Is this a great state or [expletive]?

March 22, 2007|By DAN RODRICKS

Please excuse me for thinkin' and talkin' this way - droppin' my g's and all - but whenever I read juicy [expletive] transcripts from [expletive] FBI wiretaps, life sounds like one big Sopranos script, if you know what I mean. Not that Tommy "Big Mouth" Bromwell, the former big-shot Baltimore County state senator, is like Tony Soprano. I would never [expletive] say that. (And besides, Tony Soprano would never drink Crown Royal on the rocks with a splash of cherry juice, like the FBI accuses Tommy of doing in one of the transcripts.)

But whenever you read candid, profanity-laced dialogue from a federal wire recording, everybody sounds like a [expletive] racketeer.

Now Tommy, he ain't no [expletive] racketeer - yet.

He's just accused of bein' one.

The man is innocent until the feds prove he took all those [expletive] bribes. The trial, they promise, will be in the fall.

Meanwhile, we have hundreds of pages of transcripts of recordings made while the FBI was investigating Bromwell for corrupt activities. Among all the Soprano-like comments - "He got major juice, I mean major juice" - and claims - "I control the [expletive] Liquor Board" - and boasts - "I'm a rainmaker" - Tommy Big Mouth also expressed awe and respect for some of the many Maryland politicians who have broken the law over the years.

One might even speculate that he thinks getting nailed by the feds is a good career move.

I know it sounds crazy, but here's why I say so:

On the first page of the transcript of the recording from June 14, 2001, Tommy's talkin' about certain guys from the Marvin Mandel days in Maryland and how they, like Mandel, went to prison on corruption charges. Tommy says: "All these guys that went to jail, right, for 18 months. They're all [expletive] millionaires, OK?"

Excuse me for readin' between the lines here.

But that doesn't sound like irony to me.

That sounds like awe.

That sounds like admiration.

Which gets me to thinkin' that maybe Tommy Big Mouth doesn't see prison as such a bad thing, especially if your sentence is relatively short, as they are for most white-collar crimes.

Sounds crazy, I know, but can we say such a thing is not true?

Spiro T. Agnew was found to be nothin' but a [expletive] sticky-fingered bribe-taker, first as Baltimore County executive, then as Maryland governor, then as vice president of the United States. He didn't even go to prison. And after he didn't even go to prison, he was for a long time sittin' pretty and tanned like [expletive] George Hamilton in California, makin' gobs of consultant's money and hangin' with [expletive] Frank Sinatra.

Then there was Mandel, Agnew's successor as governor. After a corruption trial, prison and disgrace in the 1970s, he received a presidential pardon, his conviction was overturned and he landed on his feet as a lobbyist in Annapolis and as a member of the [expletive] University System of Maryland's Board of Regents. He violated regents' policy by working as a paid lobbyist during three legislative sessions, but he's still around, and we can probably assume he's relaxed and happy, lovin' life and livin' large.

The same goes for a whole litany of political crooks.

Most of them did their time, then bounced back. Shame does not seem to be something with which they are afflicted. In the Bromwell transcripts, Maurice "Mo" Wyatt is mentioned. Mo was one of Mandel's henchmen back in the day, and he was convicted of bribery in 1980. Wyatt hardly lost a step, however. These days, Bromwell noted in the FBI recording, Wyatt could be worth $20 million, and he's still a "player" in Maryland politics and deal-making.

Why should bribing a judge hurt anyone's career, after all? Ex-offenders deserve a second chance, don't they? I've been sayin' that for nearly two years in this space.

America, it's a great country, and in this state, the Democrats take care of each other pretty nicely. When he became governor, for instance, William Donald Schaefer pardoned Wyatt. Who said Schaefer wasn't a sweetie?

So you can see why Tommy Big Mouth would be so impressed, and maybe not so worried about suffering a similar fate someday.

We've had successful and rich Annapolis lobbyists fall in and out of grace. Ira Cooke bounced back from trouble with the law, at least until the next time. Same with Bruce Bereano, who was convicted of mail fraud several years ago, served a 10-month sentence and paid a $30,000 fine. Bereano was last seen shilling for Big Tobacco in Annapolis. I'm sure he'll never be standing on Rowe Boulevard with a cardboard sign that says, "Will Lobby For Food."

Gerry Evans, the corporate lobbyist, was found guilty of nine counts of fraud and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. He's back.

"It's going great, having my best year ever," he told The Sun's Laura Vozzella just last week.

And Ed Norris, the former Baltimore police commissioner who was convicted of using thousands of dollars from an obscure department account to finance extramarital affairs, meals and shopping trips, has his own radio show now and gets to use the airwaves each day to tell people what a [expletive] sham the case against him was.

Tommy Big Mouth might be in big trouble now, but he'll be OK, and he [expletive] knows it.

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