- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

In October, Mike Miller, Maryland's white Senate president, clearly irritated by Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele's tenacious fight to make Maryland a two-party state once again, lashed out in a very ugly way. In an interview with the Gazette newspapers, he derided Mr. Steele, a black man who was selected by Rep. Robert Ehrlich as his running mate on the Republican gubernatorial ticket, as "the personification of an Uncle Tom."
Mr. Miller's comments, which were apparently meant to suggest that blacks who support Republicans are somehow betraying their race, backfired badly. Mr. Steele quite properly replied that Mr. Miller's slur was beneath the dignity of his office. And, if anything, since that time, Mr. Steele seemed to become more determined than ever to ensure that, when Gov. Parris Glendening and the General Assembly drew up congressional and legislative district lines earlier this year, they didn't put Republican candidates at an even greater political disadvantage. When Messrs. Glendening and Miller did precisely that, Mr. Steele and the Republicans took their protest to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which threw out the Democratic machine's plan and substituted one of its own.
Bad as this news was for Mr. Miller, it's the least of his problems right now. Before the Court of Appeals decided the case, Big Mike and a number of other Senate Democrats and party colleagues apparently made a series of telephone calls and wrote letters to appeals judges while they were deliberating on the case in an effort to persuade them to uphold the Miller-Glendening map. In June, Mr. Steele filed an ethics complaint against Mr. Miller and four other Democratic senators who allegedly participated in the campaign Ida Ruben of Montgomery County, Clarence Blount of Baltimore, Ulysses Currie of Prince George's County and Robert Neall of Anne Arundel County.
On Aug. 9, Mrs. Ruben was one of six legislators called before the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to explain her behavior. She testified that Mr. Miller summoned her to the podium during a Senate session and asked if she were a friend of Court of Appeals Judge Irma Raker, who also lives in Montgomery County. When Mrs. Ruben replied that they were friends, Mr. Miller replied, "You might want to call her about redistricting." Mrs. Ruben ever the perceptive politician said she "gleaned" from the discussion that Mr. Miller wanted to preserve the legislature's redistricting map.
On Friday, the joint committee ruled that Mr. Miller had indeed "abused his position" when he contacted judges to discuss redistricting while they were deliberating on the redistricting issue. The panel sent a letter to Mr. Steele, the complainant, saying that it plans to reprimand Mr. Miller for contacting two of the appeals court judges. According to the ethics committee, Mr. Miller's knowledge of the rules and his "disrespectful demeanor toward the judges" also moved them to reprimand him. In response, Big Mike opted to play the defiant Big Victim. "I've done nothing legally, morally or ethically wrong," he declared. "I continue to feel I am a victim of right-wing Republican partisanship." The committee also found that three of the other senators, Mr. Currie, Mrs. Ruben and Mr. Blount, did violate ethics standards by contacting judges to talk about the redistricting plan.
When you take an ethically challenged Senate president with a redistricting fiasco and add to it Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's imploding gubernatorial campaign (which is grappling with a grand jury investigation into the possible misuse of federal funds by the state crime office she was in charge of), it's easy to see why these are dark days for Maryland's Democratic Party establishment.

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