|Councilmember Hans Riemer, a|
leading recipient of campaign
donations from billionaire
under investigation for tax evasion
Senate Finance Committee
investigating museum scheme
Most of the controversy surrounding Potomac billionaire Mitch Rales' Glenstone museum has related to its private operation, its addition of a sewer line, and his sugar daddy status to members of the Montgomery County Council, to whom he has donated tens of thousands of dollars. Now a U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigation is looking into another question - is Glenstone actually an art museum, or simply an easy way to avoid personal, capital gains and estate taxes through its Glenstone Foundation?
Councilmember Roger Berliner has received at least $27,000 from Rales, according to blogger Eric Hensal. The second-biggest recipient of money from Rales, a pioneer in outsourcing American jobs to China, has been Councilmember Hans Riemer.
Riemer has used a mysterious out-of-state bounty of cash from a rogue's gallery of Wall Street scoundrels, banks, mortgage sharks, and lobbyists - who together caused the "Great Recession" - to win two council elections. Yet, he has faced no media scrutiny of his unusual campaign finances.
Rales' Danaher Corporation wrested 140 jobs away from Hanover, Maryland alone, in a four-state liquidation of factories, as the linked video demonstrates. Is it surprising that Riemer would support a Wall Street outsourcer in evading taxes right here in Montgomery County? After all, Riemer also took a fat campaign check from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, another pioneer in closing factories, and outsourcing jobs to overseas countries. And, while receiving funds from anti-Obamacare lobbyists, Riemer endorsed dropping the public option from the Affordable Care Act in 2009, creating a huge payday for the insurance companies.
Both councilmen, and several other colleagues who received Rales booty, delivered a series of votes that enabled the expansion of Glenstone in recent years.
While they spoke of Glenstone as a public amenity, it is actually private, not open to just anyone to visit during set hours, and located on Rales' Potomac estate, nowhere near public transit infrastructure. Glenstone has already denied access to visitors, including reporters who have dared to criticize it.
The Senate Finance Committee has heard enough, and is now investigating whether Glenstone - enabled by the County Council - is violating IRS rules and evading taxes. While the New York Times accepted Glenstone's visitor numbers at face value, fortunately, the City Paper actually did the research and found just how few visitors there have been over the years in relation to similar facilities elsewhere - and that no visitor records are publicly available for the past two years.
Meanwhile, the City Paper found that Rales is stashing away more than $360,000,000 in Danaher stock in Glenstone, and another $26 million from his Janalia Corporation. Can you get into Glenstone? City Paper reporter Kriston Capps has been rejected from visiting twice. That's not a public museum.
Aside from determining whether tax evasion has occurred (gee, you think?) with the aid and abettance of the County Council, there is another possible benefit to the Senate-level investigation. Investigations tend to turn up more than what they start out looking for. Montgomery County has a false reputation as an ethical jurisdiction primarily because there have not been federal investigations here. In a federal probe, a lesser member of a political machine can be threatened with jail time - until he or she starts talking about the bigger scandal going on higher up, in exchange for leniency or immunity.
Farm Road, the Silver Spring Transit Center, the Council-connected nonprofit that "lost" $900,000 in taxpayer money? In every case the politicians themselves were able to control what passed for an "investigation", and declare the case closed. While the feds seem to be in constant pursuit of African-American officials in the District and Prince George's County, our white Montgomery County and Maryland politicians continue to evade scrutiny.
That has to change.