A Sorry Buy-In
On April 28, President Bush attended a political dinner that raised $8 million for the GOP. Contributors who forked up $92,000 each got a photograph with the president and the opportunity to lobby White House and cabinet officials and the Republican leadership in Congress.
Those who contributed $30,000 got a table "completed" by a U.S. senator. Access to U.S. representatives was a bargain at $15,000.
This dinner sent the sad message that access to public officials at the highest level is available for big bucks. During the 1980s, for example, the savings and loan industry contributed more than $10 million to win friends in Washington.
Under deregulation and lax government oversight, the industry went on a binge of unsound banking practices that resulted in an estimated $500 billion bailout by taxpayers.
Opponents who argue we can't afford to spend tax dollars to clean up federal elections ignore the much larger costs of the current corrupt system.
Less than two weeks after the infamous dinner, President Bush protected a corrupt campaign financing system by vetoing campaign finance reform. The bill bans $100,000 fat-cat contributions in presidential campaigns, reduces the role of special interest Political Action Committees, limits congressional campaign spending and provides public resources to make elections fairer and more competitive.
President Bush, who by November will have accepted more public funds in his campaigns for vice president and president than any other politician (approximately $200 million), defended his veto by criticizing spending limits and publicly-financed communications vouchers for qualifying congressional candidates. How hypocritical.
The biggest scandal in Washington is the way special-interest money is used to buy access and influence in the Congress and at the White House. Responsibility for preserving the current corrupt campaign financing system in Washington lies on President Bush's doorstep.
The writer is executive director of Common Cause/Maryland.
Employees' HFCA Preferences
I would like to comment on your editorial, "The Bitter HCFA Fight," and the various advantages you state the downtown site has over the Woodlawn site.
You claim the downtown site has superior public transit and highway access. At first glance, the downtown site has more public transportation with the light rail, subway and public buses.
However, the nearest subway stations are a good half-mile hike from the site -- not a distance I want to trudge in bad weather or on a dark winter night in the city. The light-rail stops have the disadvantage of limited parking.
Neither of these modes of transportation helps the many employees who live west of the site in Baltimore County or Howard and Carroll counties.
As for highway access, I believe you are dead wrong. The Woodlawn site is very close to the interchange of the Baltimore beltway and Interstate 70. The downtown site is close to Interstate 95 only. Interstate 83 comes into downtown Baltimore, but on the other side of the downtown area.
According to your editorial, the Woodlawn site does not match the city site for convenience or prestige. Who have you been talking to? The Health Care Financing Administrtion's employees have repeatedly and emphatically stated their preference for the Woodlawn site. They have said that a move to downtown would be extremely inconvenient.
As to prestige, who wants to work in a traffic-clogged, crime-ridden area which has no parking? In contrast, Woodlawn would provide ample parking for employees and security guards to protect them.
The decision should be made on what is best for HCFA and its employees, not on what is best for Baltimore City.
When only those factors are taken into consideration, the obvious choice is to remain in the Woodlawn area.
Phyllis A. Griffin
You recommend that the pro-Baltimore County and pro-Baltimore City factions in the relocation battle of HCFA headquarters "stop politicking and let GSA make a non-political recommendation on HCFA's future." Yet you do not hesitate to strongly endorse the proposed Baltimore City site, while ignoring the case for the county site.
If, as you say, the bottom line of the issue is that, no matter what, HCFA will stay in the Baltimore metropolitan area, you seriously compromise that argument by expressing your preference. If your point is to let the competitive process take its course, you have undercut that point drastically.
Further, The Sun's reasons for choosing the city site omit a crucial area of consideration -- the extreme inconvenience and disruption in the work and personal lives of thousands of HCFA employees.
We are not concerned about the visibility or impressiveness of a prospective location or the benefit a site may have for those with vested interests. We are concerned about doing our jobs.