Friday, May 29, 2009

Keep Your Shoes On, Sheila

Famous shoe-wagger Mayor Sheila Dixon may have slipped the grasp of State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh based on one of the most backward precedents our country has. Legislative Immunity stands for the principle that a legislator may not be civilly or criminally liable for speech, actions, or votes related to or contained within the duties of a legislator. Most people can agree with this principle on its face. You don't want your representative to be worried about being civilly liable for voting for playgrounds, roads, etc. where people may get hurt.

The problem is that Judge Sweeney, retired Howard County Circuit Court judge, has held that a legislators actions may not be used as evidence of bribery in a criminal trial. If you boil away all of the legal mumbo jumbo, this means it is near impossible to convict someone of being bribed, however you may easily convict the briber. Seeing as the politician has a much larger potential and capacity for being bribed than the briber (who is of limited purpose and means), this legal precedent is a travesty.

Everyone rails against the political fundraising issues in our country. Local politicians end up holding $250 a plate fundraisers that end up giving them more money than they'll ever need in a county election. This is because any quid pro quo relationship that may develop is completely immune from investigation or prosecution. I am not suggesting that all large donations can be traced directly to political action, but the environment is furtile for such abuse, and I think we can all agree that this abuse is prevalent.

In light of judicial decisions such as these, the burden is incumbent on all of us as voters to box out politicians that abuse the immunities that they are allowed. Judge Sweeney did not rule that Mayor Dixon is unaccountable. He simply ruled that she was not criminally accountable. Let's start using our vote to take their jobs away. We'll see if they still have the "support" of developers then.

1 comment:

  1. In order for the vast majority of voters to know who is abusing campaign finance, they need access to information, and the will to vote against incumbents. Then they have to link the fact that money used to curry favor was used to hook their own vote (admit being conned) and used to spend taxpayer money on pet projects as payback for the campaign money. All perfectly legal but voters wouldn't look on this favorably, if they knew it was happening.

    That is the challenge. Not insurmountable, and currently being won in tiny elections, one would hope this mindset can grow to the larger elections like county council where residents really don't know who those people are and what they've done.

    The average resident sees lots of back patting and very little reality of what the council has been doing. Doing TO us, I'd argue.

    Consequently we have horrendous money for favors records and unabashed anti Democracy infestations. Per the MD Elections Database manager, in January 2010 Calvin Ball's $250 per plate dinner will appear on the campaign finance database. It's on my calendar, and hopefully on Anthony's.