Luedtke Stays Bought
I’m sure you saw this story this morning in the Washington Post:
Maryland lawmakers made it illegal in 2012 for casino owners to make donations to political candidates, a move intended to curb the influence of a deep-pocketed industry new to the state.
The ban, however, is limited and has done little to stop the flow of funds associated with one prolific donor: William M. Rickman Jr., a Montgomery County developer and owner of the Casino at Ocean Downs on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Eleven companies owned or affiliated with Rickman and his family have contributed more than $86,000 to Maryland candidates since the ban took effect in October 2012, according to a Washington Post review of State Board of Elections records and company filings with the state.
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It won’t come as a shock to you, then, that Eric Luedtke is in fact one of the Democrats who was a recipient of William Rickman’s largess:
One recipient, Del. Eric D. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), was unsure of the legality of a $500 contribution he received last fall from Ocean Downs, the Rickman-controlled company that runs the racetrack where Rickman’s casino opened in January 2011.
So Luedtke contacted the Maryland attorney general’s office for advice about whether he could accept the money. He was told that nothing in the 2012 law prohibited him from accepting the track’s contribution, and he decided to keep the money. In May, Luedtke, who chairs a Ways and Means Committee panel with jurisdiction over gaming issues, also received a $2,000 check from Rickman’s construction company.
Luedtke said he’s not entirely comfortable with forbidding donations by specific industries. “Why just casinos? Why not banks?” he asked. “If we’re concerned that contributions can affect policy, then why not a broader ban?”
Anybody who has spent more than five minutes paying attention to Maryland politics should not be surprised that 1) a wealthy contributor found a way around a campaign finance loophole, 2) started passing out cash to committee and subcommittee chairman and that 3) a Subcommittee Chairman (Luedtke) who actually question the propriety of the donation wound up pocketing the cash.
Of course none of this should come as a shock to long-time readers of Red Maryland. We noted last year Luedtke had sold his principles for power and Rickman’s campaign cash. As I wrote then:
Prior to being elected to the General Assembly, Luedtke was like most of Montgomery County’s liberal establishment in opposing the expansion of gambling. For example, he filed a bill that would outlaw video game rooms providing “sweepstakes” on the grounds that they would allegedly put slots on every corner.
Luedtke’s position, in liberal parlance, began to “evolve” last year when the Maryland State Education Association began to be proponents of the expansion of gambling in order to get their claws into the revenue stream. Luedtke is a member of the MSEA and was of course a teacher. In March Luedtke found the existing bill in the regular session to be “troubling.” But by the August Special Session the Metamorphosis of Luedtke was complete. He was now proposing fixes to the bills, instead of opposing them. And when push came to shove Eric Luedtke, who had been a lifelong opponent of the expansion of casino gambling, voted for SB1 both in committee and on the floor.
So, what changed Luedtke’s mind? Well, clearly the trappings of power appealed to Luedtke’s practical sense. I mean it can’t be a coincidence that Howard County Delegate Frank Turner opposed the gambling expansion bill and then was replaced as Chairman of the Finance Resources Subcommittee, the subcommittee that deals with gambling, by Eric Luedtke.
But power of course isn’t the only thing that talks. Money talks as well. The biggest individual contribution to Luedtke’s campaign in 2012 came in on September 20th in the amount of $1,000. And the contribution came from…..Ocean Downs. An obvious beneficiary to the slots expansion. There were other related post-special session contributions as well, including $250 from Atlantic Bingo Supply and super lobbyist W. Minor Carter.
It’s typical of “progressives” to eventually find religion on money in politics once they get into office. Though occasionally, you do get a true blue Progressive who puts pen to paper and writes something like this:
The single greatest threat to our democracy is money. Any astute political observer can list dozens of issues on which the voices of regular people are shut out by large campaign contributors….
In our elections, we are seeing candidates put $10,000, $25,000, even $100,000 of their own money into campaigns. For the first time this year, we may see candidates lend their campaigns more than they will earn during the four years of a General Assembly term. For a public school teacher like me, or a nurse, or veteran, or any of the professions where personal wealth takes a back seat to service, it means we see fewer and fewer people like ourselves in government. It means we have less of a voice.
The movement to remove the influence of money from politics transcends political boundaries. It is an issue for anyone who believes in democracy. And it is no longer a hypothetical national issue for Marylanders. It is no longer only a fight for Congress to take up. It is our issue, in our communities, in our counties. And it is incumbent on each of us, candidate and voter alike, to make it an issue in the elections this fall.
Once upon a time Eric Luedtke was a “principled progressive” or what have you who was a true believer in leftist causes. Today, he’s merely another establishment Democrat climbing up their party’s corporate ladder. I guess the best thing you can say about Luedtke at this point is that once he’s bought, Luedtke stays bought…..