Speakout

September 23, 2007

ISSUE: -- County Executive John R. Leopold raised more than $100,000 earlier this month at an exclusive fundraiser attended mainly by developers, each of whom paid the $4,000 state maximum for a campaign contribution.

Leopold, who won election in November pledging that he wouldn't be beholden to developers, said he hasn't changed and that his record bears that out.

"Whether a donor gives me $4,000, $1,000 or zero dollars, it won't change the direction I will pursue in the county," he said.

Critics, including his Democratic opponent last fall and a former Republican county executive, have accused Leopold of hypocrisy but acknowledged that fundraising is part of political life.

Given that the Leopold administration is beginning a once-a-decade review of the county's growth plan, a process that might open the door to billions of dollars in development, do you trust that he will represent the county's best interests?

Leopold says record speaks for itself

In June of last year, as a result of my record in support of campaign finance reform, I received a Common Cause of Maryland Award for "ethical behavior in both practice and action." For more than 30 years, I have fought to arrest or mitigate the influence of money in political campaigns.

The stark reality of political life in America today is that winning campaigns require a lot of money, and candidates must spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising. Our system is awash in money, but most reform efforts receive little traction in Congress or in state legislatures.

The media that decry the influence of money in the political process will, at the same time, eliminate from serious press attention candidates who fail to win the "money primary" by raising large sums of money. This applies to state and local candidates, as well as to presidential candidates.

Campaign contributions should be viewed as reprehensible when there is a quid pro quo or favored treatment in exchange for the contribution. My record as county executive for the past nine months and during my previous 30 years in elective office speaks loudly that my executive and legislative actions have been in the broad public interest, not in the service of special interests seeking favored treatment.

The county lawsuit against E. Steuart Chaney (who contributed $2,000 to my 2006 campaign) regarding alleged illegal building at a marina in South County and my legislation to ban disposal of coal ash after receiving a large contribution from the company that has been ordered to clean up contaminated water are just two examples.

Several other developers who contributed to my 2006 campaign have requested favorable treatment since my election, and their requests have been denied. These developers contributed to several county executive candidates last year, a not-uncommon practice by donors hedging their bets.

The Sun and the citizens of the county have every right to be vigilant to ensure that elected officials keep their commitments not to allow special interests to drive public policy. My record over three decades justifies public confidence that my commitment will be kept.

John R. Leopold

The writer is county executive in Anne Arundel County.

Executive is `people's voice'

It is legal for politicians to hold fundraising events to win and stay in public office. It is, in fact, a political necessity without public financing of campaigns.

Special interests want a voice in government decision-making and are willing to pay for the privilege.

What County Executive John R. Leopold has to remember is that he is the "people's voice" at the table. He has an incredible amount of power to advance the common good entrusted to him by the electorate. I am more concerned about his committee assignments and public access to agencies conducting the people's business.

During their tenures, John Gary and Janet Owens made it more difficult and expensive to obtain public information. We will have to wait and see if Leopold is faithful to his stated principles of good governance or is a business puppet.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

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