OCTOBER 19, 2011
In a classic example of unscrupulous politicians covering up for each other, one of the top Democrats in the U.S. House is vouching for the honesty of a state lawmaker on trial for taking nearly a quarter of a million dollars in bribes and lying to federal authorities to cover it up.It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so appalling. Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, has testified in federal court on behalf of a Maryland state senator (Ulysses Currie) embroiled it a huge bribery scandal. As chair of the state’s powerful senate taxation committee, federal authorities say Currie for years sold his influence to a supermarket chain that he helped land government business and other favors that financially benefitted the company.In fact, Currie kept a detailed list of the illegal favors he did for the grocery chain executives, according to a federal indictment, and the grocery chain put Currie on its payroll for about six years in order to conceal monthly bribes of up to $7,600. When the feds started digging around, Currie said he worked part-time for the grocery company as a consultant of “minority recruitment and outreach, community relations and public affairs.”Under oath at Currie’s trial this week, Hoyer testified that his friend of 30 years is a “decent, honest person of integrity,” according to a local newspaper report. The House Minority Whip also revealed to the jury that Currie is not very organized and doesn’t pay attention to details, only to people. Evidently this is how Congressman Hoyer tried to justify his pal’s involvement in the bribery scandal.Though Maryland is among the nation’s smallest states it has been tainted with big-time corruption in the last few years that has touched the governor’s office, the state legislature and its biggest county. Last fall a married couple elected to serve in Maryland’s largest county made headlines for flushing a $100,000 bribe down the toilet and stuffing nearly $80,000 in cash in underwear.Incredibly, the wife, Prince George County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, pleaded guilty to a felony earlier this year but refused to leave her $96,417-a-year public job. In an editorial, the area’s largest newspaper called it a “case study in arrogance,” pointing out that every day she serves in public office and every act she commits in her official capacity is a disgrace to the county and her constituents.
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