Tag Archives: Dan Cox

Our Michael Peroutka coverage over the years

Michael Peroutka, who’s leading in a recent poll in the race for the July 19 Republican nomination for Maryland Attorney General, has been a frequent subject of coverage on this page for his “crank constitutionalism and bizarre views on ‘Biblical law’.” What follows below is a quick guide to what I’ve published here together with links to a couple of pieces by others.

To start with the latter, those new to this subject might want to start with Brian Griffiths’ overview in The Duckpin of Peroutka’s strange views and public career, including his popularization (through his Pasadena-based Institute on the Constitution) of the work of the late R.J. Rushdoony, Jr., an advocate of theocratic rule. In an interview with Bill Moyers, recounted by Griffiths, mentor Rushdoony defended one of his best-known ideas, that Biblical law requires the execution of adulterers and practicing homosexuals, among numerous other groups such as blasphemers. “The absolute last thing Republicans in Maryland need is to have a radical extremist like Peroutka on the statewide ballot,” Griffiths writes. (I was writing about Rushdoony and his Christian Reconstructionist followers as long ago as 1998.)

Peroutka has also come in for much criticism over his long involvement with the separatist, and eventually secessionist, League of the South. Journalist Van Smith covered Peroutka extensively in the old Baltimore City Paper, and at least some of his coverage can be found behind the Baltimore Sun paywall, though you can dig for it elsewhere.

While Peroutka’s public-facing career goes back decades, my coverage here at this blog begins with his 2014 primary win in a race for Anne Arundel county council. To quote that post:

Just last month Peroutka was suggesting that the laws of the state of Maryland are owed no allegiance, having diverged from the Divine will on numerous points. (He explains that “an enactment must not violate God’s law,” describes Maryland’s as a “lawless legislature” and writes of such a legislature that “no validity should be given to any of its enactments.”) That should make the whole “oath of office” thing fun if he gets in as a county commissioner.

A few weeks earlier I had noted his links to politics in Carroll County, which have included generous campaign contributions. I wrote that his Institute on the Constitution

promotes a deeply erroneous view of the U.S. Constitution as an essentially religious document, a view not unconnected with the theocratic crankery of [the late John] Lofton and others associated with his group. [links omitted]

Peroutka’s Republican loyalties, it should be noted, are at best changeable. Although it has been a decade since he ran on the Constitution Party ticket, he delivered himself of the following sentiments just last October: “Anyone, including those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’, who loves America and desires real reform, would do well to disengage themselves from the Republican Party and their brand of worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism.”

In a Aug. 28, 2014 roundup I linked to coverage by Len Lazarick and Barry Rascovar that mentioned the website StopPeroutka dot com, posted by opponents. That site is now defunct, but you can see a screenshot of it here. An Aug. 9, 2014 roundup has a couple of additional links.

In 2015, after his election to the county council, I noted his attendance at a rally for lawbreaking Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and rounded up a couple of other stories. In 2017 Peroutka was onstage with Alabama’s Roy Moore at Moore’s primary win. In 2018 he lost his primary race for re-election to the county council.

Last month I noted that he was going to be on the July 19 primary ballot against a far better choice, Jim Shalleck of Montgomery County, whose temperate, responsible record stands in contrast to Peroutka’s. That followed up on a February post that noted Peroutka’s filing for Maryland AG and linked Griffiths’ article. I also noted Len Lazarick’s report that at an Annapolis rally, Peroutka had taken the view that Gov. Larry Hogan “had violated the constitution and effectively removed himself as governor.”

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox has endorsed Peroutka. It figures.

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Dan Cox as “Constitutional Attorney”

On January 6th, 2021, Maryland Del. (and now gubernatorial candidate) Dan Cox infamously tweeted “Pence is a traitor.” Brian Griffiths has a few things to say about that in a new Duckpin post this morning, but I wanted to add a further thought of my own.

Dan Cox styles himself a “Constitutional Attorney.” The problem here is not that there’s anything wrong with being a constitutional attorney — quite the contrary! — but that, on the available public evidence, Cox simply isn’t a very good one. His apparent notions of how the U. S. Constitution sets forth the presidential succession process proved embarrassingly wrong, which is why not a single federal judge or state legislative chamber was willing to go along with his side in January 2021, any more than Mike Pence was. His notions of how state and local public health powers fit in with constitutional law, again, are at variance with those of Justices Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch, not just those of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

If nominated, Cox would continue to run around Maryland making untenable claims about constitutional law, but now as his party’s official standard-bearer. And he would drag the Maryland Republican Party down to ignominious defeat in November.

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Del. Dan Cox responds to my Maryland Reporter piece

Del. Daniel Cox reacts to my recent opinion piece with his usual degree of temperateness and accuracy:

“When you’re wrong on both the law and the facts, pound the table.”

On accuracy, for example, he baldly asserts that his constitutional claims failed “based on one point: mootness.” But as I noted in my piece, the Fourth Circuit explicitly carved out only his religion claims to dismiss as moot, while separately upholding as correct the district judge’s dismissal of all the rest of his claims on grounds unrelated to mootness. Does he even read the decisions he loses? (More here and here.)

As for Cox’s vicious invective against me personally, it hardly deserves to be dignified with a response. Seriously, who can read this sort of thing without concluding that this man is utterly unfit for public office?

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Cox’s Hogan suit bombs out at Fourth Circuit

I’ve written a new piece at Maryland Reporter on last month’s ruling by a federal appeals court confirming the demise of Del. Dan Cox’s suit against Larry Hogan claiming that the governor’s emergency COVID-19 orders had violated the law and the constitution. A few excerpts:

“Then there were the signs of hasty lawsuit drafting… One subhead in the original filing cited ‘Irreparable Injury To Plaintiffs From Governor Northam’s Gathering Orders,’ comically echoing a suit filed earlier in a different state – Virginia — against Gov. Ralph Northam.”…

“The suit was decked out with rhetorical flights and what you might call ambitious theories of constitutional law, such as that [Gov. Hogan’s pandemic] orders had had the effect of depriving Marylanders of a republican form of government. As the appeals court noted last month, Cox’s subsequent briefing did not go on to argue the merits of many of these theories, leaving Judge Blake free to dismiss them without discussion….

“Del. Cox will undoubtedly continue to work the campaign trail making strongly worded claims about the U.S. and Maryland constitutions as he understands them. Just remember that the actual federal courts keep making it clear that his ideas about the Constitution are not theirs.”

I covered the initial dismissal of Cox’s suit two years ago for the Frederick News-Post.

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Jim Swift on the GOP gubernatorial primary

At the Bulwark, Jim Swift sounds the alarm about the prospect that voters in the Maryland Republican gubernatorial primary might be seriously divided between a proponent of stolen-election craziness and one with a record of solid administration and sober conservative views. While much of the piece is good, I must disagree with Swift on several points. In particular, he’s far too credulous about a super-dodgy poll about Maryland GOP primary preferences put out by the *Democrats* (and not as far as I know as part of some wider poll release). It’s a blatant effort to mess with the other party’s deliberations by undercutting the candidate with a real chance to win a general election, Kelly Schulz, while boosting the candidate with no such chance, Dan Cox. Swift should have ignored this poll, and so should everyone else.

Schulz is not only ahead, but overwhelmingly so, in garnering endorsements from GOP electeds in the legislature and important county officeholders. The statewide business community knows her well from the 7 years she spent touring workplaces around the state as labor, regulation, and commerce secretary. She’s vastly outraised Cox financially.

Now, obviously, candidates who sweep the table on money and endorsements still lose sometimes to ideological fever chartists. (Swift has some chapter and verse on Cox’s erratic and conspiracy-prone thinking, and much more could be and has been said about that.) But personality counts too. Schulz was much liked and respected during her years in the legislature. She hasn’t become personally entitled or arrogant, despite her success in high-profile state jobs. Nor has she gone around picking needless fights.

Swift posits a rural/urban split that is overdone as far as the tensions in play here. Schulz has plenty of strength around rural areas, and, to be fair, Cox has fans among the GOP base in some more urban parts of the state. At any rate, the center of gravity of the Maryland GOP electorate remains in suburban counties. (The article is also way out of date in its implicit view of Frederick County, but that’s another story.)

In short, I know it can be tempting to warn Bulwark readers “See, practical/sane Republicanism is on the ropes even in Larry Hogan’s backyard — clearly its final doom is near.” But this piece allows itself to get way out ahead of the available evidence. We’ll see come July.

P.S. One final point. Cox’s calling card is his hard-line rejection of Gov. Larry Hogan — I don’t think I have yet met a vocal Cox supporter who wasn’t also a Hogan critic. Having earlier struck out in suing Hogan, Cox is perhaps best known for filing an attempt to impeach the governor that lasted all of six minutes and drew no colleague support. If Cox-ism were predominant among the state’s GOP voters, you’d expect the governor’s rating among them to have sagged. But the respected Goucher Poll, which does show its methods, last month found Hogan to be running 71 percent favorable and 23 percent unfavorable among Maryland Republicans. Cox and his Democratic Party well-wishers can’t take any comfort from those numbers.

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In miniature, January 29

  • I’m honored to have joined the board of the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, one of my favorite local organizations, which maintains historic buildings such as Schifferstadt and runs the wonderful annual Barnstormers Tour.
  • Howard Gorrell: More hypocrisy on Maryland redistricting [Maryland Reporter] LRAC’s legislative maps, unlike MCRC’s, split the city of Gaithersburg. Might that decision be vulnerable to a legal challenge? [David Lublin, The Seventh State] To help pry open the closed shop that is Maryland politics, try open primaries [Colin Alter, same]
  • Reminder: Del. Dan Cox’s many baseless election-theft claims include insinuations of “rampant” poll fraud in four GOP-heavy Maryland counties that did not return the sort of margins for Trump he expected a year ago: Frederick, Carroll, Anne Arundel, and Harford. [Brian Griffiths, The Duckpin] Numbers on county shifts here; note that while these four suburban counties all swung hard against Trump (10-13 points), as did more Democratic suburban jurisdictions like Howard (10) and Baltimore County (11), many counties that are partially suburban in character swung a lot too, such as Calvert and Talbot with 11-point swings, Washington 9, Wicomico and St. Mary’s with 8, and Queen Anne’s with 7.
  • The redistricting season has now wrapped up with the legislature choosing gerrymanders over our commission’s fair maps for both Congressional and legislative elections. Some clips: Henry Olsen/Washington Post, WTOP, Star-Democrat (Easton). And I’m quoted in this Frederick News-Post piece by Jack Hogan on the implications of the legislative maps for Frederick County.
  • Maryland ranks near the cellar in business tax climate and Andrew Macloughlin of the Free State Foundation explains why. [Maryland Reporter]

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In miniature, November 12

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In the FNP: “Why the ‘Reopen Maryland’ lawsuit failed”

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the lawsuit filed by Del. Dan Cox challenging Gov. Larry Hogan’s public health orders seeking to limit the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m in today’s Frederick News-Post with an opinion piece on that. Excerpts:

In some other states, challengers have won rulings striking down at least some portions of state stay-home orders. But this suit’s claims failed all down the line, and here’s why….

In what you might call a long-shot move, Cox’s suit [sought] to minimize the seriousness of what it called the “alleged on-going catastrophic health pandemic” — which has killed more than 2,000 Marylanders so far — and drew sharp rebuke from the judge, who wrote: “even if these assertions were true, the plaintiffs ignore the likelihood that the restrictions that were put in place reduced the number of deaths and serious disability the State has experienced.”

In his statements outside the court, Del. Cox has told a radio audience that “ninety-nine percent of the population is not in danger with this virus,’ and has said on Twitter that ‘Studies show up to 70-86% of the public already have or had coronavirus.” Many medical authorities would sharply disagree with both contentions….

An unusual aspect of the suit was Del. Cox’s claim to have been personally threatened by an aide to Gov. Hogan. Shortly before filing the lawsuit Cox repeatedly asked the aide if he, Cox, could be arrested for speaking at a Reopen rally, and the aide answered that the delegate should read the text of the relevant order if he wanted to know what it said. Cox characterized this exchange as a threat. (No one was arrested for speaking at the rally.)

Judge Blake ruled that the restriction on large gatherings is what the law calls a ‘time, place, and manner’ restriction not based on the content of speech, noted that “there is no evidence that the order is being applied selectively to discourage speech that the Governor disagrees with,’ and summed things up: ‘the Governor has not silenced Cox or any other legislator.”…

The text of this lawsuit was full of rhetorical flights and digressions into points not germane to law. It appeared to be written with some audience in mind other than federal judges.

That’s one reason, when Cox takes the case to the Fourth Circuit federal appeals court — as he has vowed to do — he will find his work cut out for him.

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District 4, we have a problem

As mentioned last week, I’ll be having more to say about the lawsuit filed by Delegate Dan Cox (R-4th), together with Dels. Neil Parrott and Warren Miller and plaintiffs that included business owners and clerics, challenging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s actions in response to the “alleged on-going Catastrophic Health pandemic.” (Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has now filed a motion to dismiss in the suit.) In the mean time, however, Delegate Cox has been making quite a stir with his Twitter feed:

This tweet is spectacularly irresponsible; it’s just shocking. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, either. WTOP picks it up (“Maryland Del. Cox appears to promote Bill Gates coronavirus conspiracy theory”), linking to me and to Republican strategist Frank Luntz (“If you want to be a respected leader, you must lead intelligently. This Maryland state legislator is doing the exact opposite of that.”)

This is only one of a series of dubious pronouncements from Del. Cox in recent weeks. On April 21 he asserted that “Studies show up to 70-86% of the public already have or had coronavirus so of course increased testing will increase cases.”

Up to 70-86%? Really? As you can see above, Cox was immediately challenged by reporter Evan Lambert of Fox5 DC, and the following exchange resulted:

The most charitable interpretation of that exchange is that Del. Cox very badly misunderstood the point of the Science magazine article referenced. Serological studies had already begun to come out then, and have continued to arrive since, indicating that public exposure to the virus is far below 70-86%, and likely in single digits.

On May 4 Del. Cox appeared on WFMD’s Bob Miller show in Frederick, where he said (at 2:00): “we do know that the vast majority, ninety-nine percent of the population, is not in danger with this virus. And that’s the science, it’s not, you know, politics speaking, that’s the science.”

That “99 percent” not in danger wasn’t a slip of the tongue, I think, since Del. Cox repeats it at 17:00 in the interview. And saying that 99 percent of the population is not in danger with this virus — that is, that only one percent of the population does have anything to fear — is again false and, as health advice, horrendously bad.

Delegate Cox’s Twitter response to me is here.

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Dels. Cox, Parrott, Miller sue Hogan over pandemic measures

Yesterday Delegate Dan Cox (R-4th), together with Dels. Neil Parrott and Warren Miller and plaintiffs that included business owners and clerics, filed a lawsuit challenging Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s actions in response to the “alleged on-going Catastrophic Health pandemic” — nice touch, that “alleged.”

Del. Cox might want to be more careful with the cut-paste button next time, to judge by this excerpt from p. 82 of his complaint.

excerpt of lawsuit against Maryland governor mistakenly using name of Virginia governor

The new complaint is here (more papers); I’ll have more to say about it later. Earlier, I posted in this space about some of my disagreements with Del. Cox’s interpretations of Maryland statutes and of the U.S. Constitution. Yesterday, and not specific to Maryland, I published this article on why most of the public health orders issued against COVID-19 are constitutional — in the view of today’s judges, judges of the pre-New Deal era, and framers of law at the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

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