- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2003

To those who’ve watched his behavior in recent years, it should come as no surprise that Maryland Senate President Mike Miller finds himself in ethical hot water once again. The Washington Post reported last week that Mr. Miller’s work as head of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which works to ensure Democratic Party dominance of state legislatures around the country, is being investigated by the FBI and a state legislative panel. As The Post noted this week, the article does indeed raise troubling questions about whether the committee was used to evade Maryland’s $6,000 limit on contributions to a single campaign and whether a disproportionate share of DLCC resources were funneled into Maryland. Unfortunately, the truth is that Mr. Miller seems to be dogged by ethical problems.

In October 2001 with the Gazette newspapers, Mr. Miller derided then-state Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele as “the personification of an Uncle Tom.” Last year, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, responding to a complaint filed by Mr. Steele, ruled that Mr. Miller had “abused his position” when he contacted judges to discuss redistricting while they were deliberating on that very issue. According to the ethics committee, Mr. Miller’s knowledge of the rules and his “disrespectful demeanor toward the judges” moved them to reprimand him. In response, Mr. Miller defiantly said he had done nothing wrong and was merely the victim of “right-wing Republican partisanship.”

In the DLCC case, the FBI has begun a preliminary inquiry into DLCC donations. Many of the largest donations came from Maryland, including $200,000 from a racing group controlled by Joe De Francis, head of the Maryland Jockey Club, which controls the Laurel and Pimlico race tracks. Much of the panel’s committee money went back to Maryland, even though the state didn’t have a lot of competitive races for General Assembly seats.

Despite the fact that Maryland law prohibits legislators from using state property to raise campaign funds, Mr. Miller held a meeting with AT&T; representatives in his office in January 2001 to discuss a contribution to the DLCC. AT&T; followed up with an $80,000 contribution during that quarter of the year.

According to The Post’s account, there was only one state that generated more money from businesses and groups with local concerns — like the De Francis organization — for the DLCC: Wisconsin. This could create serious political problems for Mr. Miller. Wisconsin state prosecutors indicted former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala and charged him with extorting contributions from lobbyists. Mr. Chvala allegedly directed lobbyists to get their clients to send money to the DLCC, which subsequently routed the money back to Wisconsin. The FBI is investigating whether the committee broke federal money-laundering statutes by helping Mr. Chvala evade Wisconsin campaign finance laws.

Mike Miller — who has dominated the Maryland Senate for years — could take a big political hit as a result of the investigation of the DLCC.

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