Late aunt is far too late in filing return, IRS says

This Just In...

June 24, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

After receiving several requests that her aunt, Nova Bell, file income tax returns, Elaine Forte wrote a letter to the Internal Revenue Service to explain something: Aunt Nova is no longer paying taxes; she is deceased. But that did not stop the IRS. They are tough up there in Philadelphia.

Soon came another letter, again addressed to Aunt Nova on Glennor Road in North Baltimore and asking her to "please send a copy of death certificate and also a copy of the return you filed."

Though Elaine believes she finally cleared the matter up, the IRS still sends an occasional letter to Aunt Nova. Says Elaine: "I write on it, 'Does not live at this address,' and put it in a mailbox."

But that probably encourages them. I'm guessing the IRS considers Aunt Nova a fugitive by now. They probably have the FBI and Interpol looking for her.

Unflattering portrait

Let's say you're a wealthy contractor or million-dollar-a-year lobbyist with lots of business before the governor of Maryland and the General Assembly. You make campaign contributions, you sell tickets to fund-raisers, you buy tickets to fund-raisers, you schmooze, you wine and dine -- all the usual stuff, of course, and all to get something you or your clients might need.

But "the usual" isn't always enough. Especially with this governor. He's a shameless never-stop shopper for campaign contributions. (I could have sworn I saw him standing in traffic the other day with a cardboard sign around his neck.) He'll hit on anyone for cash for his kitty, even while some of his contributors might be seeking to do business with the state.

In the midst of all this, you -- the lobbyist and/or contractor -- look for an edge. Something special. You might need it some day. One of your clients might want considerations from the state while he builds his new football stadium in Prince George's County. Other clients might need some help with special-interest legislation next winter. Or, in the case of the contractor, your company might want to be -- I'm just speculating here -- project manager for the $200 million football stadium in Baltimore or some other grand public works project.

So, how do you get the edge?

You don't.

You let the governor give it to you.

Consider what happened to Gerry Evans, the highest-paid lobbyist in Annapolis, and Willard Hackerman, the wealthy chairman of Whiting-Turner Construction Co., one of the largest builders in the state during the Schaefer years and still a formidable bidder on public projects.

Evans and Hackerman were selected by the governor of Maryland to head up a committee to raise private funds for a new "foundation" in Annapolis. This "foundation" will pay for, among other things, the official portraits of the governor and his wife.

Isn't that sweet? Isn't that cozy?

Evans, who made $327,000 just for representing Jack Kent Cooke in his successful effort to get $73 million in state funds for his new football stadium in Landover, said he was "pleased and proud" to be involved in this "foundation" business. I'll bet. Every lobbyist in Maryland would love to have this novel opportunity to suck up to the governor and his wife.

And Hackerman? Should his service on this "foundation" happen to coincide with some state action beneficial to his company -- groundbreaking for the new Baltimore football stadium is scheduled for September (hee, hee) -- that would just be coincidence, right? Hackerman is a philanthropist and a supporter of the arts. He has a long history of public spiritedness. Not to mention public contracts. Not to mention political connections. Evidently he hasn't lost his edge, either.

This is one of the reasons I love this state: It's just so damn cozy. And with this administration, it seems to get cozier and cozier.

I hope the portraits come out real pretty.

Mandel memories

The governor's wife wants to publish a book on Maryland's first ladies. I think that's a great idea. And I, for one, can't wait to read the chapter on the Mandel era, 1969-1978. (If you can't appreciate why that would be such an intriguing chapter, what can I say? Once upon a time, it was the longest running soap opera in the state's history. You can look it up. See "Thimbleriggers," by Bradford S. Jacobs, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.)

Snapshots

I have two fresh images in my head -- one urban, one country -- and need to get them down and out before they disappear. I'm thinking of a kitchen man from Luigia Petti in Little Italy on Saturday night, late, almost midnight, while it's still hot and humid and Eastern Avenue is full of traffic. He's sitting outside the restaurant's garden, his white shirt drenched in sweat, arms crossed, a dark towel over his shoulder. He's tired and hot, and his face glows red from the neon sign above him, at the garden entrance. . . . I'm thinking of another night, rural Maryland, in a stream valley below a forested ridge. At midnight under a bright moon, fog cloaks the trees, like a gray veil, and lightning bugs sew yellow droplets into it. There are so many little drops of fire it seems they could burn the fog away.

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