CLINTON BASHERS -- and a lot of supporters -- blame the president for dissing his office. The public's respect for Congress could fall off the charts with Clinton's trial in the Senate. Opinion polls and voter turnout indicate lousy attitudes toward the political system. But remember what Tip O'Neill said: All politics is local. A local politician who scuffs up his office contributes as much to the public's low opinions as all that nasty partisanship in Washington does.
So now we have the matter of Tony Fulton, state delegate from West Baltimore.
I know: It's only $9,000, and he disclosed the transaction. But it still stinks.
Twelve years Fulton has been going to Annapolis -- he was endorsed by The Sun, by the way -- but he missed some fundamental facts of life for a state delegate worthy of honor: You can't serve the public while allowing yourself to be compromised by special interests. You can't serve your constituents while appearing to serve yourself. You can dine with lobbyists but you shouldn't get in the hot tub with them.
I'll do this in brief:
In addition to being a state delegate, Fulton is a real estate agent based in Lutherville; he mostly handles residential stuff. According to a Sun story, two Annapolis lobbyists, including big-money, multicliented, casino advocate Gerard Evans, pulled Fulton into a commercial real estate deal outside of his usual territory, Baltimore and Baltimore County. The lobbyists and another investor, a guy named Mike Hegarty, formed a partnership called Conduit LLC. Their aim was to buy a building for offices on Conduit Street in Annapolis. The $600,000 purchase took place a few days after Thanksgiving. In addition to counting his blessings, Tony Fulton must have been counting his commission -- $9,000.
Of course, Fulton doesn't see anything wrong with what he did. He says he was not acting as agent for the two lobbyists, but for their partner in the office building deal, Hegarty.
That makes a big difference, right? You can grasp the nuance, can't you? The delegate was working for this (ITAL) other guy (ENDITAL), Hegarty, not for his partners in Conduit LLC, Evans and lobbyist-buddy John Stierhoff.
Evans points this out, as well -- in the hope, I guess, of impressing us with a mitigating distinction.
Follow along at home, friends. Here's the quote that appeared in The Sun the other day. It's Gerry Evans trying to lawyer his way through the muck: "If you bear in mind that Mike Hegarty is the majority owner of this Conduit LLC, and we're a minority participant, then I think it puts a different color on it."
No, it doesn't.
The color's the same -- green, as in money, as in jade, as in jaded, which is what too many of us are from reading stories like this one about Fulton and Evans and Stierhoff.
It's interesting to note that these fine men don't seem to have their story straight.
Evans, Stierhoff and Fulton seem to say that Hegarty got the delegate into the deal on the office building.
Hegarty, on the other hand, says it was those pesky lobbyists who brought Fulton in on the deal.
"They already had him," Hegarty said. "My wife's a real estate agent, and I could have let her handle it, but I didn't do that because [Fulton] was already on board."
One wonders how that went over with Mrs. Hegarty, doesn't one?
Last year at this time, the General Assembly had to deal with Larry Young, the state senator, since ousted from office and indicted, who violated the legislature's ethics rules by using his public office for private gain. There was also that problem with Del. Gerald Curran, who resigned in February under a cloud of an ethics investigation into his business dealings. At the time, it was Fulton who noted: "This has not been a good legislative session, and it won't be until we get to the business of Maryland. We're preoccupied with ethics."
Yeah, right. Ethics in politics. What a bother. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching.
A few words from Bush Hog
Our friend Bush Hog called to say: "Del. Howard 'Pete' Rawlings is not going to run for mayor, but he wants to introduce legislation that will permit [NAACP president] Kweisi Mfume to run for mayor even though he lives in Baltimore County. Could you ask Pete to add to his legislation permission for me to vote for Bob Kaufman for mayor, even though I live in Baltimore County? Ya gotta love a man who thinks that every mayoral candidate ought to spend a night in jail."
Judicial threat of boredom
Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Jr. came up with an interesting way to keep his civil docket flowing the other day -- the threat of boredom. Beck asked each attorney with business before him for time estimates, then scheduled cases, with the longest estimated arguments placed last.
"The penalty for those who run beyond time stipulated is to stay and listen to the zoning case," Beck said, referring to what was expected to be a lengthy hearing involving two county agencies at odds over a piece of land in Eldersburg.
No one went into overtime.
TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can be contacted at 410-332-6166, or by mail at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.
Pub Date: 1/15/99