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Hogan Watches Media Closely, Doesn’t Hold Back In Emails

March 14th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

While the Maryland General Assembly's presiding officers rely on staff to read and respond to email on their state accounts, Gov. Larry Hogan is in the driver's seat of his. The 59-year-old Republican is blunt with his staffers when it comes to defending his administration and protecting his image.

The Associated Press obtained hundreds of pages of emails from the governor and leading lawmakers over a week's time in a Public Information Act request as part of a Sunshine Week initiative. From complaints about editorials to how he looks in a photograph, Hogan doesn't hold back when he reads something he doesn't like.

"What idiots," Hogan wrote, after complaining to his deputy director of communications about a reporter's story on a budget matter on Feb. 5 and asking the staffer to correct him.

The AP requested emails and calendar items from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7, a busy week during the state's legislative session that included Hogan's State of the State speech. The governor bristled at an editorial in The Baltimore Sun about his speech to the legislature, in which the newspaper wrote: "The battle lines in Annapolis appear to be shifting from a fight about whether Mr. Hogan's agenda is dangerous for Maryland to one about whether his inaction is setting the state back."

The governor wrote to his communications director: "My 'inaction is setting the state back.' What a joke. We have more action in one year than most do in 8."

The governor added in the Feb. 3 email that he has been a leading voice for improving the state's economic competitiveness and that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch were not focused on the issue before Hogan called attention to it. Hogan noted their response, which included convening an economic development panel headed by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine to make recommendations. The governor wrote that the "fact they have done nothing proves it was a PR stunt in response to me."

Hogan took issue with another Sun editorial two days earlier, after a snowstorm, when the newspaper wrote that Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman raised Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford's street higher in priority for plowing. The Sun quoted Del. Frank Turner as finding it "odd" that his street didn't get plowed as quickly even though he lives near Rutherford.

"What a BS Sun editorial," Hogan wrote to two administration spokesmen. "We have the best response of any state. And the only thing to focus on is Boyd, again?! We should raise holy hell."

He wrote another email less than an hour later: "Baltimore City still hasn't dug out thousands of people and they get a pass. They'd rather talk about one whiny delegate and one street in Howard County as the most important lesson of storm?!"

The Sun isn't the only publication to annoy the governor.

Hogan, who underwent 30 days of chemotherapy last year to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, noted a photo he thought was used often by The Washington Times that showed him during the worst period of his treatment. The governor wrote: "Can we get Wash Times to stop using that photo?"

The week also included a campaign trip to New Hampshire for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned for Hogan in 2014. Hogan emailed an aide who gathers press clips that "you missed a bunch of hogan christie stories and tv clips."

While the Hogan administration released about 210 pages of emails, some were withheld because they were protected by executive privilege, wrote Geoffrey Hengerer, in a letter responding to the PIA request. Documents withheld or redacted involved communications to and from employees and officials of the governor's office in discussion of "different options available to it when considering various budgeting and legislative priorities," Hengerer wrote

Miller and Busch, who are both Democrats, also provided emails and calendars, but both have staffers read and respond to emails. Many of them are letters from residents expressing support or opposition to legislation. Del. Nic Kipke, the House minority leader, and Sen. J.B. Jennings, the Senate minority leader, also provided emails and calendars.

None of them were required to release many of the emails under the state's Public Information Act, according to Sandra Brantley, counsel to the General Assembly. As members of the legislature, all public records related to their legislative activities "are absolutely privileged and do not have to be disclosed," Brantley wrote in a letter responding to the request.

"Nearly every email and calendar item you requested falls within the constitutional legislative privilege," Brantley wrote, adding that the lawmakers decided to waive their privilege. 

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