Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Baltimore and bias

Why are most people unaware of the widespread corruption within the Democratic Party? One reason is that the party has long been strongest in big cities where news stories about corruption are often greeted with a "ho-hum" response. And with few exceptions (such as the recent federal trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell), investigations and prosecutions of municipal corruption are treated by the media as strictly a local story. Consider, for example, the Chicago "hired truck" case -- a HUGE scandal in the Chicago area, but almost entirely unknown at the national level.

But there's another reason why people don't connect municipal corruption with Democrats, as this story from Baltimore highlights:
For the past six years Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon has steered government work worth at least $600,000 to her former campaign chairman, most of the time without a written contract.
Since becoming council president in December 1999, Dixon has continually authorized Dale G. Clark to manage the council's computer system. But records obtained by The Sun show that Clark has worked without a contract since the lapse of his first no-bid deal -- crafted by Dixon and authorized by the Board of Estimates -- in March 2001. ...

City procurement rules require that all contracts over $5,000 be approved by the five-member Board of Estimates, which is chaired by Dixon and controlled by Mayor Martin O'Malley.
Williams said that Dixon has suspended her deputy chief of staff, Carolyn Blakeney, for one week without pay because she is responsible for overseeing the council computer contract. Dixon also "severely reprimanded" her chief of staff, Beatrice Tripps, Williams said.

Nowhere in the story is it mentioned that Sheila Dixon is a Democrat.

In February, another Baltimore Sun article reported on an apparent ethical lapse by Dixon, but again -- no mention of Dixon's party affiliation.

What's going on here? Is this media bias? Maybe not. Probably what's going on is that in most big cities, Democrats have a monopoly or near-monopoly on elective offices, so reporters just take it for granted that mayors and city council members are Democrats. It's only when a city official is REPUBLICAN that the "man bites dog" factor makes party affiliation worth mentioning.

This is why scandals in Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and other big cities are seldom acknowledged as part of a pattern of Democratic Party corruption. And it explains why Nancy Pelosi (whose family, by the way, used to control politics in Baltimore) thinks she can campaign against a "culture of corruption," even while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is headed by Rep. Rahm "Hired Truck" Emanuel, who was elected by the Daley machine in Chicago.