Volume 12, Issue 7 ~ February 12-18, 2004

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This Regent Not One We Want to Hug

What bothers us about gambling is not the cash on the betting tables but the money that flows at the edges, fueling political campaigns and undermining open government.

There’s no better example than the dust-up over the secretive efforts by Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s money man, Richard Hug, to put the arm on racing interests for what is being described as a pro-slots ad campaign.

Least we forget, this is the same Mr. Hug who sits on the Maryland Board of Regents. And yes, he is the one who has pushed for whopping increases in tuition at state universities. (That way, we can keep down the tax bills of the wealthy sorts with whom he cavorts.)

Despite the efforts of clean-government advocates, there remain loopholes big enough to build a casino in. That’s why a shadow group — with the who-couldn’t-love-it name Citizens For Maryland’s Future — set up to orchestrate a pro-gambling lobby blitz does not have to disclose its donors.

And a petulant Richard Hug has no intention of illuminating Marylanders about the sources of money being used to influence them.

“My response is, ‘Get a life’, he told a Washington Post reporter in search of details. “Who cares? It’s nobody’s business.”

Well Mr. Hug, we care. And we imagine that we are far from alone in our desire to understand what is behind gambling legislation that will have a profound effect on not just present state budgets but also life in Maryland for generations.

Marylanders might also think it’s their business to evaluate the actions of those in charge of higher education. We are not troubled by seeing a devout partisan in such a job. But we are bothered when that someone who oversees our educational institutions — and plays footsies with the Gucci-and-Rolex boys — turns truculent when asked a question in the public interest.

Democrats have called for Hug’s resignation, but as the gambling money spreads out in the weeks ahead, they might not be the ones to throw stones.

That’s a job for Gov. Robert Ehrlich, whose good-guy image suffers from his appointee Mr. Hug’s boorish actions and reactions. We hope the governor looks beyond big bucks in re-evaluating his fundraiser.

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Last updated February 12, 2004 @ 2:21am.