Politician Heal Thyself

How noble of Delegate Justin Ross (D-Prince George’s) to sponsor an ethics bill targeted at closing a campaign finance loophole used by developers—with projects pending approval—to skirt a state law banning direct contributions to the Prince George’s County Executive and Council. Developers routinely give money to slate accounts (joint committees of county and General Assembly candidates) to circumvent the law.

If only Delegate Ross had shown such nobility and recused himself from voting for a 2005 bill allowing the transfer of a liquor license from one Shoppers Food Warehouse location in Takoma Park to a College Park location operated by his employer the Michaels Companies. Ross works as a commercial real estate agent for the Michaels Companies. Ross told the Washington Times “I always recuse myself when there is a conflict of interest.” Yet it appears Ross followed the Annapolis method for dealing with a conflict of interest: “if it doesn’t conflict with my interests…”

The transfer of the liquor license and Shoppers Food Warehouse are part and parcel of the federal indictment of Ross’s fellow Prince George’s legislator Senator Ulysses Currie. The Michaels Companies are generous campaign contributors and given nearly $30,000 to both Ross and Currie.

Ross can write all the shiny pieces of good government legislation he wants. However, if lacks the integrity to recuse himself from voting on matters related to his employer, his efforts ring hollow.

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