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May 13, 2015 1:21 PM

Steinhauser: O'Malley rails against campaign finance system

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

MANCHESTER – Martin O’Malley thinks that it’s “bulls**t” that members of Congress spend some 20 hours per week raising campaign cash.

And the former Maryland governor, who’s extremely likely to soon announce a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, disagrees with those who say his policing policies as Baltimore mayor a decade ago contributed to the rioting that recently broke out in the city.

O’Malley spoke with reporters after touring Alpha Loft, a non-profit establishment on Elm Street in downtown Manchester which “incubates and accelerates” startup and other early-stage Granite State companies.

Defending his record running Baltimore, O’Malley said “when I was mayor we actually drove police involved shootings down to their lowest level ever. We had a whole campaign that we pursued every day to improve police and community relations.”

Asked if President Barack Obama bears some of the blame for the outbreak of violence in Baltimore for not aggressively trying to repair America’s urban areas, O'Malley said that "I think as a party one of the failings we had many years ago was the failure to make investments in our cities when we actually had control of the White House and both houses of Congress."

"I think people were ready not just for the stimulus that we did, but a stimulus that would have long term jobs and long term rebuilding. And we failed to do that as a party. And part of me thinks that maybe we’ve been punished ever since," he added.

O’Malley added that “history affords only two paths. One is a sensible re-balancing based on our common good, the national interest. The other path has at the end of it pitchforks, lots of them in the hands of very angry people who are being discarded by their nation and their economy. So I’m for a sensible rebalancing.”

O’Malley’s said he’ll make repairing America’s cities a centerpiece of any presidential campaign. He told reporters that “turning around the plight of so many, of tens of thousands of people in our cities is inextricably linked to moving our country in a better direction. We can’t heal what’s wrong with our democracy and we can’t heal what’s wrong with our economy unless we’re also willing to rebuild America’s cities.”

Asked by NH1 News how that kind of message can translate to New Hampshire and Iowa, which kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar and which have small urban populations, O’Malley said that “we can’t be a stronger nation with more opportunity unless we’re willing to address the injustice and the huge gap, what we’ve now created between the country we think we are, the country our children need for us to be, and the country we actually are.”

“We see that gap and that shortfall in very, very, stark ways in American cities and I’m betting that people in New Hampshire and people in Iowa see that as well,” he added.

O’Malley seemed to get a bit perturbed when asked about an apparent contradiction from Hillary Clinton when it comes to campaign finance reform. The former secretary of state, who’s the overwhelming favorite to capture the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has called for a limitation of money in politics, but at the same time is blessing people to contribute to a third party super PAC that is backing her second White House bid.

“I didn’t’ come here to talk about Secretary Clinton,” O’Malley told reporters.

But he added that “I would hope that in the Democratic party that all of our candidates would discourage super PACs from being involved.”

And he railed against the current campaign finance system, which forces congressional lawmakers to devote much of their time to fundraising.

“Any member of Congress, I would think, should welcome publicly financed congressional campaigns because right now we’ve turned them into a bunch a telemarketers. How can you tell me that you’re actually representing the interests of your district when you’re spending 20 hours a week on a telephone like an idiot in some little room calling people again and again and again and asking for PAC checks. This is bullshit. This isn’t how our founders expected our democracy to work,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley visited Alpha Loft after paying a breakfast visit to Chez Vachon, a Manchester eating establishment that’s seemingly a must stop for anyone considering a run for the White House. Later Wednesday, O’Malley headlined a fundraiser at the New Hampshire Democratic Party headquarters in Concord for state lawmakers. He was also attending private meetings with Democratic lawmakers and leaders, and was also scheduled to be the main attraction at a house party in Durham at the home of Dudley Dudley, a Democratic activist who served four terms on the state’s executive council.

Asked by NH1 News if he’ll be a presidential candidate when he next returns to the first-in-the-nation primary state, O’Malley said “I’ll make the decision very, very, shortly. I’ve been travelling around the country for the course of the last year and I’ve been struck by the number of people who say to me, repeatedly two phrases, new leadership and getting things done.”

“I’m very close to a decision and I’ll make up my mind by the end of this month,” he added.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently announced his bid for the Democratic nomination. Sanders, like O’Malley, is running to the left of Clinton. Asked by NH1 News if he’s concerned that maybe there’s only a little bit of room on the left and that Sanders has a leg up on him, O’Malley said “no. I believe that the people of our country and particularly Democrats in New Hampshire want a robust conversation about the challenges we face and the issues and the problems and how we solve them as a people. So I believe there’s plenty of room for a more open conversation.”

As for Clinton’s recent strong stance on immigration reform, and the moderating of her position on a major free trade deal with Asian nations, O’Malley said “I believe that the best politics are the politics that flow from our principles as a people. So if people have come around to the truth that immigration reform is important and that it’s necessary for our economy, that it also defines our character as a people, then I welcome any candidate to come to that position.”

As he toured Alpha Loft, O’Malley met a former longtime Maryland resident who now lives in the Granite State. The man said he had run and lost a bid for the Maryland state legislature in the early 1990’s.

O’Malley said “the best race I ever ran was the one I lost. I ran for state senate in 1990 and I lost, they tell me by 22 votes.”

“The ones I’ve won have become a blur. The one you lose you remember.”


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