsored bill to increase the credit by $11 million, meanwhile earlier this week the Senate approved increasing the subsidy to $18.5 million.
Newgent also discussed what Haddaway and George said about the bill:
Haddaway’s support for the subsidies doesn’t surprise me as she’s proposed millions in bond bill pork for her district.However, Ron George, one of the Republicans who, actually walks the walk in Annapolis, voicing support for these subsidies is surprising. I vividly remember a House GOP Caucus pre-session briefing, in 2010 where Ron chastised the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for “taking the wind out of his sails” by rolling over on principle for meager scraps from the O’Malley administration. It’s rare that you’ll find a Republican legislator willing to call out those who are, at least ostensibly on their side. I hope Ron and Jeannie reconsider their support for this clear case of corporate welfare. [emphasis added]
Based upon what Newgent wrote about Ron George supporting the tax credits for “House of Cards,” I emailed Ron George this morning and asked him why he was supporting them. Ron quickly responded by writing, “What? I am not for this.”
A few hours later, Ron George got back to me with his official answer. And, here it is, verbatim and in full…
“There is a litmus test I made when voting on tax credits.
Of course my first choice is to lower all business taxes. It drives me crazy that the liberal dems go gaga over some actor and start saying a lower tax will stimulate growth but they won’t give a break to the local businesses.
My test is simply:
1st: given our states high taxes will this be a credit that will generate growth in a industry which is stagnant because of our high rates and will the industry grow on its own after that.
2nd: is it a credit given to one business but not to others in the same industry and if so, why is that: Is it because of donations given to elected officials? (Crony capitalism) This is a big NO vote for me. Note I have been uncovering for two years and arguing that Maximus gave big donations to O’Malley and the DGA right after getting the contract for the health care rollout because O’Malley chose them out of ten companies without a procurement process. That is wrong.
I did support the film tax credit the first time as it was meant for the entire film industry and not just one company and was a small test to see if it would work. It has not.
This time they are back asking for much more and, as I told the press, I do not believe they have shown how this is attracting the industry and generating growth on its own. They also have made no attempt to locate here and establish more growth, AND I feel local businesses deserve a break 1st. It is not our job to tax locals in order to help companies located elsewhere.
I was asked by the press to come to say a comment. I went to Red Red Wine (my Jewelery store is three doors up) spoke to the press, stuck my head in and left after one beer. i watched it as an anthropology project…It was sickening to see the gaga attitudes of liberals who won’t cut a break for the local business guy. I told the press I will listen to what they have to say as I do on all issues pro or con. But It was too hokey a gathering so I left after a quick draft beer.
Larry Hogan’s marionettes at Red Maryland imply I support it and never asked. I do not see stats that support this increase and this credit. I am one big reason it has been held up in my committee. It is a shame that Red Maryland has lost their credibility. A credible news person would have asked me. But then Hogan won’t even debate me.”
Mark Newgent responded and accused Steffen of defaming Red Maryland and him personally in his post.
Newgent also talked to George on the phone:
Does Ron George support the film tax credit? No he does not. My mistake was relying on Dressser’s reporting, and not contacting George to confirm it. I spoke with Del. George on the phone, and what he told me was quite interesting.George told me he never actually read my post after Steffen contacted him. In fact, his response was based solely on what Steffen told him about my piece. George told me entire exchange was conducted via Facebook messenger.Given that Steffen deliberately omitted Dresser’s piece as the source of my statement about George supporting the film tax credit, as well as a key sentence to distort what I wrote, it should be no surprise that Steffen mislead George about what I actually wrote. [emphasis added]
Mark, I thank you for the phone call this evening and allowing me the chance to explain my position on the film tax credit. While you apologized for assuming the Mike Dresser Sun article was correct and for not calling me, I also owe you an apology for my strong comment at the end of my earlier statement as this was the second time Red Maryland wrote something without calling me first and thus I responded a bit harsh. I apologize since I had not yet read your full comment where you had complemented me for “having always walked the walk”. I realize your comments of me were more an expression of shock that I would continue to support it. I will say that you are someone that tries to be fair in your reporting. I appreciate your apology for not calling me and I thank you for accepting mine for my stronger than usual statement of frustration at the end of my statement.
The fact is, I never told Dresser I supported it. I said I supported it in the past at a smaller amount to attract the film industry but that we were holding it up in Ways and Means, studying what the returns were and had concerns for the requested larger increase. I also do not see this as helping an entire industry, but only two productions, one in particular. That is against my litmus test for tax credits. My comment I sent out this afternoon on it is below minus my questioning your integrity. Again, thank you for your call this evening to set the record straight.
George went on in the email to discuss the policy in general and made some of the same remarks he made to Steffen about tax breaks.
At the same time, George posted the following comment as a reply to a status update by Joe Steffen (that linked to his post.)
George later deleted the above comment. I already previously discussed issues with communications and social media internally at the George campaign. I will echo what I said then about Ron George engaging in political discussion with others in groups and on their walls from his personal Facebook account.
Newgent closed with this:
Again, I reiterate, nowhere in his piece did Steffen mention Dresser’s Sun article, which was my source, and he selectively omitted a key paragraph where I praised George.Ron George does not support the House of Cards subsidy, and as I said he walks the walk in Annapolis.I can admit when I’m wrong. Can Joe Steffen admit he distorted what I wrote and mislead Delegate George?[emphasis added]
The latest chapter in Red Maryland vs. Joe Steffen seems to have wound down for now.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.