Mike Miller's bad bargain Political IOU: By naming Senate president's son to state job, governor gains leverage.

July 28, 1996

THOMAS V. Mike Miller Jr. has served in the state Senate for 21 years. He's been its president for 10 years. He is proud of that chamber and especially of his long tenure as presiding officer.

Yet now Mr. Miller has allowed the Senate to be embarrassed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He has put his colleagues in an unfair position. And he has gotten himself in a situation where he owes a big debt of gratitude to the governor. Mr. Glendening is sure to call in that IOU at crucial times.

What Mr. Miller did was let it be known that he wouldn't be upset if the governor and his corrections secretary put his son, Thomas V. Miller III, in a $56,000 a year job as a parole commissioner. At age 29, and with only a few years of legal experience, it is doubtful that young Tom Miller could have won the post on his own. He clearly became a parole commissioner because he's Mike Miller's son.

But at what price? How many times will the Senate president have to compromise his Senate colleagues by aligning himself with the governor to erase the debt? What kind of message does this send to other legislators about propriety and high ethical standards?

In the complex world of Annapolis politics, Mr. Miller has often feuded with Mr. Glendening. They are old-enemies-turned-new-friends out of Prince George's County. The Senate president had been one of the harshest critics of Mr. Glendening over the years.

Lately, Mr. Miller has tempered his remarks. One reason might be the sinecure for young Tom Miller, but another reason appears to be the rise to prominence of House Speaker Casper '' R. Taylor as a foe of the governor and a potential candidate for that office in 1998. At the moment, Mr. Miller sees more advantage in distancing himself from the House speaker and moving closer to the governor.

But that's insider politics. In the eyes of most people, Mike Miller looks like a conniving, self-interested pol. He dishonors and shames the Senate and his office. He loses his ability to act independently, long a Miller hallmark. All for a little nepotism. It was a bad bargain.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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