02.01.2009 0

Editorial: “…And Shes Daddys Little Girl”

  • On: 02/11/2009 10:09:46
  • In: Government Transparency
  • Sometimes it requires a microscope to see the big picture.

    And when the big picture is the corruption and self-serving politics rampant in Big Government today, a zoomed-in examination of Maryland’s State Senate will help illuminate the issue.

    According to gazette.net, Maryland State Senator Nathaniel Exum (D-Dist. 24) has introduced a bill that would overturn a 1993 ethics law prohibiting developers with pending projects from giving campaign contributions directly to county council members throughout the state. The law also forbids council members from participating in discussions of development projects involving people who had contributed to their respective campaigns within the last three years.

    As the Washington Post explains, the law was originally passed in order to abate influence buying—or pay-to-play—by wealthy development interests in state politics. Which is precise why Mr. Exum is determined to gut it. As Ryan O’Donnell, executive director of the group Common Cause Maryland, remarked:

    “It’s certainly a bold bill to introduce…We need to strengthen our pay-to-play laws, not weaken them.”

    Even Mr. Exum’s fellow Democrats share this concern. As Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said:

    “I’m just shocked to see this bill come forward…I don’t want to speculate as to who or what it’s supposed to benefit, but it doesn’t smack of good government.”

    Actually, speculating about who the bill’s beneficiaries might be isn’t too difficult at all. Mr. Exum, who represents the D.C.-area Prince George’s County, has one family member in particular who stands to benefit greatly if his legislation were enacted.

    His daughter, Camille Exum has sat on the county council since 2002 and due to term limits is unable to run for reelection in 2010. It is widely believed that she will seek a new office—the most likely of which may be the County Executive position of Prince George’s County.

    If Senator Exum’s bill is passed and the 1993 ethics law is repealed, it could translate into serious campaign donations from developers that his daughter would otherwise be barred from receiving. To complete the picture, it is only necessary to understand that Ms. Exum serves on a number of development-related boards including Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZED), Washington Suburban Transit Commission, and Transportation, Housing and the Environment (THE).

    Senator Exum, claiming the proposal was not designed to help Daddy’s little girl, said of the proposed legislation:

    “It’ll apply to anyone…It doesn’t necessarily apply to my daughter.”

    Besides being an absurd non sequitor, that is also an outright lie. Of course the bill necessarily applies to Mr. Exum’s daughter. And the only way it won’t is if he adds a codicil leaving her out. Or if she voluntarily leaves the state. Neither of which is likely to occur—because then she would lose all of her (and his) developer friends.

    Unfortunately, what applies in this situation equally applies to any and every government entity and elected leader in the nation. Politics is politics, and Senator Exum is doing what politicians—unfortunately—do best: serving themselves at the people’s expense. If the law doesn’t work in one’s favor, simply change it. If campaign donations are what one needs, exchange some favors to rake them in.

    No big deal.

    Whether its Rod Blagojevich, Tom Daschle, Ted Stevens or Nathaniel Exum, those in office too often feel that laws and ethics only apply to “normal,” common-folk. And that those who make the laws that rule are above the rule of law.

    If the zoomed-in view of the Maryland State Senate conveys anything, it is that as Lord Acton posited: Power corrupts. Absolutely. Camille Exum may indeed be “sugar and spice, and everything nice.” But “Daddy’s Little Girl’s” pot of gold should not come at the expense of good government.

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