Martin O’Malley: Larry Hogan’s ‘real estate racket’ is fish rotting from the head down.

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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan answers questions from the Baltimore Sun editorial board before the upcoming gubernatorial election. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

By Martin O’Malley

While serving as Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan has made a killing as a real estate developer and permit assembler. No wonder — as governor he has the power to hire and fire the people whose responsibility it is to grant or deny permits to his private real estate company and its clients. What’s more, having taken over our state after its fiscal health was restored, he has the ability to move capital dollars around to make any development project more attractive, more valuable and more profitable.

According to his own admissions, Larry Hogan has made around $2.4 million through his private real estate development and permit-obtaining company while governor of Maryland. This makes Larry Hogan the one and only governor in modern times to make himself a double millionaire while in office.

It also suggests to developers that Maryland is open for business — as long as you are using Larry Hogan’s business to get your development permits. Hire The Hogan Companies, and you get whatever state permits you need, the implication goes; and if you are looking to clear-cut forests or fill-in wetlands in counties controlled by a Republican county executive, then Mr. Hogan’s real estate racket can get you those permissions too.

Larry, for his part, denies having anything to do with the issuance of any permits affecting his 14 development sites or those of his company’s many clients. Making it easier to pave wetlands or access state highways is — we are to presume — just something he is doing for all of us while also making himself a double millionaire.

Not once that I’m aware of has Larry Hogan recused himself on any matter affecting the values of his development sites or those of his clients, or on the allocation of transportation or school construction dollars that affected the value of his sites or those of his clients. Wetlands permits, affordable housing tax credits, state highway access permits. It’s the dirty little secret developers and their lobbyists have whispered for years: Hire Mr. Hogan’s company if you need something from the state.

And his former title of “CEO of Hogan Companies” remains unfilled so as to make clear to all that this is still his racket, and he intends to return to it.

If any governor did these things pre-Trump, I doubt the newspapers of record would have given those governors a free pass. If this isn’t clearly illegal under state law, it should be; and the legislature should take action — however belatedly. Surely, the state Ethics Commission needs to revisit whatever secret criteria they gave Mr. Hogan for determining whether his real estate racket violates the public trust.

There is something rotten in Annapolis, and it is the smell of a fish rotting from the head down.

Martin O’Malley is the former governor of Maryland. Twitter: @MartinOMalley.

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