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Maryland Notebook

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009; PG02

On an annual form required to be filed with the State Ethics Commission, Sen. Ulysses S. Currie (D-Prince George's) disclosed something last week that he had neglected to mention in previous years: his employment as a consultant for Shoppers Food and Pharmacy.

Currie's failure to disclose the information is at the center of a year-old FBI investigation.

Currie, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, was paid more than $207,000 over five years by the grocery chain, according to a court document unsealed in July. The document shows that Currie was first paid by the company in February 2003 and received $30,000 from it that year. His compensation rose to more than $54,000 annually by 2007.

In recent years, Currie repeatedly intervened in matters of interest to Shoppers, including contacting state agencies about traffic lights near its stores and attending a Prince George's County liquor board hearing at which the chain's request for a license was considered.

Shoppers is listed on the form in a section that asks for names of entities from which "you or a member of your immediate family had employment from which you earned income." The form, which covers last year, does not require disclosure of how much income was earned.

On a separate ethics form filed earlier in the year, Currie noted that his work with Shoppers had ended.

The FBI investigation has produced few public revelations in recent months, but there is no indication that it has ended.

Colleagues Support King For Greenip's Senate Seat

Del. James J. King (R-Anne Arundel) has received a boost from his House colleagues in a bid to replace the retiring Sen. Janet Greenip (R-Anne Arundel).

In a joint letter to members of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee, which will recommend a successor, Dels. Tony McConkey (R-Anne Arundel) and Robert A. Costa (R-Anne Arundel) say they have agreed to support King for the seat. The three delegates represent areas that are part of Greenip's district.

"Delegate King's strong constituent service, coupled with his high name recognition and prolific fundraising ability, makes him the best candidate to defend and hold the Senate seat," says the April 26 letter, which King also signed. The three delegates say they came to the joint decision to avoid "infighting amongst our party faithful."

Greenip is stepping down with more than a year left in her term. She is one of only two Republican women in the Maryland Senate.

Several other politicians besides King could pursue Greenip's seat, including members of the Anne Arundel County Council. The county GOP central committee will forward its recommendation to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who will name Greenip's successor.

Anti-Gambling Group Opposes Justice Nominee

A national anti-gambling group is expressing opposition to the nomination of Maryland Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

Perez, Gov. Martin O'Malley's secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, played a role in crafting the governor's arguments for legalizing slot machines in Maryland in advance of a referendum in the fall. A 2007 report produced by Perez detailed revenue that Maryland is losing to surrounding states where slot machines are operating and made the case that the unlevel playing field is hurting Maryland's horse-racing industry.

"Like most Americans, we strongly believe any nominee to lead our country's Civil Rights Division must reflect an unvarnished commitment to equal citizenship," says a letter sent by Stop Predatory Gambling to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held a confirmation hearing last week on Perez's nomination. "Because of Mr. Perez's leadership role with the Maryland effort to promote slot machines as a source of funding public services, he comes up short of that standard."

According to the group, "equal citizenship" is "the core democratic principle that binds us the strongest."

"In America, we do not have kings or queens," the letter says, "because all blood is considered royal. State-sponsored predatory gambling, the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit, blatantly violates the principle of equal citizenship. We are creating addicted, out-of-control gamblers in order to provide a small number of schemers an obscene level of unearned power and wealth, all in the name of getting someone else to pay our taxes."

The letter is signed by 18 anti-gambling activists, including two from Maryland: Aaron Meisner, chairman of Stop Slots Maryland, and Barbara Knickelbein, co-chairman of NOcasiNo-Maryland.

A Perez aide said Perez's nomination has received more than 60 letters of support.

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