- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2008

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith have a huge, self-made ethical mess on their hands — new revelations that a $28 million road project in Edward St. John.

Who is Mr. St. John? He’s someone who was recently fined $55,000 by the state prosecutors office for donating more than $25,000 to Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Smith during the 2006 election. Under Maryland law, individuals are prohibited from donating more than $4,000 to a candidate and $10,000 overall during an election cycle. Large contributors sometimes try to get around the limits by bundling donations from family members, co-workers or financing campaigns through limited liability corporations (LLCs) registered in their name. Prosecutors said Mr. St. John did both. In all, he made more than $300,000 in campaign donations through LLCs and his company’s vice presidents - almost half of which went to Republicans. Mr. St. John also reimbursed the vice presidents for their donations through pay bonuses.

Even with the fines, Mr. St. John appears to have come out ahead: He spent approximately $355,000 in campaign contributions and fines. In March, Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Smith committed $28 million in taxpayer money to build the highway interchange leading to the Dolfield Business Park - a 36-acre center that the St. Johns Properties began developing in 2005. The project is less than one-tenth of a mile from Interstate 795. “This new interchange project is a perfect example of how Maryland benefits when local and state government work together as partners,” Mr. O’Malley said in announcing the project in March. Of course, he conveniently omitted to mention that Mr. St. John, a major financial contributor of his, is also a “partner” in the project.

Thus far, Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Smith have refused to give back the $25,000 they received from Mr. St. John. Their intransigence is disgraceful: Mr. St. John has blatantly flouted the law, which public officials like the governor and the county executive are sworn to uphold. We have our doubts that the overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly will do much to investigate the Owings Mills project. That’s why state prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh needs to look closely at the decision to build the interchange to see whether there is any evidence of a quid pro quo involving campaign contributions and tax dollars.

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