In Transcripts, Bromwell Boasts of Comcast Ties

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By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thomas L. Bromwell claimed to be driven by principle when, as a Maryland state senator in 2000, he led a legislative effort that allowed Comcast and other companies to charge customers late fees at rates that courts had deemed excessive.

Certainly, Bromwell said as the Senate debated the measure, the higher rates were "in the best interest of the consumer." He elaborated the next day by saying: "These companies need to have some means of preventing people from paying bills late."

According to newly released transcripts of conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, the Baltimore County Democrat spoke privately about the influence he felt he had with Comcast as a result of his efforts. Bromwell, who is expected to face trial on public corruption charges this year, is quoted as telling two associates over dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steak House that the cable TV company was indebted to him.

"I saved Comcast $75 million," Bromwell is quoted as saying during an exchange with retired FBI agent Joe Carroll, who was posing as Joe Carson, an ethically lax out-of-state financier.

"They ought to be jumping up and kissing your [expletive]," Carroll responds.

"Joe -- now you get -- "

"I'm serious."

" -- now you get the picture. Now you get the picture."

"They're beholden," Carroll says.

"Yeah."

Yesterday, one day after the transcripts were unsealed on the order of a federal judge, public advocacy groups cited that and other exchanges as evidence of the grip that corporate interests hold in Annapolis. The transcripts show "that anyone who thinks that the days when legislators are bought by the highest bidder are long gone is sadly mistaken," said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause.

Bromwell, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, is also quoted in the transcript as saying he believed he "did the right thing" with the legislation on late fees. Marcia A. Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, declined to comment.


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