I haven’t blogged much about local issues since moving out of the district, but yesterday the hubby had an appointment in the city and I rode in with him. So instead of my usual routine of listening to the iPod from the door of the house to the door of the office, I ended up listening to the news on the radio. Turns out, there’s some funny things going on with political money in Maryland.
For example, if you go to some churches, your offering my go from the collection plate to a politician’s pocket.
More than 100 churches in Maryland – including dozens in Baltimore – have made campaign contributions to political candidates in recent years, an act that is prohibited by federal tax law and blurs the line between politics and the pulpit.
Some have given repeatedly, such as the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, which made a dozen campaign donations between 2000 and 2004 that add up to more than $3,000, according to a review by The Sun of candidate finance reports.
Statewide, at least 115 churches have given to about 40 candidates since 2000, according to the review, and while the donations are generally small and sporadic, they flout Internal Revenue Service regulations that prohibit churches from advocating for specific political candidates.
From what I could tell, the money was flowing from the collection plates into the pockets of Republican and Democratic politicos. But I really could care less about which party any of these folks belong to. Churches making political donations makes me as nervous as the government doling out money to churches. (Oh, wait. That’s been happening for a while now, too.) And I don’t buy for a minute anybody’s claims that they didn’t know they were making a political contribution. What else do you call it when you hand money to a politician who is or soon will be running for re-election?
Some who received a contribution from a church said they were not aware of the federal provisions barring them. Burns said he believes that the IRS should change its rules to allow churches to make donations, especially given the Bush administration’s emphasis on religion-based initiatives.
“We’re talking about faith-based this and faith-based that – why not? We’re moving in that direction,” Burns said. “It doesn’t mean that because a church buys a ticket that it supports a political position; they’re just going to be at an event.”
The problem was only underscored when I heard the next story about Comcast giving jobs to the friends and relatives of some pretty important public officials, including the governor’s wife.
Although the company’s reach has extended to both parties, Democratic lawmakers focused much of their attention on the first lady, whose latest job with Comcast involved producing and starring in 16 episodes of a talk show about substance abuse.
Comcast is paying her $55,000 a year for the work, her spokesman said yesterday.
Again, the money and jobs flow to both parties, but which party is still unimportant to me. How naive does anyone have to be not to see that Comcast — the top cable provider in the state, with all kinds of money riding on various and sundry regulations, etc. — is doing anything but buying influence? Whether it’s a check to a high ranking official, or a paycheck to the wife/son/daughter/friend of such an official, can anyone honestly convince themselves that Comcast — or any other corporation that does the same thing — expects nothing in return for it largess?
That brings me back to the churches. To be sure, many small churches can’t write checks as big as Comcasts. But we live in an era of mega churches in cities and communities across the country. Churches that can hold thousands and that are nearly empires unto themselves. If those churches start making political donations what are they going to expect in return? And will they fork over enough cash to get it?
Can ya see why that bothers me?