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As Long as We Remember...

March 29, 2007

Paving the Path to Corruption

Chris Cavey

O Maryland, My Maryland, when will we, as citizens, learn that our free state isn't free but controlled by continued political corruption? When will the citizenry understand power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The answer to these questions is doubtfully ever. Voters rarely if ever do a good job at "throwing the bums out." Instead we continue to re-elect, without question, many of the same public officials like we're drug addicts unable to break our self-inflicted habit.

These career public officials then, in turn, continue to build their fiefdoms of personal power while smiling at the voter. Just like the drug dealer smiles at his captive prey.

Democrats across our state, and in the hallowed legislative chambers in Annapolis, continue to rail against President Bush and Republicans in general for the current woes in our nation's capital. Yet the contention is not all whistle clean in Annapolis with the opposite party, those power hungry Democrats.

Do you really believe that the flamboyant former Democrat senator from Baltimore County, Tommy Bromwell, is an anomaly in our state government system? Senator Bromwell is currently under federal indictment on numerous charges related to his "public service."Ever stop to think about some other oddities that have been spawned by one-party governance?

Speaker of The House of Delegates Michael Busch (D., Anne Arundel) moves Republicans from committee to committee so no tenure is gained; places Republican leaders on committees where they can "inflict little harm" to the system; moves at will the Republican Whip from his seat in the front row to a seat in the rear of the chamber over a disagreement; and turns off the microphones on Republican delegates during debate.

Del. Gail Bates (R. Carroll County) was recently quoted when asked about the Democrat's congeniality in post-Ehrlich Annapolis: "Well, at least they smile at us now when they vote against us." Delegate Bates knows it's because they now have absolute power.

My all time favorite Maryland abuse of power example is the Miller Building! Remember indicted Sen. Tommy Bromwell once made a play to unseat Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller (pre-building) and failed. What does that say for the power of the man who named a building after himself? Tommy - with all his problems - is an amateur.

After the failed coup, a deal was struck and Senator Bromwell kept his Senate committee chairmanship until he was finally bought out with a new job as chairman of the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, at over $200,000 annual compensation. Later, after he resigned due to the indictment, he received a severance package of $400,000. What a sweet deal! To top this off, don't forget about felons having the right to vote.

What a pay off for someone who was a political intra-party enemy. Mr. Bromwell, a tavern keeper, was then sold to the media and the public as an expert in the ways of workers compensation. No training, no licensing, no experience. He was good enough because he had been a chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Writing about another case, U. S. District Judge Frederick Motz said that Annapolis represented "a culture of corruption that has been tolerated by lobbyists, legislators and the citizens of Maryland." Judge Motz will preside over the Bromwell trial should all the legal stalling ever come to an end.

Many think that the hard-nosed, colorful-speaking former senator is maneuvering for yet another deal. Either he is dealing for limited consequences (read: jail time) and taking "others" with him, or he's looking to see what his silence will buy. Most-likely a bidding war, one that Tommy might even control.

So, depending on what list you look up, Maryland falls either second or third on the lists of the most corrupt states. The Democrats in Annapolis should be thankful for the Democrats in Illinois and Louisiana. Here is a brief list of some of Maryland's political power-play mistakes, including a few Republicans:

*Governor Spiro Agnew: His gubernatorial misconduct did not catch up to him until after he was Vice-President of the United States.

*Governor Marvin Mandel convicted of mail fraud and racketeering (1977).

*State Senator Tommie Broadwater, Jr., convicted of food stamp fraud (1983).

*State Sen. Larry Young forced out of office despite acquittal on corruption charges (1990's).

*Lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano convicted of mail fraud in connection with campaign contributions (1990's), but later returned to lobbying in Annapolis.

*Politician Ruthann Aron (Montgomery County Planning Board member and 1994 Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate), who ran on a "tough on crime" platform but was later convicted of hiring a "contract" hit man named William H. Mossburg, Jr., in 1997, to kill her husband and a lawyer (1998).

*Lobbyist Gerard E. Evans convicted of fraud after dummying up legislation and collecting fees from clients to fight it.

*Banker Nathan A. Chapman, Jr., found guilty of defrauding the state retirement system.

*State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris convicted of spending police money for personal uses while Baltimore's police commissioner.

*Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr., telephoning Maryland Court of Appeals judges ex parte, trying to lobby them not to overturn the unconstitutional redistricting plan he had championed (2002).

*Former Maryland State Senator Thomas L. Bromwell indicted (2005) on 30 counts of federal racketeering, corruption, and fraud charges, in alleged six-year conspiracy ending in 2004, to wield influence to benefit construction company Poole and Kent, in exchange for concealed payments and other favors.

Most citizens are zombified to the fact that one party rule is not good for government. They are walking around complaining about new legislation and new taxes, yet ever voting for incumbents who are responsible for the woes of the citizenry.

In Annapolis power continues to build, mostly on one side of the aisle. This is a power which has proven to lead to corruption. If you are okay with that concept, then, dear reader, you get what you deserve.

As for me, I just hope I don't "wake-up sleeping with the fishes."

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