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O’Malley Speaking Fees Raise Questions, but Pales Next to the Clintons

Posted: September 27, 2015 at 10:12 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

markUncaphernewBy Mark Uncapher

Only because former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is in a primary with Hillary Clinton would his “speaking fees” fail to attract more attention. Yet, O’Malley has collected nearly $148,000 for a single speech and consulting in the months after he left office in January from a tech company that collected millions from no-bid state contracts while he was governor.

The company, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), first obtained an initial, three-year, a sole-source contract in 2011 for $2,130,000.   A year ago, in August 2014, then-Governor O’Malley and Board of Public Works approved the first of two one-year renewal options without discussion for an additional $876,000.

Recently the state’s renewal contract for $784,000 with ESRI came up for renewal before the Board of Public Works meeting. Together, Governor Hogan and State Comptroller Franchot voted to table it.

Commenting on the arrangement, Democratic State Comptroller Peter Franchot said: “My concern is that it’s a sole-source contract and, right after the governor leaves office, you have a $140,000 contract to come out and give a speech. I’m comfortable with your company. I’m not comfortable with the quid pro quo.”

Governor Hogan was pithier: “Hope that was a hell of a speech.”

Other O’Malley speeches included a $50,000 appearance at a Baltimore conference sponsored by Center Maryland. The Washington Post has noted that the organization leaders include a former O’Malley communications director, the finance director of his presidential campaign and the director of a super PAC formed to support O’Malley’s presidential bid. Whether Center Maryland may have actually served as a conduit for payments from another source has not been disclosed.

Speaking fees have not been the former Governor’s only source of controversy. He and his wife were permitted to pay $9,638 for 54 pieces of furniture from the governor’s mansion which originally cost $62,000. Although ethics rules prohibit preferential sales of state-owned property to government officials, the sales were made without seeking bids or notifying the public that the items were available for sale. Gov. Larry Hogan has disputed that the furniture was “junk” or that it would have been disposed of had O’Malley not purchased the items.

According to Hogan, “Had it not all been removed a few days before we moved in, our intention would have been to leave all of it in place, just as it was, in the people’s house.”

And yet the O’Malleys remain mere pikers next to Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton. The Clintons reported in May that together they had earned in excess of $25 million for delivering 104 speeches since the beginning of 2014. That works out to about $240,000 per speech, or 70% more than Martin O’Malley received for his single high dollar speech.

While Hillary Clinton served as a U.S. senator and then secretary of state, Bill Clinton reported that he made $105 million for delivering more than 540 speeches. During Mrs. Clinton’s final year at the State Department, the former president was paid more than $16.3 million for 72 speeches. The rundown of speaking engagements includes a laundry list of companies, associations and other organizations with histories of trying to influence government policy.

By itself, a former Maryland governor receiving nearly $150,000 for a single speech from a state vendor should raise red flags. And yet, now that Martin O’Malley is in a race with Hilary Clinton, it seems unexceptional.

That scandal should be the real source of outrage.