The Marc Steiner Show

Marc on Money and Political Power

Money and Political Power

The Baltimore Sun came out with a story this morning about the Mayor’s former boyfriend, Ronald Lipscomb, being part of a deal that won a lucrative contract even though another firm was given a higher rating, from the city’s housing commissioner, to receive the contract (read that article by clicking here).


I wish I had a dollar for every time we have reported or had discussions on a government contract going to "favored sons" instead of a seemingly more qualified group. I don’t think Mayor Dixon’s relationship with Lipscomb had anything to do with who was awarded this contract. The Sun raises a non-issue here, connecting dots that do not meet.


The real story is the cozy relationship between developers and local politicians. The real story is the inside track conversations that take place between the financially powerful and politically powerful over a drink, on the phone, during dinner or at some high priced ticket event.


It is almost impossible to keep money out of politics. All we can do is pass laws and have rules of ethics that elected and appointed officials of government must follow. We must have watchdog agencies that do not allow the wheels of power to be greased so they speed passed us unseen.


It appears that Mayor Dixon did not follow the rules. Successful politicians and their powerful friends get over on us all because they follow the disclosure rules. Then they go about making their millions perfectly legally (or at least getting away with it because they follow the modicum of procedural rule) though unethically.


Mayor Dixon and Senator Ulysses S. Currie (get up to speed on that story here) appear to not have made full legal disclosure of their contracts and contacts. They did not recuse themselves or make their relationships known before voting on contracts involving friends, clients or families.


Speaking of power and money…


Many of Senator Barack Obama’s supporters and others who want to and may very well vote for him were very disappointed when he did not accept public financing of his campaign. I must admit that I was shocked at how he went about this decision.


I was surprised that he, and his advisers, did not enter into serious discussion and negotiations with the McCain campaign to come to an agreement on public financing. If he had entered into those talks they may have come out with a plan that would have worked. Of course negotiations might have fallen apart.  If the latter happened then they could have announced no public financing. Instead, they did not even try. He made great statements about public financing before he became the front runner and then presumptive nominee.  

Given the legal lay of the land he could have accepted public financing as a show of integrity and still counted on hundreds of millions of dollars not covered by the public finance laws. Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, independent 509 committees and other groups could have raised all the money they need to support anyone’s candidacy.


We should not be surprised. In politics, money seems to be the most powerful medium for alleged free speech.


Many are upset at what appear to be Obama’s moving to the center and changing positions, but we will save that commentary for another time.

What do you think?




Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. A few years ago I decided to take the real estate course at CCBC in Catonsville. During that course we talked about various issues including “block busting”. This topic sparked a conversation about discrimination, etc. Our seasoned real estate veteran who was teaching the class commented that as it used to be discrimination regarding skin color, now it is all about money. If you have the money, you can now live anywhere you want, your kids will have a fine education, you will be safe in your cul-de-sac single family home.

    I too, was shocked that Obama didn’t even come to the table. Why not at least make the gesture?

    Part of me asks, “Why even vote?” I only have one answer left to that question, ny grandmother always said that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. I can’t afford to take that chance, it may be the only right I have left.

  2. When Dixon was elevated to Mayor, I wasn’t happy about it. I thought her conduct as CCP (as then known via the Sun et al) made her unqualified for the task.
    When Dixon ran for Mayor, I didn’t support her. I found her constant self promotion during her first year unappealing, saw little progress in the city, and felt that an ethical cloud still hung around her head. I voted against her in the primary, and didn’t bother to hit the general.
    As I recall, Marc, during this time you were her solid advocate.
    In the intervening months, my opinions about Dixon changed. Her stewardship of the city has been more than acceptable. Progress is slow, and slow-moving, but it’s actually happening – which is more than I can say about the Annapolis-gazing tenure of her predecessor.
    And now, now that things are actually going forward, and Dixon is helping put a little pride back in this city, you’re here to vilify her for something that happened THEN.
    Politics is full of money issues. So’s business. So’s media, emerging or otherwise. The system’s far from perfect. But…
    Mayor Dixon is doing a good job NOW. Perhaps she didn’t in the past, but shouldn’t we make decisions on what’s happening in the present?
    I’d vote for her NOW. In a heartbeat. Past “ethical” issues be damned.

  3. When Obama becomes the Dem nominee, he, with Howard Dean at the DNC, will have wrested control of the party away from the DLC and its ludicrous top-down centralized decision making and its woebegone swing state strategy. I applaud the 50-state vision, which is so important to getting people back into politics.

    Obama could not have conducted an effective 50-state presidential campaign with public financing. He made the right decision.

    The Senate and House campaign committees have their own responsibilities to elect congressional candidates.

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