Corporate subsidies corrupt political and regulatory processJay...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Corporate subsidies corrupt political and regulatory process

Jay Hancock's wonderful series on economic development subsidies should be must reading for all state legislators ("The Giveaway Game," Oct. 10-13). And the movement to get Congress to end this unproductive "war between the states" should be encouraged.

But voters will need to hold politicians' feet to the fire if this is to happen.

Mr. Hancock made clear that corporate executives have become increasingly adept at milking subsidies from the states. But it's equally true that governors and legislators love to have discretionary "sunny day" funds to dispense.

This enables them to win friends in business by doling out taxpayers' money -- in exchange for later campaign contributions from the grateful executives.

This circular flow of dirty money should be seen for what it is: a sophisticated kickback mechanism.

The longer this goes on, the more it will corrupt state politics.

Mr. Hancock's expose should motivate us all to insist it must stop.

Stephen J. K. Walters, Baltimore

The writer is a professor of economics at Loyola College of Baltimore.

Thanks to The Sun for Jay Hancock's excellent four-part series, "The Giveaway Game" on corporate welfare. My only concern is that Mr. Hancock did not identify the connection between two parts of his investigative report.

In the first article, Mr. Hancock described how Magellan Health Services coaxed more than $2 million in giveaways from the state for moving its headquarters to Columbia, even though there was no indication that Magellan seriously considered any other location.

In the third article, Mr. Hancock showed how giveaways have ravaged South Carolina's economy. Without further identifying her, he quoted Darla Moore's comment that such giveaways in her home state are "promiscuous."

But, while shedding crocodile tears over wrong-headed giveaways, Ms. Moore and her husband, who hold controlling interest in Magellan, are only too happy to use the same strategy here in Maryland.

Magellan controls mental health care for more than 60 million Americans and The Sun has presented its move to Maryland as an economic coup ("Mental health giant moving to Columbia," May 21).

But I have to wonder whether the same state government that courted Magellan will now exercise any regulatory power over its business practices.

Steven Shearer, Lutherville

If money equals speech, let's equalize incomes

George Will argues that any restriction on money donations to politicians violates the donor's right to free speech, because donations and speech are one and the same ("Media miss the message about freedom of speech," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 17) .

This idea would have some merit if Mr. Will would agree that, since the Constitution guarantees us all equally free speech, then we should be equally endowed with money as well.

Let's start the equalization process. Mr. Will can send me half of his salary and I'll send him half of mine.

John D. Venables ,Towson

Feature on Tufaro was unfair, irrelevant

Tom Pelton's front-page article "Tufaro firm's conduct questioned in Virginia" (Oct. 18) was a misjudgment.

The fire at the Old Buckingham apartments has no more to do with David Tufaro's fitness to be mayor than Larry Hubbard's death has to do with Martin O'Malley's.

I had considered The Sun's coverage of Mr. Tufaro balanced and fair until this article appeared.

The Sun owes Mr. Tufaro a retraction and apology.

At the very least, I hope the editorial page will spare us any further bleatings about why honorable people decline to offer themselves for public office.

As soon as a decent person becomes a significant candidate, The Sun sends out reporters to find the dirt, determined not to come back empty-handed.

Hal Riedl, Baltimore

Why couldn't the state handle tobacco litigation?

The recent quarrel about the state's payment of the fee from the tobacco settlement to Peter G. Angelos makes me wonder ("Tobacco no hazard to his wealth," editorial, Oct. 19).

Several other states had already successfully sued the tobacco companies when Maryland launched its suit. Those court files were available to Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran.

All Mr. Curran needed to do was fill in the blanks with Maryland's information.

So why did Mr. Curran need to employ Mr. Angelos, when he says he has scores of talented and well-trained lawyers in the attorney general's office.

And since the case appeared to be a sure thing, why did Mr. Curran agree to give Mr. Angelos a 25-percent fee?

I think Maryland's taxpayers require answers to these questions.

Nicholas R. Bachur Sr., Towson

Here's a better idea: Prosecute the criminals

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran said of his proposal to limit gun ownership, "For those who oppose this, I challenge them to have a better idea to save 35,000 lives."

I have one: What if the attorney general and his office did their job of prosecuting criminals?

Tom Mostyn, Baltimore

Commission should focus on preservation, not play

The Sun recently had a short article about a croquet match between the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission and other county officials at Sudbrook Park ("Preservation group to battle county officials in croquet, Oct. 20).

Sudbrook Park is a fine community, but perhaps the landmarks commission should focus on doing its job before entering charity sports matches.

Earlier this year, the landmarks commission did nothing to stop the destruction of the historic Thomas Fortune property in Cockeysville. In 1998, the commission lacked the courtesy to even consider historic status for three of Perry Hall's oldest buildings.

These episodes illustrate why many activists consider Baltimore County's landmarks commission an embarrassment to historical preservation.

I hope the commission enjoyed its day in Sudbrook Park. Maybe next year, it can honor us with a volleyball game on the parking lot where three of Perry Hall's finest buildings once stood.

David Marks, Perry Hall

The writer is president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association.

It's a sacrilege to compare other divas to Callas

Seeing the grand diva herself, Maria Callas, displayed alongside pictures of Tina Turner, Madonna and (groan) Cher, I felt a real twinge of pain ("These days, anyone can be a diva," Oct. 17).

Surely this is sacrilegious. It's like being served a gourmet plate of filet mignon, paired with three side orders of lukewarm chipped beef.

While the three side orders may do what they do well, no one compares to the great Callas.

Joanna Evans, Baltimore

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