Maryland's Larry Hogan — a Republican who governs a blue state — is the most popular governor in America, with a 73% approval among state Democrats. He is also a flagrant crook.
Hogan has booked $2.4m in personal income during his three years in office, most of it thanks to his cancellation of a desperately needed public transit expansion in Baltimore, the funds from which were diverted to building roads in the middle of nowhere that just happened to serve the suburban property developments his company owned. That company was nominally put in his brother's hands when Hogan took office, but as the Washington Monthly's Eric Cortellessa reports, that was a fiction, and Hogan has continued to oversee his company even as he made public policy that made his governorship the most profitable in Maryland history.
None of this is a secret: Hogan has bragged about it and his office has issued maps boasting about where his new roads were going in. Hogan claims to be "the Republican who believes in climate change," even as he's overseen a radical expansion in automobile use that was paid for by destroying an ambitious public transit scheme, which will benefit the state's suburban whites at the expense of the large Black population of Baltimore, who have been shat upon by their state for generations.
It's all probably legal, too, because Maryland has some of the weakest anti-corruption rules in America.
In the New Republic, Alex Pareene describes Hogan as the kind of "normal" Republican that centrist Democrats yearn to work with — ordinarily corrupt and rapacious, with plausibly deniable policies of white supremacy, uncomplicated by explicit white nationalist rhetoric. The kind of Republican who will claim to care about climate change, while exacerbating the problem and pocketing millions.
Bernie Sanders is leading in the Iowa polls. I am a donor to his campaign. I gave him $200 more last night.
His flamboyant and obvious corruption is also mostly likely legal—as one academic corruption expert told The Baltimore Sun, Maryland is among the national leaders in allowing "legal corruption"—but he is far from the only politician to push the bounds of the law. The normalization of this sort of personal self-dealing has turned out to be one of the most successful political projects of our age; it has happened right under our noses. With Hogan, we can see clearly how the scheme works. But no one can credibly explain how Mitch McConnell's wealth keeps increasing, or why Andrew Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission, or why Bob Menendez is still a senator, or why Democrats in Congress are only pretending to seek Trump's tax returns while doggedly refusing to investigate his personal finances and business dealings.
This has happened with the help of a Republican judiciary that has defined corruption practically out of existence. Once, robust local newspapers might have functioned as a kind of stopgap, exposing obvious wrongdoing and holding the powerful to account. But today, many of those newsrooms have shuttered, and the national political press, after four years of reporting on Donald Trump, no longer treats self-dealing as inherently scandalous. They operate in a feedback loop with a subset of fairly well-off American voters who no longer punish this behavior in the rare cases when they are presented with it clearly. Larry Hogan is crooked. Larry Hogan is popular. Being crooked doesn't matter. So long as he's good for our property values, he can graft his way to the apocalypse.
The Most Popular Crook in America [Alex Pareene/New Republic]
(via Naked Capitalism)