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Delegate introduces legislation seeking more information about Hogan’s real estate business

A Montgomery County state delegate has introduced legislation targeting information about Gov. Larry Hogan’s real estate holdings, seeking greater disclosure of what properties the governor owns and a requirement that future statewide officeholders either place their businesses in a blind trust or get rid of them. In this Dec. 11, 2019, photo, Hogan holds a news conference in Baltimore.
A Montgomery County state delegate has introduced legislation targeting information about Gov. Larry Hogan’s real estate holdings, seeking greater disclosure of what properties the governor owns and a requirement that future statewide officeholders either place their businesses in a blind trust or get rid of them. In this Dec. 11, 2019, photo, Hogan holds a news conference in Baltimore.(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

A Montgomery County state delegate introduced legislation Thursday targeting information about Gov. Larry Hogan’s real estate holdings, seeking greater disclosure of what properties the governor owns and a requirement that future statewide officeholders either place their businesses in a blind trust or get rid of them.

In introducing the Conflicts of Interest Act of 2020, Democratic Del. Vaughn Stewart cited a recent magazine article that, he said, “suggested that the governor has steered taxpayers’ dollars to transportation projects that would increase the value of his real estate holdings.”

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“The governor’s defense ― that he has complied with the law ― has revealed gaps in our ethics rules,” Stewart said in a statement. “The Conflicts of Interest Act will strengthen our disclosure laws and help ensure Maryland’s elected officials serve the public interest, rather than their own.”

Mike Ricci, the governor’s spokesman, responded with a statement.

“Governor Hogan is always willing to consider any legislation that reaches his desk, and he has consistently worked to ensure public officials are held to the highest standards," Ricci said. "That’s why he has and will continue to go well above and beyond what is required by Maryland’s ethics law.”

Hogan is the founder of the Annapolis-based Hogan Cos., which has completed more than $2 billion in real estate deals since 1985 and has continued to thrive since Hogan took office in 2015. Hogan has an ownership interest in 43 limited liability companies — including four companies formed since he filed his most recent disclosure forms last spring for business in 2018.

After becoming governor, the Republican stepped aside from running the company. His brother, Timothy Hogan, runs the firm, and the governor turned his assets over to a trust.

The State Ethics Commission approved the trust agreement in April 2016 to govern how the three trustees involved — all of whom worked for Hogan — would manage his dozens of real estate holdings. The commission granted a “financial interest exemption” that permits the trustees to provide the governor and his accountant details on how much money the governor is making.

For years, some Democrats, including former Gov. Martin O’Malley and the progressive group Our Maryland, have alleged Hogan is misusing state resources by approving transportation projects that could benefit his real estate business ― accusations the governor denies. An article published by Washington Monthly just before the January start of the General Assembly session, made similar claims.

“I’ve been as transparent as possible," Hogan said last month when asked about the article. "I think I’m the first Maryland governor ever that was a businessperson. I sat down with the ethics commission and laid out everything about my business. ... We followed the letter of the law.”

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Stewart’s bill would require public officials to disclose financial information about not only companies they own, but also about subsidiaries of those companies.

The legislation would require Maryland’s four full-time elected officials ― the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general ― to disclose more information about their sources of outside income. It would require the elected official to provide the names of his or her business partners and each of their clients who pay the company more than $5,000 in a year.

If passed, those provisions of the bill would affect financial disclosure forms beginning next year.

The bill also would require future holders of those statewide offices to either divest their assets or enter into a blind trust when facing potential conflicts of interest. It would prohibit relatives of those elected officials from managing the trust and ban the officeholders from receiving communications from the trustees about the company’s management or income.

If passed, those provisions of the bill would affect candidates who win in the next four-year, statewide election in 2022. Hogan is in his second, four-year term and, due to term limits, cannot run again for governor in 2022.

“Maryland’s ethics laws should be the envy of the nation,” Stewart said. “As Governor Hogan himself recently stated, we must ensure public officials deserve the trust that people have placed in them.”

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Michael W. Lord, director of the state’s ethics commission, said he takes no position on the legislation.

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