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Public Service, Kennedy Style

Mises Daily: Friday, August 20, 1999 by

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The nauseating and psychophantic blather in the media about "America's Royal Family" and its "tradition of public service" seemed to go on forever after JFK, Jr., "America's Prince," killed himself, his wife, and his sister-in-law in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard. The media circus ended its "coverage" with its anointment of Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, the lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, as the heir apparent to "Camelot" who will supposedly carry forward the Kennedy family tradition of "public service."

Public service, my eye. As the second highest elected politician in Maryland, Ms. Kennedy-Townsend helps oversee a carnival of rank corruption that verges on criminality. This is the true "Kennedy legacy" she is likely to carry forward if she is elected governor of Maryland in 2002.

The Maryland Democratic party, which controls the governorship and lieutenant governorship, the state attorney general's and comptroller's offices, and lopsided majorities in both houses of the legislature (106-35 in the House; 32-15 in the Senate), apparently believes that it can get away with almost anything.

The current governor, Parris N. Glendening, was first elected in 1994 (with Kennedy-Townsend as his running mate) under very suspicious circumstances. His main campaign theme was that, as Prince George's County Executive, he had proven himself to be a "prudent manager" of governmental finances.

The Baltimore Sun, which is essentially the propaganda arm of the state Democratic party, faithfully repeated the Glendening mantra for the duration of the campaign. A few days after the election, however, the Washington Post revealed that Mr. Glendening had left Prince George's County in a financial shambles, with a $400 million deficit. It's hard to believe that the Baltimore Sun (or the Washington Post) knew nothing of this prior to the election.

Mr. Glendening won election in 1994 by fewer than 6,000 votes in an election that was contested in court by his opponent, Ellen Sauerbrey. Mrs. Sauerbrey's investigators discovered that thousands of citizens who, by law, were supposed to have been purged from the Baltimore city voting roles for not having voted for at least four years were not purged; new "precincts" were created in downtown Baltimore high rises that the Sauerbrey campaign was not made aware of; there were more votes counted than there were signatures of voters at polling places; some polling machines had been tampered with or left unlocked for hours; and Baltimore city did not report its vote totals until nearly midnight on election night, hours after every other jurisdiction had reported. It was the city's vote tally that barely tipped the election in favor of Mr. Glendening.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's legal challenge was stonewalled at every turn by the state courts; virtually all of Maryland's state judges are Democratic political appointees. When local talk radio began reporting that the Maryland Election Commission was about to void the election Parris Glendening fired every member of the Commission and replaced them with his own appointees.

Mr. Glendening narrowly won a rematch with Mrs. Sauerbrey in 1998 when Democratic party consultant Robert Schrum advised him in the final weeks of the campaign to accuse Mrs. Sauerbrey of being a closet racist. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and other prominent African Americans on the city council and in the state legislature, where Mrs. Sauerbrey had served for seventeen years, publicly denounced and disassociated themselves from the accusations.

Their public statements did not faze the Glendening campaign, however, which continued to broadcast the accusations on radio and television stations throughout the state right through election day. The ends always justify the means to the unprincipled and politically corrupt.

In the last days of the campaign President Clinton appeared at a political rally for Mr. Glendening in a Baltimore church. Front pew seats were reportedly auctioned off for $1000 contributions to the state Democratic party. Not a peep of protest was heard from the Maryland Civil Liberties Union--another informal appendage of the state Democratic political machine--about this obvious marriage of church and state. In 1993 Maryland was the first state to require public high school students to devote 75 hours to "community service" as a prerequisite for graduation.

The top lobbyist for the program was Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1994. Two days after the 1994 election the Baltimore Sun reported that one of the first post-election public appearances by Glendening and Kennedy-Townsend was at a Baltimore County high school where they thanked the students for devoting their "community service" hours to working on their political campaign. There have been numerous other reports of Maryland high school students, who are subject to compulsory attendance laws, being forced to supply free labor to various liberal political causes.

More recently, Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli denied that his prosecution of Linda Tripp is a political prosecution. But he did not pursue an investigation until being effectively ordered, as a political appointee, to do so by a letter to him signed by 49 Democratic members of the state legislature. In what looks like a thinly-veiled attempt at witness intimidation, Mr. Montanarelli announced the investigation on the second day of Ms. Tripp's federal grand jury testimony last March.

There is nothing more corrupt and tyrannical in politics than the legal prosecution of "whistleblowers" who report crimes committed by politicians.

Maryland's dominant political class is arguably the most corrupt in all the fifty states--now that the Clintons are no longer directly involved in Arkansas politics. Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend--or any Kennedy for that matter--would be a natural as the state's future governor.

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Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.