`I'm a rainmaker'

On FBI wiretaps released yesterday, Thomas L. Bromwell spoke candidly about the influence he wielded

March 21, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN REPORTER

Indicted former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. freely boasted of wielding his political power to influence some of Maryland's most prominent institutions in order to benefit himself and his friends, according to hundreds of pages of transcribed secret recordings made public yesterday.

Bromwell, representing Baltimore County in the Senate in November 2001, spoke extensively to an undercover FBI informant posing as a Georgia financier, according to court papers filed by the U.S. attorney's office.

During a freewheeling $298.36 dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House in downtown Baltimore where the senator and undercover agent first met in November 2001, Bromwell outlined his ties to the city's movers and shakers, including H&S Bakery magnate and Harbor East developer John Paterakis - whom he calls "the bread man" - and Maurice Wyatt, a former appointments secretary to Gov. Marvin Mandel who was later convicted of bribery before being pardoned.

Bromwell, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also crowed about his connections to Comcast, the region's leading cable provider. He said he saved the company $75 million because of his legislative efforts. Bromwell's two sons, the senator said, worked for the cable giant at the time. Comcast denied any improper conduct.

According to transcripts of the conversations, Bromwell bragged in language peppered with expletives that he could also secure an off-track betting license for his potential business partner by calling in a favor from Maryland Jockey Club Chief Executive Officer Joseph A. De Francis, according to court papers.

"Yeah, I could get it approved. ... I've got to go to [the track owner] and tell him I want the deal," Bromwell said, according to the tapes.

Bromwell said that a recent fight between the two would not scotch a future deal for the off-track betting license, according to court papers.

"The guy I just told to [expletives]. I said, look, I'm your [expletive] whore in Maryland, in the Senate side, and you turn around and you [expletive] me like this, [expletives) you. I'm going to see him tomorrow night. He's going to be licking my [expletive] boots."

Bromwell, 58, and his wife, were indicted in U.S. District Court in October 2005 on federal racketeering conspiracy charges, and jury selection was set to begin this month. On Friday, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz abruptly delayed the start of the trial until fall, citing undisclosed "attorney conflict issues."

The documents released yesterday could present the most damning evidence to date against Bromwell, who is recorded talking bluntly about his wide-ranging power and offering his impressions of political and business leaders.

Motz unsealed the documents at the request of The Sun, which argued at a recent court hearing that they should be made public. Defense attorneys argued that the documents are too offensive and might prejudice a jury.

The judge kept sealed documents related to the conflict-of-interest issues that prompted the Bromwells' attorneys to leave the case last week.

A phone message left at the Bromwells' Parkville home was not returned last night. The Maryland's U.S. attorney's office said it had no comment.

Bromwell, who resigned from the Senate in May 2002 to lead the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund, described one of his jobs as a hired gun for a local technology company.

"I'm a rainmaker. You got that right. That's the deal. I, I. I make it rain for 'em," he told one associate, according to court papers.

In another part of the tape, he talked about how easily he could flex his political muscle.

"I [expletive] control the Liquor Board," Bromwell said, according to the transcript.

His sway extended to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Comcast, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Bromwell said in court transcripts of the tapes. The former senator had shepherded a critical bill for the cable company dealing with late fees in Maryland, he said in the recordings.

In 2000, Bromwell sponsored legislation that made it legal for businesses such as Comcast to set late fees higher than the annual 6 percent rate specified in the Maryland Constitution.

"Comcast needs me big time ... to the tune of $75 million," Bromwell said at the 2001 steakhouse dinner, during which he sipped a Crown Royal on the rocks with a splash of cherry juice, according to court papers. Bromwell noted that he was the floor leader on the 2000 late fees bill.

The legislation was written to counter a lawsuit regarding late fees that Comcast lost in 1999. In that case, an appeals court judge required Comcast to repay $7.59 million to customers who had been charged late fees that exceeded the annual 6 percent from November 1992 to September 1997.

During the Ruth's Chris dinner, Bromwell discussed the ruling and said that it meant that some "lawyer could file a class action suit that could have cost Comcast probably $75 million."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.