In a continuation of last week’s near-daily barrage against the so-called “Annapolis Machine’s” efforts to peel away Comptroller Peter Franchot’s regulatory oversight of alcohol, Franchot’s top aide is taking on another prominent player in the mix.
Franchot chief of staff Len Foxwell on Monday blasted former House majority leader D. Bruce Poole (D) in a Facebook post over comments in which Poole was quoted in a Herald-Mail Media article claiming that the comptroller’s office is seemingly uninterested in educating the public on the dangers of alcohol.
(See Foxwell’s Facebook post below.)
Poole was quoted saying that he “couldn’t help but conclude that the comptroller wasn’t interested” in educating the public about “the dangers of alcohol” and was instead more focused on “issues between craft brewers and major distributors.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D) apparently asked Poole, a former state legislator from Washington County, to chair the Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety and Public Health.
(Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) appointed Poole to lead the alcohol task force.)
The task force was created last legislative session by a bill sponsored by then-Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) and Warren E. Montgomery (R-Howard, Carroll).
In January the task force voted 13-7 to strip Franchot’s regulatory authority of overseeing alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel.
Joined last Tuesday by Foxwell, Franchot visited reporters in the State House press room for a press conference that lasted about 15 minutes.
There, Franchot told reporters that “not a single complaint was registered about the enforcement of my agency, the laws.”
“Nothing was mentioned, other than alcohol. Nothing was mentioned about petroleum or the other areas of jurisdiction. And, as a result, the main conclusion is that this recommendation is recrimination against me for being an advocate small, family-owned craft brewers in Maryland,” Franchot told reporters.
On Thursday during an interview with WBAL Radio, Franchot called on Speaker Busch to remove his campaign treasurer, Neal Katcef.
Katcef is president of the Katcef Brothers beer wholesaler in Anne Arundel County and has served for years as Busch’s campaign treasurer.
Poole, who runs The Poole Law Group, responded to Foxwell’s post this afternoon in an extended interview with A Miner Detail.
“The Comptroller and Mr. Foxwell are way behind the times as to what the public health need is and what other states are doing,” Poole said.
Poole said he’s surprised that “all we get back from the comptroller and his staff is ‘who’s in power and who’s losing power and who are we fighting,’ instead of ‘what’s good for Maryland.'”
“I would have thought that the comptroller would have gone in for his own field enforcement division and said to the governor and to the legislature ‘we need to keep up the pace.'”
Poole laughed off Foxwell’s suggestion that he serves as the “longtime consigliere” to the “Annapolis beer syndicate.”
“Well, if I am”, Poole chuckled, “I’m the part that doesn’t have any lubrication by money. All I’m doing is trying to do a job and not getting paid for it. And I’m weighing the evidence.”
“Now I see this latest press release about me being a consigliere of the beer industry or what I would call big beer. I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’ve never done any work for them,” Poole said.
Poole reiterated that he doesn’t believe Franchot is a “corrupt person or a bad person.”
“I just think that his role is to be a tax collector. It’s not to be somebody who is to consider public policy for all of us relative to alcohol. Do what other counties are doing and start to look at public health as a major consideration. It shouldn’t just be about who’s making money through the alcohol industry.”