Recent incidents at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County, Maryland revealed a culture of racism that students say permeates the halls. Educators believe a key to fighting that racism is in the lessons they teach in the classroom.
Maryland’s attorney general isn’t shy about wading into controversial debates. Some of the issues he’s taken on recently include gay marriage, getting rid of the “Adult Services” section of Craigslist, and the future of judicial elections. We talk with Doug Gansler about the legal issues shaping Maryland today — and his political future.
- Douglas Gansler Maryland Attorney General (D)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Maryland's attorney general isn't opposed to stirring up debate even though the state legislator hasn't weighed in on gay marriage yet. This year, Doug Gansler issued an opinion recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, making him a champion among gay rights advocates. He was among those demanding that Craigslist drop its adult services section which carried ads for prostitution. He even sued the EPA for not doing its job to clean up and protect the Chesapeake and the state from outside polluters.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe's up for reelection this fall and he expects to win since he's got no opponent. We expect voters would like to know what he's done over the past four years and what he plans to take off -- take on if and when he's reelected, that's why we have Doug Gansler in the studio. He is the attorney general of Maryland. Good to see you, Doug Gansler.
MR. DOUGLAS GANSLEROh, good to be here. And they tell me that Mickey Mouse garners about 10 to 12 votes a years, so I need to make sure I beat him.
NNAMDIYou make sure you need to even those 10 or 12 votes. So if you have questions for Maryland's attorney general, on casinos, on Craigslist, on the election of judges or anything else, you can call right now, 800-433-8850, or go to our website kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. You can even send us a tweet @kojoshow. Maryland's first casino opened at eight o'clock this morning. There was a question over whether the casino owners acted improperly in fighting the slots at Anne Arundel's Mills Mall -- at Arundel Mills Mall. Your office weighed in on that. There's an investigation going on. What's the story?
GANSLERWell, we actually have stayed out of the entire debate regarding slot machines from the beginning because our office is actually the entity that will ultimately regulate casino gambling here in Maryland. And it's been an ongoing issue for years. In fact, the whole issue started when Maryland was reportedly going to be a destination state for casino gambling and slot machines. Now, of course, every state that surrounds us has it, except for Maryland. So the question then became would Maryland voters welcome slot machines into Maryland? And the answer was yes. The last election, they voted yes, we want slot machine gambling in Maryland.
GANSLERSo then what happened was they put up the licenses for -- you had to pay $28 million, and if you did, you got a license in these different jurisdictions. The restriction at that point was you can only get one license, so you can only have one casino in Maryland. I guess the principle underlying that is we don't wanna invite organized crime and other things into the state. One of the licenses was granted to Penn National, which is a company that did, in fact, opened their first casino this morning up in Cecil County, which is the county that Marylanders drive through as they leave the state heading toward Pennsylvania.
GANSLERAnother licensee is a man named David Cordish, who's a real estate guy up in Baltimore, and he put up his money -- he was the only person who put up his money, and they were supposed to have a casino in Anne Arundel County in Arundel Mills. The people from -- in Anne Arundel County petitioned to have the -- even though those people in Maryland wanted casinos, people there do not, apparently, did not want it. They signed a petition to get it stopped and put it as a referendum on this election ballot.
NNAMDIIt's gonna be on the ballot in November.
GANSLERIt's gonna be in the ballot in November. And the question there is, you know, do you want it or do you not want it and the zoning issue there? Cordish was upset because they think that Penn National is behind this referendum, and ultimately, paying a lot of money to make sure people vote against this casino in Anne Arundel Mills. And the question is, in the contract for these licenses, is that proper to do? Are they allowed to do it? Do they have First Amendment rights to do it? Or is improper to do? My office has been asked to write an opinion regarding that. We're in the processes of doing that. And it really -- there's a civil suit between the two, so, you know, that's where -- will ultimate get resolved. But we are opining on that -- we'll have that opinion out shortly.
NNAMDISo you haven't come to a conclusion as yet on that?
GANSLERWe have not come to a conclusion on that. Though it seems to be that, you know, as long as everybody operates within their spheres, then that would be okay. If you come to the conclusion that it was improper, what ever the allegation is turned out to have resulted in improper conduct, does that affect the right of Penn National to open its casino in Perryville?
GANSLERMost likely not. In fact, they've already opened it as we mention. And what...
GANSLER...it would be is it would be an opinion that the court could rely on and use in issuing its ultimate judgment on this issue. But it would be just be that, an opinion. It's a little bit different than the normal case because -- that when we issued opinions and you mentioned at the top of the show, for example, the issue regarding same sex marriage where there is -- was not a pending case, there's a pending litigation here, so that the effect would be just they would be offering an opinion to the court for its guidance, but he court will make the ultimate decision.
NNAMDIAs we said, there's gonna be a vote on the Anne Arundel slots proposal in November. Any thoughts on that at all?
GANSLERNo. I mean it's a little bit of a reverse NIMBY deal. And sort of, the issue there, of course, is whether or not have it at the mall, which is what Cordish wants, or whether it ought to be at the horse track, where there's already gambling and that's how they get it for example, in Charles Town, West Virginia. So those the two issues, sort of, at debate in terms of the locations.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and inviting your calls on any issue at 800-433-8850. There's a hallucinogenic substance called Salvia, it's nicknamed as magic mint, that is not regulated as a controlled substance by the federal government. You pushed to make it illegal in Maryland. Why?
GANSLER(laugh) Well, because it's a controlled substance. It's basically marijuana meets peyote, your mushrooms is what it is. It actually looks like marijuana. It's small...
NNAMDII looked it up this morning, as a matter of fact.
GANSLERYeah. Well, if you look it off -- if you actually type in Salvia on YouTube...
GANSLER...just watch the first 10 or 12 entries, it's kids videotaping each other and taking it.
GANSLERIt is -- a child died in Delaware, for example, hallucinating while using it. It is illegal on all the surrounding states. It was not illegal in Maryland and particularly at the beach and Ocean City and on the boardwalk was a “Salvia sold here." And the way I found out about this -- of course I was down there, I was in my t-shirt and shorts and the woman says, what is this? You know, if anybody with any power ever found out that they were selling this stuff to kids, some would do something about it. So, of course, I took that under personal advisement, and then brought it to the general assembly. And now, it is...
NNAMDISomebody who's not wearing a T-shirt, for sure.
GANSLERExactly. And so it is now going to be illegal for anyone under 21 to buy it. It should probably be treated just like marijuana. We weren't able to get that far in Annapolis. Ultimately, the federal government will ban this sale in the United States.
NNAMDIIt's been used for years in rituals and stuff in Mexico, but once it crossed the border here, it became a whole other usage completely.
GANSLERIt is, and it's mostly college kids. It's relatively inexpensive. They do market it toward younger people because the flavoring, but it's really more powerful than marijuana in terms of the hallucinogenic effect, but it's a quicker -- it lasts less time.
NNAMDISpeaking of marijuana, the District of Columbia made medical marijuana legal this year. What's your position on that issue? Do you have one?
GANSLERI don't have a position on it. Obviously, it's one of those things where I can see the value on both sides. It is -- it did not pass in Maryland. We stayed out of that debate because, again, that would be one more we would be regulating it. I don't anticipate it not passing any time soon. That said, it did get more traction, and there was certainly more in the debate in Annapolis this past legislative session.
NNAMDIWe have Andrew in Catonsville who like to know what plans do you have to protect Maryland citizens who have fallen into foreclosure and bankruptcy by being victimized?
GANSLERYeah, we've done a number of prosecutions involving scams for that. For example, there was a company -- an outfit called Metro Dream Homes in Prince George's County where they took up to $90 million in, basically, a Ponzi scheme foreclosure deal. Subprime lending is what they were doing. And we were able to get a lot of people their money back and then put some people in jail.
GANSLERWe've done a number of prosecutions of people targeting less sophisticated consumers, if you will, and putting a close to that. The other piece of it, though, is I assembled a group, a task force, a couple of years ago when this started to hit where we put not only the NAACP housing advocates and others but we've also put the mortgage brokers and the bankers in the room to sort of find out where we could find common agreement. Much of that became the governor's legislative package in Maryland which will look prospectively, though not retrospectively, in terms of reducing these things from happening in the future.
NNAMDIYou can call us at 800-433-8850. Our guest is Doug Gansler. He's the attorney general of Maryland. Do you think Maryland should follow D.C.'s lead and legalize medical marijuana? 800-433-8850. Should Salvia be regulated by the state, even if it isn't by the federal government? 800-433-8850. Or you can send us an e-mail to email@example.com. One of the issues you waded in on is the election of judges. What's your position?
GANSLERWhat I would like to do is convert the election of judges in Maryland, the trial judges, to mirror the way which we do our appellate judges, the two appellate courts. And the reason for that is threefold. My biggest motive is the diversity on the bench issue. Never in the history of our state of Maryland has there been an African-American or any other minority, for that matter, elected as a trial judge, as a circuit court judge anywhere in western Maryland, anywhere in southern Maryland or anywhere on the eastern shore, not once.
GANSLERIn fact, African-American judges have lost in many of their elections throughout the state of Maryland. If the only election were somebody will put the picture of their opponent on their campaign literature to say, here is the African-American who wants to be your judge. I'm the white guy who wants to be your judge, vote for me. And it's worked almost without fail. So we're trying to convert that.
GANSLERThe other reason, of course, is the Supreme Court came down with a case called Caperton in West Virginia regarding the amount of money that's put into these judicial elections where there's companies that kind of want to control -- that are located in a particular jurisdiction which will want to control that judge and, basically, buy the election.
GANSLERAnd a final reason is we want our judges to be impartial. We want them not to be subject to the political whims of the day. We want them to look at the facts and the law and rule only on that. We don't want them to have to come to political meetings, which they currently have to do, and so what I want to say, "Well, I can't talk of anything I've done in the past, but in the future, I promise to, for example, anyone accused of dealing drugs, I will lock them up forever." And you've seen it in states like Texas and other places. So just really trying to make it a better system, allowing the voters every 10 years to go to the ballot and have retention ballots. Yea or nay for that particular person.
NNAMDITell us how these retention elections would work. We're talking about circuit court judges in Maryland who are elected; when in fact, appellate court judges are first appointed and then face retention elections later on. How does that work?
GANSLERIt would be the exact same way. In both systems right now, there's something called a judicial nominating commission, which is comprised of people from the community, from that county, lawyers and non-lawyers, and it's a diverse group, and they kind of weigh the qualifications. So they put -- they take the -- from the pool of applicants, they cull it down to two or three people. They send those names to the governor. The governor then makes his or her selection. That person is then on the ballot at the very next election in both systems.
GANSLERIn the appellate system, they're on the ballot against themselves. Is that person qualified to be a judge? It's either yea or nay. And if it's yea, there are again another 10 years. On the circuit court, it's a political election. So the person who raises the most money, knocks on the most doors, may not have ever been in a courtroom before, but happen to have taken the bar exam at some point in the past, then can become the judge, and they're on there for the next 15 years.
GANSLERSo we've got a lot of movement here. We have Sandra Day O'Connor come down to Annapolis. This is one of her big issues. She came down and spoke to a group down there last year. We had some movement. There was a lot of -- it was an election year. We hope to bring it back this year and have more success.
NNAMDIOnto to Jay in Washington, D.C. Jay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Jay. Are you there? Jay, I can hear you but apparently you can't hear me. I'll put you back on hold so that you can answer on your telephone. In a follow-up, Doug Gansler, don't retention election, some would argue, set up essentially the same system you find problematic which is judges running for office?
GANSLERWell, but they're running -- they're not in political elections. They are there to say whether they're qualified or not qualified. Here's my record. Here's my background. Do you think I would make a good judge based on that? It's not -- money is not involved. The politicalization is not involved. The diversity issue is certainly very different in what we'll end up with, so, you know, it's worked very well in Maryland on the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals. We've got, you know, quality judges on both, and we also have requisite diversity and the lack of money in those elections as well.
NNAMDIWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Doug Gansler. He is the attorney general of Maryland running for reelection but with no opponent at this time. So you're it. Your questions and comments are all he has to face at this point, so call us at 800-433-8850 or submit your question or comment at our website, kojoshow.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur guest is Doug Gansler. He is the attorney general of Maryland. He is running for reelection and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Here is Raymond in Woodbridge, Va. Raymond, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RAYMONDCan't pull over. You know, it concerns me why the state is involved in regulating marijuana at all. The state doesn't seem to have credibility because a far more dangerous substance, tobacco, kills half a million people a year, and I don't see the state hanging with that. So what's this (unintelligible) ?
NNAMDIHere's Doug Gansler.
GANSLERYeah. The marijuana thing is -- it's obviously illegal on the federal level. It's illegal to bring marijuana into the country, for example, and different states determined how they want to enforce that law, but it is illegal in every state. So -- then the issue with tobacco is an interesting one and a good one. Attorneys general actually got on the map for being the group that brought the tobacco lawsuits over a decade ago, and we're still bringing millions and millions of dollars into each of the states regarding that litigation. And we're on to newer issues, for example, internet sales of tobacco and other things of that nature. We do regulate, though, the sale of tobacco. For example, minors can't get it and so forth. But, you know -- and we have a number of things.
GANSLERFor example, I lead the fight -- I had 35 other attorneys general sign on a letter that I wrote to the Motion Picture Association asking them to no longer allow people to smoke cigarettes on the screen in PG and G-rated movies. They agreed with that letter that I wrote to them, and today along with sex, violence and nudity, pervasive cigarette smoking is no longer -- is one of the criterion they use to rate the movies so it's gone down precipitously in terms of people actually smoking on the screen, which will ultimately have fewer and fewer people smoking tobacco. So it is an issue that attorneys general in particular have been very involved in. Whether they're gonna make it illegal or not, I don’t think so. You know, they tried that with prohibition on alcohol. Right now, what we're doing is spending a lot more time on education and actually regulating the sale of tobacco.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Raymond. In February, you issued an opinion recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Does Maryland now recognize such marriages?
GANSLERMaryland now recognizes same-sex marriages that occur in the six jurisdictions that allow marriage, but it does not allow it to occur in Maryland. So in Maryland, the law says the marriage is between -- the statute says marriage is between a man and a woman. That was upheld by the Maryland Court of Appeals in a 4 to 3 decision. Since that time, three of the judges have been replaced. My guess would be next time they look at it, they will overturn that statute because it's clearly violative of equal protection laws however you look at it. In fact, across the country, those laws are being overturned, most recently in California which will be a case that should go to the Supreme Court, interestingly argued by Ted Olson who is probably the most conservative lawyer in the country. He was Bush's solicitor general. As he said to me, it's actually -- it is one of the most Republican of issues. You have two people being able to contract with each other to do whatever they want and keep the government out of their private lives.
GANSLERSo that's an issue that will keep going. What Maryland was -- where Maryland was placed was, there are 39 states that either ban through statute or constitution same-sex marriages and the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. Maryland was in a pool of six states that said, we don't allow same-sex marriages here, but we're silent as to what are we gonna do about a couple that gets married on Iowa or Massachusetts or Vermont? Are we gonna recognize that here for a number of purposes, for all purposes or not? In our 45-page opinion, it actually is available on our website, but it's actually came down to a lot less to do with same-sex marriage and a lot more to do with full faith and credit of the United States Constitution. For example, the guy who just called, Raymond from Virginia, was driving his car. You'd hear it. When he drives into Maryland, we don't ask him to get a new driver's license. We recognize that contract, and so that's where it really came down.
NNAMDIDo you think the legislature will take this on anytime soon?
GANSLERThey take it but -- on every single year they actually take the very issue of recognizing same-sex marriage on. They did the last session both the Senate side and the House side. I think in Maryland, it is going to be a long time before the legislature rules either way on this issue because there's a coalition of sort of old-school African-Americans on one side along with all the Republicans and some Catholics and on the other side is everybody else. So there's a real inertia there to pass it or to, say, ban it on both sides. I think this will be an issue in Maryland, at least, that will be resolved through the state court.
NNAMDIRather than through what's been happening in some other states that vote by the legislature, leading to a popular referendum.
GANSLERThat's right. I don't think you're gonna see that in Maryland anytime in the near future.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones, a lot of people would like to speak with Doug Gansler. Let's start with Cathy in Bethesda, Md. Cathy, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
CATHYHi. Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we can.
CATHYGreat. Just wanted to first say that I'm very impressed with Doug's political record. However, even though he's unopposed and I'm a Democrat and I could have voted for him in the primary, I didn't check the box to vote for him and I know many people who didn't, and it's not for a political reason but because of his deplorable, embarrassing language and behavior as a coach of middle school and the 13-year-old kids...
NNAMDIPlease finish your sentence.
CATHYThey're words I really don't want to repeat on the air, things that you said in front of 10 to 12-year-old children.
NNAMDIIt's an incident with which I am unfortunately not familiar, but Doug Gansler, I'm sure, is.
GANSLERWell, I'm actually not familiar with any incident of using bad words -- they actually make fun of me, my friends and family, to -- for not being able to use (laugh) inappropriate language.
NNAMDIYou're a coach.
GANSLERBut I do coach. I've coached -- I've done a number of things, actually. I play lacrosse still. I coached both of my kids. I started an inner-city league up in Baltimore. We're on our third year. We had 85 kids the first year. Last year, we had 106 and this year, we're gonna have 160 of --called Charm City Lacrosse for 6 to 10-year-old kids, and it's been an amazing program. We're very successful up there. In Montgomery County, I've coached for a number of years, as I said, I also played.
GANSLERI don't know -- I've never used bad language on the sidelines, so I definitely -- when I do coach, I'm definitely loud in the sense that I'm (laugh) but, you know, but I know inappropriate language. I'm very encouraging to my kids. I love my -- I love the sport of lacrosse, I feel like -- so what I do is, I want the kids to enjoy the experience and have fun with it so they come back next year. Winning or losing is not very -- a very big part of the equation for me. So anyway, I don't -- I really have no idea what the caller's talking about.
NNAMDIYou were going to say?
CATHYI -- yes. I really must respond now because this is just remarkable. Mr. Gansler has been thrown off as a coach by the lacrosse commissioner a number of times when his son was -- and they were both thrown out of the Bethesda Lacrosse League this past spring, which I find it hard that he would forget because he said, get your...
NNAMDIThat word, I don't think we will (laugh) -- are going to allow on the air, Cathy. As I said, Doug Gansler, I don't know. What's this all about?
GANSLERI've never been thrown out of the Lacrosse League by anybody. In fact, I've coached for a number of years as one of the people that started the Bethesda Lacrosse League, the Tiger program. So there -- my 12-year-old boy, I assume she's gonna drag my 12-year-old son into this, did get in a scuffle with another boy after a game, actually. The kid had taken his money, it was a long story, and the -- and that is probably – look, 12-year-old boys playing lacrosse getting in a little scuffle. No one got hurt. They were all full equipped and that was the end of that. I imagine that's what she's talking about. I, of course, had no involvement whatsoever in that. I was at the very end of the line, didn't see it start, didn't see it finish, and that was the end of that.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Cathy. Unfortunately, as I said, I'm not familiar with what goes on in Doug Gansler's lacrosse life (laugh) so to speak. But you...
GANSLERYou should come some time, it's fun.
NNAMDIBut you can call us. We'd be happy to talk especially about his political life at 800-433-8850. Or you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Cathy in Millersville, Md. Cathy, your turn.
CATHYHello. Nice to speak with you, sir. My question is in -- I'm in Anne Arundel County and this is the referendum for slots vote, and when you've -- I do make my living at the race track, so the race tracks are telling us also telling us to vote against slots as well. But it's my understanding that the actual referendum is, if you vote against slots at the mall, you're voting against slots and the entire 295 corridor, so that includes Laurel Park. So when I ask what happens then? If Laurel Park has joined with the Mall-NIMBY people, don't want it in their backyard, to vote against slots, and we've been wanting slots for 20 years, what happens then? Is there going to be another referendum? Could there be – how many years would that take? We would have to -- make another law to revote to actually have slots at Laurel Park and not at the Mall, and then Laurel Park still doesn't have the license.
GANSLERNo, I think that's -- I mean, that's a lot of the argument what's going on here and, you know, I think people -- there's a contingency, it sounds like you're one of them -- that would prefer to be at the racetrack. And, you know, I think even people who are sort of morally opposed in some sense to slot machine gambling are less morally opposed, if you will, to it occurring at the racetracks, which are basically there for purposes of gambling in the first place. So you're adding slot machines to a state that already has the lottery and racetrack and that kind of thing.
GANSLERI have heard what you're saying, which is I think accurate, that it would not therefore go to Laurel Park. I think the initial problem was the race track in the 295, in that corridor, didn't bid originally. The only bid that was put forth was the quarters bid. And so now, it seems to some people, the people who are proponents of it in Anne Arundel Park, that this is a backward measure, a backhanded measure, to get rid of it in Anne Arundel Park, Anne Arundel Mall, and try again to start with the process over where people can apply for a license, and maybe the racetrack would do so. So it's a -- yes, it's very complicated. I'm not sure anybody has the exact answer to your question because everybody anticipated that it was gonna just happen in Anne Arundel Mall because that was the only license that was put forth. So if the referendum is successful this fall, I do think they're sort of back to the drawing board in that one particular area of the state.
NNAMDICathy, thank you very much for your call. Hopefully, we'll get more clarification on this as time goes on. Our guest is Doug Gansler. He is the attorney general of Maryland. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850 if you have any questions for Doug Gansler on casinos, on Craigslist, the election of judges or anything else. Speaking of Craigslist, you and a few other attorneys general pushed Craigslist to take down its adult services section. They maintained they were policing the site themselves. What was your issue?
GANSLERWell, they weren't very good at policing the site if, they were. And in fact, we've -- what's happened actually is attorneys general collectively have become sort of the internet police, if you will. States attorneys or districts attorneys really are focused on street crime. The federal government is focused on homeland security and terrorism issues. Who's policing the internet? Well, the attorneys general collectively have sort of taken up that role. One of the things that we find is that companies such as eBay and MySpace and Facebook employ a number of people, a lot of people, at a great cost to police their websites. Craigslist was not. And we brought this to their attention about a year and a half ago and said, look, you're basically a conduit, a vehicle for online prostitution and human trafficking. You need to police your website. You need to make sure that this isn't happening. This is an illegal activity that's occurring over your website. And so they said, yeah, we'll do that. We'll get better at it. And they never did, so we asked them and they did, to remove their adult services section. Now, they make a lot of money from this. They weren't happy about it. But unless and until they actually take the illegal activity off their website, we'll be vigilant in that.
NNAMDIHow is Craigslist different from ads and newspapers for escorts and massages?
GANSLERIt was much more explicit than that. And, you know, escorts and massages actually are not illegal, prostitution is. Now, we all know as a reality, some of those cases do escalate, but that's, you know, that's on law enforcement. But what we could see from our vantage point was just blatant prostitution as people selling sex over the internet and human trafficking was going on on Craigslist. And then subsequent to that, we also -- there is a -- something -- it sort of moved to something called backpage.com, which we took -- then we made them take it down as well.
NNAMDIOn now to Thomas in Howard County, Md. Thomas, your turn. Go ahead, please.
THOMASHi, Attorney General Gansler. My name is Thomas. I live in Howard County, Md. And I was wondering, as a follow-on to your conversation about Craigslist, what is the state of Maryland doing to monitor the internet on a proactive basis, to monitor the actions or activities of pedophiles and your -- I guessed that you have over 6,000 registered sex offenders -- what are you doing as the attorney general? What is the state doing to ensure that the internet is not being used as a conduit to prey upon innocent children in Maryland?
GANSLERAnd it's a huge issue, and we've done a number of things. One of the things we're doing, and I think is actually probably in some ways the most important, because the internet is really the Wild West out there in particular, in compared to the technology that law enforcement has and the laws. I mean, the laws are woefully behind. If you think about 11 years ago, Google was invented. Now it's a verb. I mean, there has been such progress over the internet in terms of the technological advances. And sexual predators are able to get at these kids very easily. So that what we did in my office, we started a program called C.L.I.C.K.S, where we go around the state and educate teachers. We work with school systems and police officers and librarians and so forth on how to teach kids internet safety because only I believe in St. Mary's County at this point is internet safety even part of anybody's curriculum, and every kid out there as we know is on the internet. So they need to be taught the safety piece.
GANSLERSo we do it through education. And that -- why that's important is it reduces the targets for these sexual predators. So that's one thing. Another thing we did was we went -- we worked with MySpace and had them turn over 90,000 e-mail addresses that were on MySpace where we could compare them to registered sex offenders, and we were able to bring a number of those people in. We continued to monitor it through the state police and then locally at different states attorneys' offices to make sure we do go after the sexual predators. Fortunately, in Maryland, we've had very, very few cases -- very, very few horrific cases over the last few years. Now, I don't know if it's because the law enforcement measures are working, because they're becoming more vigilant, or if the education piece is working. But something seems to be working in that regard. But we need to remain vigilant there because that's a horrible thing.
NNAMDIYou set up an internet crime unit. Tell us about that.
GANSLERThe internet crime unit where we go after -- a lot of this is -- there's a number of areas. One is the sexual predators that Thomas was calling about. Another is identity theft. And that's a big issue. You know, you wanna preserve the integrity of the internet where you go on, you know, amazon.com, or some other site, and you don't want 12 people -- well, maybe the world will be a better place -- but you wouldn't want 12 Kojo Nnamdi's to show up the next day. But, you know, that identity theft piece, the fraud piece, and the sexual predators, and then the education are all sort of part of this equation.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Thomas. We got this email from Judith who writes, "I just want to let the attorney general know that I feel the overall atmosphere in Maryland is positive compared to Virginia. My wife and I will be moving to Maryland next year. We are a same sex couple and have been married since 2002. We see no reason for us to continue giving our tax dollars to the government currently running Virginia. Our current combined income is around $250,000 per year so you can wave those tax dollars you'll be getting soon in McDonald's and Cuccinelli's face. They're giving every sign that folks like us are not welcome in Virginia and we see no reason to put up with increasing bigotry here. Thanks for making Maryland more welcoming and forward thinking."
GANSLERWe can use the money.
NNAMDIThis we got, however, in another email. "I was delighted to hear of the AG's opinion regarding same sex marriage recognition both for the result and the rationale. I look forward to his opinion supporting recognition of concealed carry licenses from all 50 states under the same justification." How do you feel about concealed carry licenses? We're talking handguns here.
GANSLERYeah. And it's actually -- the email is -- pinpoints the very interesting part because right now that's probably the only license of its kind that I can think of that we don't recognize here where we could. And the reason why we don't recognize it in Maryland is because the legislature has specifically criminalized carrying a concealed weapon in Maryland. So what's different about that law -- in fact, you know, if you go back to the marriage context, when we look at marriages, Maryland had recognized a marriage between an uncle and his niece, which here would be called incest. Maryland recognizes -- Pennsylvania and D.C., for example, have common law marriages. Maryland does not. We recognize common law marriages every day. The one time that we didn't recognize out-of-state marriage in Maryland was a marriage -- were marriages between blacks and whites because at that time, it was criminal. You actually could be put in jail if you conducted that kind of a marriage.
GANSLERSame is said with the guns. Right now, if you -- it's not just a civil violation or we -- they voted sort of against having it. They've criminalized that conduct, so the argument there is -- that is against public policy in Maryland. They consider it every year whether or not to have concealed carry licenses in Maryland, the legislature has decided not to.
NNAMDIDoes that answer your question, Kent in Annapolis, Md.?
KENTI'm listening. It does at some degree. I'm curious to hear actually -- Mr. Gansler, good afternoon.
KENTI'm curious to hear you opinion on if it were, I guess, legislative to not be criminalized, would you see Maryland then falling in line with the majority of states which do issue a shall-issue permit and then recognize other states' same issuance as well?
GANSLERYeah. I think that would be the case. I mean, I don't know the majority of states have it, but it sounds like you might. I thought it was pretty close in terms of how many have it and how many don't have it. Both the having -- prohibiting concealed carrying licenses in Maryland is constitutional based on -- and even in the wake of Heller, but it also would be constitutional. The legislature said that you -- that they shall issue. We do issue tens of thousands of concealed carry permits in Maryland every year. It's just there's no shall-issue. It's discretionary and based on finding of a need. So we do have some people that have them but, yes, we don't have the shall-issue. If it was decriminalized, we would certainly be in a very different context.
NNAMDIKent, thank you very much for your call. We'll take short break. But if you have already called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls for Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. If the lines are filled, try going to our website, kojoshow.org, see if you can ask a question or make a comment there. Or send us a tweet: @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur guest is Doug Gansler. He is the attorney general of Maryland up for reelection, but he has no opponent so you can call him and challenge him at 800-433-8850. Challenge his points of view and his opinions any way or you can do it at our website, kojoshow.org. Campaign fliers are a hot issue right now in Prince George's county. What's going on?
GANSLERReally, what's going on is what's, unfortunately, been going on for some time in Prince George's County. I think the most celebrated case was in the 2006 election, where the official Democratic ballot, which -- well, piece of literature that purported to be the official Democratic ballot -- had all the Democratic-endorsed candidates except for Michael Steele, who is the Republican running for the state's -- the United States Senate, was shown instead of Ben Cardin, who actually ended up winning the campaign. And unfortunately, that kind of thing happens a lot. It leads to voter confusion at a minimum and voter suppression at a maximum.
GANSLERSo what we did is -- I didn't wanna weigh in -- well, the nice thing was it was Democrats against Democrats. So there was no sort of political -- I consider myself to be apolitical, to be pro-business, moderate, centrist Democrat who believes people should get married, so -- same-sex couples should be able to get married. So I stay out of the political side of it, but it is unfortunate. So what we're able to do this year was there were a couple of fliers. There was one in particular where it was clearly -- it was done by -- the authority line had a fictitious campaign committee, just never registered with the state. The return address was to some industrial park. And there were -- and it was, actually -- you know, again, it was the official ballot, but there were -- there was a lot of confusion going on. For example, there's a state senator named Anthony Muse in Prince George's County. He was pictured on the cover. Yet you open it up to look at the official ballot, and it was his opponent that was endorsed by this thing.
GANSLERSo we went to court and got a temporary restraining order to take those away, people distributing them, and also helped us in our investigation. And we are currently looking into a criminal charge, which you may be hearing about in some...
NNAMDIBut there are people who say this is a First Amendment issue. You can't restrict information that people distribute. That would be a violation of the First Amendment. How do you respond?
GANSLERAnd that's why we stayed out of the cases where somebody says, oh, this person endorses that person, but then that person has no idea. We stayed out of all of that, where we -- we didn't want to get involved in the First Amendment issues. We -- or the political issues, for that matter. We wanted to get involved in the law of the state which requires you to -- if you are going to hand out this political literature, you need to have an authority line on it. So we didn't get involved in First Amendment issue. We got involved with the fact that these people never filed with the board of elections or the secretary of state to be able to give out whatever it was gonna say under the First Amendment, which would have been proper.
NNAMDIOn to Carol in Bethesda, Md. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLHi. I just wanted to say I think Doug Gansler is doing a great job, and I agree with him that judges should not be elected. Nobody has any idea -- for the reason, nobody has any idea who to vote for, as with the Register of Wills. I mean, there's so many people on the ballot that people have no idea who to vote for, and they shouldn't even be elected. We had a hard enough time in our district deciding which of 13 candidates, who's the delegate, you know, to choose. So I agree with him on that.
NNAMDISo you're saying, Carol, you are not up on all of the candidates for Register of Wills? (laugh)
CAROLWell, I have to say the media gave us very little help in trying to figure out.
NNAMDIUh-oh, our fault.
CAROLWe had two incumbents and 11 newbies, you know, running for three states, and really, only the partisans knew who to vote for. And the Post didn't help us, the Gazette didn't help us, very little information. We're really disappointed that, you know, we didn't get more help figuring this out. But I'd also like to ask Mr. Gansler if we need better laws when it comes to election shenanigans. I'm remembering the -- Ehrlich-Steele when they imported, you know, homeless people from Philadelphia to hand out literature, and all sorts of stuff went on in that election. And do we need stronger laws? I mean, it's one thing to get an injunction to stop them from doing it, but what about putting them in jail for doing it?
NNAMDIBecause false endorsements are, in fact, lies.
GANSLERYes. And starting with the first thing, I mean, actually, I rarely find myself defending the press, but I have to, in this case. They did. I mean, the Post did endorsements, as did the Gazette. It sounds like you live in my district, which is District 16, where there were all those candidates. And I -- you know, the Register of Wills is an interesting issue, as is sort of state's attorney and some of these other jobs where maybe they seemingly shouldn't be elected, you know. As you say, between the Democrat and Republican state's attorney was that we felt bad when we put them in jail. But, you know, you're still doing the same job. The 13 candidates, I actually applaud them for going out there. Many of them were knocking on doors trying to get as many voters as they could. Unfortunately, there was a real and serious voter apathy that we saw in terms of the low turnout this year. But the press did, at least, do their endorsements.
GANSLERIn terms of the better laws, yes, absolutely. And where the focus has been is really -- and ought to be because when you start talking about, you know, the people handing out literature, what the literature says, there -- you run right into the First Amendment. But there -- anything that's sort of targeted at voter suppression, we ought to have strong laws against. For example, there's a number of robo-calls that went out in some of -- in some jurisdictions. It said, you know, if you owe back parking tickets or a child support, you can and will be arrested if you vote on Tuesday or other places around the country where they said, don't forget to come out on Wednesday and vote, or give the wrong date. So that's not really targeted, at least overtly, at any particular candidate, but directly toward voter suppression, and that's what we need to make sure that we have better laws against.
NNAMDICarol, thank you for your call.
NNAMDIThe EPA is going to be cracking down on pollution in the Chesapeake. That's been one of your causes. The EPA says five Mid-Atlantic states aren't doing enough to crack down on pollution: Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York. That's a major shift, isn't it?
GANSLERIt's a major shift. And you mentioned, I think, at the top of the show, how we actually sued the EPA. We did it twice.
NNAMDIUnder the previous administration.
GANSLERYeah, we sued the previous administration. All we wanted to do is have the Environmental Protection Agency protect the environment. And we haven't, unfortunately, had to do that recently. And...
NNAMDIWhat's different now? What's changed?
GANSLERWell, the -- you were just talking about it. This is EPA that is very concerned with the Chesapeake Bay and the degradation of the bay. The bay is in far worse condition than any of the rhetoric that you might hear, and you hear people say, well, it's improving. Well, it's improved since last week, last month, last year. It's not where you need it to be, which is -- we're not gonna get it back to the 1600s when John Smith got aboard. We'd like to get it into the 1950s or 1960s, and much can be done. You'll notice Maryland was not on that list of five.
GANSLERWe've taken major steps in terms of enforcement of the last three or four years. We were involved in the biggest -- well, we were involved in the biggest enforcement measure in the water pollution case, another one in air pollution in the history of Maryland. We just had the biggest asbestos recovery in the history of Maryland. We have -- we're involved in the $14.5 billion case involving high electric power companies putting smut into our air. So we've done a lot of the enforcement. We're now working -- and we're very close to trying to get a power plant to come to Maryland, our biggest source. There's no panacea for this, by the way. There's a lot of different causes of pollution.
GANSLERThe biggest source that we have of pollution is chicken -- in Maryland, is chicken manure. We have about 1.2 billion pounds of chicken manure produced each year. We're on the threshold of getting a power plant to come to Maryland that'll convert 500 million pounds of that into 40 Megawatts of power on the Eastern Shore, which is -- the best way to do it is to keep it out of the water in the first place.
GANSLERSo that's the kind of thing we're doing in Maryland, but we can do more. I welcome the EPA's involvement. I think it's great. Any partners that we have in terms of going after polluters and to provide financial incentives to reduce the pollution of the bay is a good thing. And it's good from an economic standpoint. It's a pro-business thing. We need to -- you know, a couple of years ago for the first time, they closed Sandy Point State Park from humans going to water. Well, that's clearly not good for our tourism, much less the, you know, hundreds and -- of millions of dollars of product that used to come out of the bay when the bay was not polluted.
NNAMDISpeaking of chicken, you've also been looking at arsenic in chicken feed. What's it doing in feed for animals that ends up in our supermarkets?
GANSLERWell, back in the 1940s, they put arsenic in the chicken feed. At that time, they said it would make the chickens more plump and prevent disease. It does neither. And in 1999, the European Union banned arsenic from being in the chicken feed. And we need to do that in the United States. The -- we brought this to the FDA's attention. We brought this to EPA's attention. So hopefully, they will do that in the United States because what happens is it's -- it goes in an organic form, the chickens eat this arsenic in the organic form. When it goes to the digestive process, it becomes inorganic arsenic and it goes into our water. And ultimately, when we incinerate it, it can go to the air. And then we eat three or four times the allowable amount of arsenic at our dinner table. So we need to get rid of it. The problem is the major poultry industry -- companies are for this. They wanna get rid of it.
NNAMDIYeah, because I noticed producers that they stopped using additives that contained arsenic about three years ago but are still opposed to the measure.
GANSLERThey're not opposed to it. They want it to happen. The problem is when they stop using it -- what it does, by the way, instead of making plumper, prevent disease, it makes the -- it literally, in pedestrian terms, blows up the blood vessels of the chicken. So when you go to your Safeway or drive to your supermarket, it -- the chicken looks pinker in the wrapper. That's what we're used to seeing. If it didn't have arsenic, it would be much grayer and you'd think, well, this chicken's gone bad, but obviously, it hadn't. So Purdue would be in a competitive disadvantage by stop using it when the local smaller poultry people were using it. So they want it to be banned, as it is in the European Union.
NNAMDIOnto Mike in Charles Town, W. Va. Mike, your turn. Go ahead, please.
MIKEHello, Kojo. Thank you. I hope I haven't missed out on your discussion on Chesapeake Bay. That was interesting. I was commenting on the popular election of judges. And, you know, you have to be careful with that issue because on its face, it looks like maybe we ought to appoint judges. But what you do there is you substitute one form of politics for another. And I'll give you an example. There was a judge at Winchester who denied a gun permit to Oliver North, and he was not reappointed. And the suspicion was that the general assembly was so outraged by his action that they refused to reappoint him. And so you have to be careful with that issue.
NNAMDIWell, how about if that same judge who was...
MIKEKojo -- what did you say -- Kojo, please say again. I'm on my cell phone.
NNAMDIIf that judge who was originally appointed had to be in a retention election 10 years after he was elected the first time -- or appointed the first time, how would you feel about that?
MIKEWell, I think there are several alternatives that you could put in place.
NNAMDIOnly got about a minute left.
MIKEAll I'm -- Okay. All I'm suggesting is be careful. Don't just substitute one form of politics for another.
GANSLERAnd it's a totally valid point. And that what you need to do, which is why I think Kojo's mentioning this, is you have to keep the retention ballot system in because -- particularly in smaller communities, the Winchester's or the Charlestown's of the world, people know the judges there. And if a judge does something that the community finds is anathema to its values, they can vote that person out. And in fact, under our system that we're proposing, the retention ballot system, you get more of an opportunity to do that. You can actually go to the ballot every 10 years instead of what we have now in 15 -- every 15 years in a very politicized way. But it's a good point. And I think by taking the money out of it as well in the retention system, that should satisfy everybody's goals.
NNAMDIMike, thank you very much for your call. I'm afraid we don't have time for any more callers. Doug Gansler, we're out of time. Doug Gansler is the attorney general of Maryland. He is running for reelection in November. Doug Gansler, thank you very much for joining us.
GANSLERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Last week, students at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County, Maryland staged a walk-out during class in protest of what they call a culture of racism in their halls. Kojo explores what happened and how activism is playing out not just at colleges and in city streets- but in the halls of local high schools.
Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced a run for his old Ward 7 Council seat. The Supreme Court won't challenge Virginia’s newly drawn Congressional districts. And Maryland’s former governor Martin O'Malley drops out of the presidential race.
The term "zoning" puts many to sleep, but new rules in the District address hot-button issues: adding floors to row-houses, renting out English basements, and parking minimums for new apartment buildings. We consider how the regulations will affect local neighborhoods, and how they compare to nearby jurisdictions.