Corporate subsidies corrupt political and regulatory...


October 26, 1999

Corporate subsidies corrupt political and regulatory process

Jay Hancock's wonderful series on economic development subsidies should be must reading for all state legislators ("The Giveaway Game," Oct. 10-13). And the movement to get Congress to end this unproductive "war between the states" should be encouraged.

But voters will need to hold politicians' feet to the fire if this is to happen.

Mr. Hancock made clear that corporate executives have become increasingly adept at milking subsidies from the states. But it's equally true that governors and legislators love to have discretionary "sunny day" funds to dispense.

This enables them to win friends in business by doling out taxpayers' money -- in exchange for later campaign contributions from the grateful executives.

This circular flow of dirty money should be seen for what it is: a sophisticated kickback mechanism.

The longer this goes on, the more it will corrupt state politics.

Mr. Hancock's expose should motivate us all to insist it must stop.

Stephen J. K. Walters, Baltimore

The writer is a professor of economics at Loyola College of Baltimore.

Thanks to The Sun for Jay Hancock's excellent four-part series, "The Giveaway Game" on corporate welfare. My only concern is that Mr. Hancock did not identify the connection between two parts of his investigative report.

In the first article, Mr. Hancock described how Magellan Health Services coaxed more than $2 million in giveaways from the state for moving its headquarters to Columbia, even though there was no indication that Magellan seriously considered any other location.

In the third article, Mr. Hancock showed how giveaways have ravaged South Carolina's economy. Without further identifying her, he quoted Darla Moore's comment that such giveaways in her home state are "promiscuous."

But, while shedding crocodile tears over wrong-headed giveaways, Ms. Moore and her husband, who hold controlling interest in Magellan, are only too happy to use the same strategy here in Maryland.

Magellan controls mental health care for more than 60 million Americans and The Sun has presented its move to Maryland as an economic coup ("Mental health giant moving to Columbia," May 21).

But I have to wonder whether the same state government that courted Magellan will now exercise any regulatory power over its business practices.

Steven Shearer, Lutherville

If money equals speech, let's equalize incomes

George Will argues that any restriction on money donations to politicians violates the donor's right to free speech, because donations and speech are one and the same ("Media miss the message about freedom of speech," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 17) .

This idea would have some merit if Mr. Will would agree that, since the Constitution guarantees us all equally free speech, then we should be equally endowed with money as well.

Let's start the equalization process. Mr. Will can send me half of his salary and I'll send him half of mine.

John D. Venables ,Towson

Feature on Tufaro was unfair, irrelevant

Tom Pelton's front-page article "Tufaro firm's conduct questioned in Virginia" (Oct. 18) was a misjudgment.

The fire at the Old Buckingham apartments has no more to do with David Tufaro's fitness to be mayor than Larry Hubbard's death has to do with Martin O'Malley's.

I had considered The Sun's coverage of Mr. Tufaro balanced and fair until this article appeared.

The Sun owes Mr. Tufaro a retraction and apology.

At the very least, I hope the editorial page will spare us any further bleatings about why honorable people decline to offer themselves for public office.

As soon as a decent person becomes a significant candidate, The Sun sends out reporters to find the dirt, determined not to come back empty-handed.

Hal Riedl, Baltimore

Why couldn't the state handle tobacco litigation?

The recent quarrel about the state's payment of the fee from the tobacco settlement to Peter G. Angelos makes me wonder ("Tobacco no hazard to his wealth," editorial, Oct. 19).

Several other states had already successfully sued the tobacco companies when Maryland launched its suit. Those court files were available to Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran.

All Mr. Curran needed to do was fill in the blanks with Maryland's information.

So why did Mr. Curran need to employ Mr. Angelos, when he says he has scores of talented and well-trained lawyers in the attorney general's office.

And since the case appeared to be a sure thing, why did Mr. Curran agree to give Mr. Angelos a 25-percent fee?

I think Maryland's taxpayers require answers to these questions.

Nicholas R. Bachur Sr., Towson

Here's a better idea: Prosecute the criminals

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran said of his proposal to limit gun ownership, "For those who oppose this, I challenge them to have a better idea to save 35,000 lives."

I have one: What if the attorney general and his office did their job of prosecuting criminals?

Tom Mostyn, Baltimore

Commission should focus on preservation, not play

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