Ben Jealous blames Gov. Hogan for Maryland's loss of Fortune 500 firm in a twist of political karma

Democrat Ben Jealous says Republican Larry Hogan is the first Maryland governor in years to lose a Fortune 500 company.

It’s true, if you accept Jealous’ narrow definition of “lose.” But not if you judge by the standards Hogan applied in 2014 to blame former Gov. Martin O’Malley for letting big company headquarters leave Maryland.

Call it political karma that the Democratic candidate for governor should use the question of Fortune 500 companies against Hogan this year. In 2014, Hogan made the same matter a top campaign issue as he sought to portray the state’s business climate as dismal.

But in 2018, Maryland is down to three Fortune 500 companies — Lockheed Martin, Marriott International and Discovery Communications. When O’Malley left office, there were four.

The firm Jealous accuses Hogan of “losing” is Discovery, which announced in January that it will leave its longtime Silver Spring headquarters for New York. Host Hotels & Resorts slipped to No. 502.

Maryland has seen many Fortune 500 companies depart over the last 20 years, but Jealous’ campaign produced an accounting showing that those were mostly the result of Maryland companies being acquired by out-of-state firms.

Discovery also is leaving as a result of an acquisition, but in this case it bought Scripps Networks Interactive. Having made that purchase, Discovery decided the combined media firm was ready for the Big Apple. A Hogan phone call to Discovery’s CEO last December didn’t change the company’s plans.

According to Hogan, he did all he could and bears no responsibility for Discovery’s move. Montgomery County officials insist they and the state did their best.

Jealous disagrees.

By his definition, Discovery counts as a “loss,” but not the four large firms acquired by out-of-state firms under O’Malley, including Constellation Energy and Black & Decker.

Four years ago Hogan insisted any losses — including to mergers — could be blamed on the governor. But he also conflated the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 and exaggerated the state’s losses under O’Malley. At times he stated that Maryland lost 10 of its 13 Fortune 500 firms under his predecessor.

It wasn’t true. Maryland didn’t have 13 Fortune 500 firms to lose. O’Malley inherited five of the top 500 and left office with four. The number of Fortune 1000 firms remained stable at 12.

A state’s number of Fortune 500 firms can change for many reasons. Companies go bust. They merge. Sagging revenues drop them out of the top 500, which is what happened to Host.

With Discovery leaving, the state could be down to two in 2019.

Is a governor responsible for a company’s decline?

The Jealous campaign says yes — that the buck stops at the governor’s desk. Hogan’s campaign seems to agree. Among the losses it attributes to O’Malley was Legg Mason, which rose to No. 500 in 2009 and then dropped back amid the financial crisis.

Hogan campaign spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor should be given credit for the big companies that stayed under his watch. Mayer insisted that Fortune 500 Marriott International and Fortune 1000 McCormick Corp. were “threatening to leave” when Hogan took over as governor. Both decided to stay after receiving incentive packages from state and county governments.

mdresser@baltsun.com

twitter.com/michaeltdresser

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