Maryland belongs in the elite group of states—Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Alaska, D.C. of course, and a few others—where corruption at the local government level is the status quo, and seemingly will always be so. Thus what could have been a straightforward dilemma regarding the character requirements for public office—does a criminal past render a citizen unfit for appointment?—has been confounded by matters of comparative disqualification. Maryland State Delegate Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County) took money out of her campaign funds to pay for her wedding expenses, and stole $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her law firm. She cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid a trial, and, astoundingly, is arguing that since she thus avoided a “conviction” for a crime, under Maryland law she should be able to continue serving as delegate.
Alston is a current crook. Maryland Democrats decided to designate a past crook as her replacement: Greg Hall, who twenty years ago was a crack dealer, spent time in prison, and barely avoided a murder charge for the death of a thirteen-year-old boy killed in the cross-fire of a gun battle he was engaged in. Only in a state like Maryland would Hall be considered an upgrade over the current occupant of a legislative seat, and Maryland’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley, has so far refused to follow his party’s directive and seat Hall. The problem is that under the Maryland Constitution, O’Malley has no choice in the matter: it says that the governor shall appoint whomever the party designates to replace a delegate who has been removed. Now there will be two hearings, one to determine whether Alston is correct that she can remain in office because she hasn’t technically been “convicted” of crimes she has admitted to, and another to determine whether the governor can refuse to appoint a convicted felon to take her place. Continue reading
When we last left the sad saga of Kevin Clash, the Muppets puppeteer whose voice and hands give cute little Elmo his panache, the 23-year-old man who had accused Clash of having underage sex with him had recanted, agreeing with Clash’s defense that their relationship was consummated later, when both were consenting adults. I opined that this would do little to rescue Clash’s career, as the most innocent Muppet on Sesame Street could not survive being operated by a man who was now associated with gay sex, consensual of not. This likely result seemed unfair to Clash, but is nonetheless a responsible decision on the part of Clash’s employers, the Children’s Television Workshop, whose duty is to their mission and core audience, not to one unmasked Muppet.
Clash’s prospects have not improved. It was revealed last week that the recant was bought and paid for by Clash, who handed Sheldon Stephens $125,000 to deny his previous accusation and never to raise it again. Needless to say, a recant induced by monetary compensation is not a reliable one, and leaves as many questions open as the original claim, if not more. In a settlement, the accuser is paid to drop any legal action, but doesn’t agree to retract the original claim. What Clash did is called “buying testimony,” or ” a pay-off.” Continue reading
Colby Bohannan, president of the Former Majority Association for Equality, has set up a scholarship program for white males. To qualify, you have to be at least a 25 percent Caucasian, have demonstrated a commitment to education, achieved at least a 3.0 grade average, show financial need, and document a positive contribution to the community. Bohannan’s official reasoning is that white males are the only group that doesn’t have a scholarship dedicated to them. He is, he says, righting an injustice. Continue reading