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Watchdog: Official Hogan Video Seems Like Campaign Propaganda

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (left), along with Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn at the podium, announce the state’s $50.3 million investment in smart traffic signals for 14 major corridors across the state at a news conference in October 2017. MDOT Photo.

A video produced by the Hogan administration touting transportation improvements made over the last four years has been called into question by the state’s most prominent ethics watchdog.

The 90-second video, called “Getting Marylanders Moving,” was released by the Office of the Governor on Friday, the second day of early voting.

It features various public statements Hogan has made over his tenure, in speeches and news conferences, extolling steps the state has taken to maintain roads and bridges, provide new funding for mass transit, cut tolls and improve safety. It does not, however, mention his proposed $9 billion plan to widen Interstate 270, the Capital Beltway (I-495) and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Images of Hogan at groundbreakings and announcements about reducing tolls dissolve to shots of commuters driving along uncongested roads, as folksy music plays in the background.

“It’s hard not to look at that as a campaign ad,” said Damon Effingham, executive director of Maryland Common Cause. “It seems inappropriate.”

Not surprisingly, Hogan’s rival, Democrat Benjamin T. Jealous, also finds fault with the video.

“Maryland taxpayers shouldn’t be funding the governor’s re-election campaign,” said spokeswoman Jerusalem Demsas. “It’s unacceptable to spend money that should be going to underfunded schools or expanding access to health care on a public relations stunt.”

The Hogan administration defends the video.

“All of the footage depicted in the video is from official state events that were open to the public and the press,” said Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse. “It is an important responsibility of state government to inform constituents that their tax dollars are at work for them on critical projects like these.”

“In the 21st century, informing the public about the actions of state government includes multimedia and social media,” she added.

Effingham said Friday the timing of the video’s release — 48 hours into the early voting window — makes the promotional pitch more worrisome.

“Gov. Hogan has been in office for four years, but they chose today to send out this video,” he said.

“I don’t think this would raise any potential red flags if it wasn’t this close to the election,” said Goucher College political science professor Mileah K. Kromer.

Added WAMU political commentator Tom Sherwood, “Any casual viewer who sees this release during this election season would think it’s a political ad rather than a government-paid, video press release. The timing of it is very questionable.”

The administration said the new transportation video was no different than any of the other communications it releases on a regular basis.

“We release videos and press releases and social media posts detailing actions of the administration to benefit the citizens of Maryland every day and every week,” Chasse said.

The video, posted to YouTube, also takes a swipe at how the Maryland Department of Transportation was run during the last “eight years,” the period when Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D) ran state government. Hogan’s criticism of O’Malley’s tenure in office dates back to the earliest days of his 2014 campaign.

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Watchdog: Official Hogan Video Seems Like Campaign Propaganda