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August 2, 2007

Caught In The Cookie Jar

Chris Cavey

If you believe there is no corruption on the Maryland political scene - you're smoking rope. My friends, you got to ask yourself, how many are still in public offices who have not been caught; and how many are just corrupt?

Breaking the law and being corrupt in your political dealings are not the same. Corruption is an impairment of your integrity and moral principle; it is decay of the system our forefathers created. You can work within the law and still be morally deprived, most multiple-term incumbent politicians know all about these temptations.

Thomas L. Bromwell, former representative of the people from Baltimore County, plead guilty recently to federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy and tax evasion - because he broke the law and he got caught.

His 24 years in public office spawned greed, self-proclaimed power and emboldened his corruption. FBI tapes corroborate Bromwell's proclamation of self-importance. The years of accumulating favors, twisting arms and constant re-election by a blinded partisan constituency fueled the fires of his political ego.

Bromwell, a former state senator referred to himself as a "rainmaker" in the world of Maryland politics, translated as "Democrat politics." Everyone agreed Bromwell was a major league political force. When he finally admitted accepting bribes to influence publicly funded construction contracts, sad to say, few people were shocked. Many were surprised that he was caught.

The Bromwell saga is complex. In his non-political life he was a bar owner in northeast Baltimore County. The political power, wielded from the former Bromwell Inn, was of legend, as was his earthy everyday, common, man-on-the-street demeanor. He is a true "east-sider," and, quite frankly, that's not necessarily a bad quality.

>From his seat of influence within the Maryland Senate, his sons both magically scored good jobs with Comcast. Mrs. Bromwell accepted a "no-show" job with a construction company and later found herself convicted with her husband. The political bacon was delivered regularly to Legislative District 8, and friends were rewarded along the way.

Bromwell later bowed out of his Senate seat for the coveted position of president and chief executive officer of the Injured Workers Insurance Fund (IWIF), causing a shift in tenure within the Democrat ranks of District 8, thus creating an "entry-level" opening for son Eric Bromwell, as a delegate, to begin another long "Bromwell" career.

In his position with IWIF, Bromwell controlled a business with assets of $1.5 billion, which also received $47 million from the general budget of the State of Maryland. He was hand-chosen for this position, which paid over $200,000 per year, due to his expertise in managing a corner bar in Overlea, not due to any other corruption or favors owed by any other member of the Maryland Senate. (Yeah, right.)

After his indictment, IWIF bought out Bromwell's contract with a cool $400,000 settlement, hoping he would leave before too much bad publicity affected their day-to-day operations. With the deal that was finally struck with the court in bargaining for a guilty plea, Bromwell will be allowed to keep his $400,000 IWIF settlement, plus his accumulated state pension from his years of service to Maryland's citizens. (What a deal!)

In mentioning deals and money, we can't forget that at least 26 Democrat candidate accounts - or political slates - accepted Bromwell's "power" money, transferred from the campaign account Friends of Tommy Bromwell to their own, many after his indictment. (Hey, it was an election year.) Gifts to these Democrat servants of the people ranged from $250 to $75,000.

Recipients of these tainted dollars run the gambit from Sen. President Mike Miller's Democratic Senatorial Slate to the Baltimore County Democrat Party, with Gov. Martin O'Malley and his son, Del. Eric Bromwell somewhere in-between. To date none have volunteered to return the perhaps questionable "Bromwell indictment money."

Bromwell once confided (on FBI tape, June 14, 2001) to a dinner companion that serving time for a public corruption conviction could be honorable - and potentially lucrative. "All these guys that went to jail, right, for 18 months, they're all [expletive] millionaires, OK?" (Not exactly what my Mom taught me; but, hey, I was raised out in the rural area.)

Logic leads us to believe that not all political people are corrupt. Honestly, most are upstanding individuals with various agendas depending on their constituency and political party. Most are hard working and very dedicated to their duties as our representatives in government.

But.the gnawing inside of me stills senses there are dozens of state legislators who have served greater than 16 years and are making a surprisingly good life for their families at just a part-time job. So, perhaps there is still a little "Bromwell-style" corruption to be found somewhere in 'ole Annapolis-town.

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