JUNE 19, 2008
Maryland may be one of the nation’s smallest states but lately it has been tainted with some big time corruption allegations that have touched the governor’s office, the state legislature and the state’s largest city.
Let’s start with this week’s lengthy raid of Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon’s home. A headline grabber for becoming the city’s first female mayor, Dixon has been the target of a two-year investigation into City Hall spending because, as City Council president, a lot of public money went to companies that employed her sister and her former campaign chairman.
Investigators say that, between 2001 and 2005, Dixon steered lucrative, no-bid government contracts worth at least $600,000 to such firms with personal ties. Most deals didn’t have a written contract and Dixon helped craft a way to keep payments to under $5,000 so they wouldn’t need approval from the Board of Estimates. Several city employees have been subpoenaed and the popular Democrat mayor is expected to be formally charged soon.
Then we have Maryland Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley, who secured nearly $30 million to build a highway interchange to help a major donor’s commercial project. The taxpayer-financed interchange will lead to a road serving a $79 million business development owned by Edward St. John, a Baltimore developer who has donated big bucks to both political parties.
In fact state prosecutors recently fined St. John for making more than $300,000 in 2006 political contributions through his company’s vice presidents in order to skirt contribution limits. The vice presidents were later reimbursed for their “contributions” through their year-end bonuses.
Additionally, the FBI is investigating a prominent Democrat state senator in connection with his “consulting” work for a big supermarket chain. Ulysses Currie, who chairs a powerful state panel that directs billions of dollars in state spending (Senate Budget and Taxation Committee), also received campaign donations from the supermarket chain he did consulting work for.
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