- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

FBI agents who raided a prominent state senator’s home and the headquarters of a local supermarket chain on Thursday have focused on questions of whether the lawmaker paid taxes on consulting fees paid to him by the company, law-enforcement officials said yesterday.

Officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said federal authorities are trying to determine whether Sen. Ulysses Currie paid taxes on money he received as an outside consultant to Shoppers Food & Pharmacy between 2005 and last year.

Mr. Currie, Prince George’s Democrat, did not report any income from Shoppers in the last three filings he has made with the State Ethics Commission, according to commission records.

The reports are required when outside income is earned. Maryland lawmakers are required to file financial disclosure forms annually on April 30 for the prior calendar year.

The statements are submitted under oath. False information is subject to prosecution for perjury. Lawmakers are supposed to include places of salaried employment, including secondary employment.

Mr. Currie, 70, said he doesn’t know what the FBI is investigating. But he conceded being involved in a lot of state business as the chairman of the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and said one has to be realistic, knowing that “they can always find something.”

FBI agents raided Mr. Currie’s District Heights home and the supermarket’s headquarters in Lanham Thursday.

Shoppers spokeswoman Haley Meyer said the raids were related, but could not comment on the nature of the investigation.

“The FBI has told us that they are working on an investigation related to one of our service providers, Senator Currie,” Miss Meyer said. “We are cooperating fully with the FBI and cannot provide additional detail at this time.”

FBI Baltimore field office spokesman Richard Wolf said the agency could not comment on the nature of the raid or what was taken, if anything.

Mr. Currie’s attorney, Dale Kelberman, said he was only aware of documents being taken from the home, but said that he had not seen the FBI’s inventory.

A spokeswoman for Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein yesterday said that there were no charges pending against Mr. Currie.

Shoppers is a subsidiary of Supervalu, which has made $7,500 in contributions to Mr. Curry since 2004. Corporations are limited to $4,000 in contributions to a campaign account for a four-year election cycle, meaning Supervalu has given Mr. Currie about as much as it can.

Shoppers has 64 stores in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and Supervalu has about 2,500 stores across the country.

Mr. Currie’s budget and taxation panel directs state spending. Mr. Currie was elected to the Senate in 1994 after serving eight years in the General Assembly.

The Maryland Republican Party described the search at Mr. Currie’s home as “quite disturbing.”

“It would be prudent, in my estimation, that Senator Currie step down from his post as chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, at least until this situation is resolved,” said James Pelura, the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, described Mr. Currie’s business relationship with Supervalu as “obviously troubling” in light of the political contributions he has received.

“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions in this case, but it’s safe to say that such incidents reinforce the damaging perception of ‘pay-to-play’ politics, which can’t be remedied without public financing of campaigns,” said the group’s executive director, Ryan O’Donnell.

The FBI search at Mr. Currie’s home comes at a time when a public corruption scandal affecting a former Senate committee chairman is still fresh in people’s minds.

Thomas Bromwell, who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, was sentenced to seven years in prison in November for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for securing state contract

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