Funneling money to girlfriend doesn't take much thought

Joe Bartlett embroiled in Rentgate

June 30, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

I don't know whether it's true or not, but a former colleague once told me that Del. Joe Bartlett's office had a sign on the bulletin board that said "Think."

Guess he took down the sign.

Bartlett, a Frederick County Republican, has taken heat this month for an arrangement where he paid rent to his Annapolis girlfriend, with whom he roomed during the previous three-plus legislative sessions.

Well, to clarify: You and I paid rent to Bartlett's girlfriend, since the delegate charged the state more than $30,000 for the living arrangement.

This apparently is not illegal. But it is not good. I'm sure the Tea Party, which hates wasteful spending and politics as usual, will be all over this one and that it will work hard to boot Bartlett from office.


Of course, I should clarify once again: This is the standard the Tea Party sets for Democratic office holders; where Republicans are concerned, it is more judicious.

For his part, Bartlett at first seemed confused over why this would be an issue. Then he acknowledged that perhaps he didn't put enough thought into the plan, and finally he triumphantly announced that, if re-elected, he will no longer request the state reimburse his girlfriend for lodging.

There's a campaign promise you can be proud of: "If re-elected, I will not funnel any more cash to my main squeeze."

Bartlett had heretofore been known mostly for two bills that had "Think" written all over them. One would have required motorists, under the penalty of law, to brush the snow from their cars, while the other would have set up some kind of deer-alert system along state highways.

But charging taxpayers for living with your girlfriend takes the thought process to a new level.

"Pure genius," one Annapolis veteran told me. He said that lawmakers right and left must be slapping their foreheads for not seeing this angle themselves.

I don't know whether he was joking or not when he said that it's fortunate they didn't, because so many lawmakers have girlfriends down there that this deluge of writeoffs could have bankrupted the state. Bankrupted it worse, he must have meant.

And you wonder how former Del. Tom Hattery feels about this. Back in 1992, Joe Bartlett's dad, Roscoe, beat Hattery in a race for the House of Representatives, largely by accusing Hattery (wrongly, a state prosecutor ruled) of bilking the state's lodging and meals reimbursement fund.

But I can't be bothered with the political angle, I'm more interested in the male-female angle.

Bartlett was paying his girlfriend RENT?

You know that boyfriends across America are going to be sweating it out when they get a load of this. If you're a chick and your newspaper this morning has a big hole cut out of it, you know it's because he doesn't want you to get any ideas. An toilet seat left up is a lot easier to take if he's paying half the mortgage and kicking in for premium cable.

But at the very least, I hope Bartlett charges his girlfriend rent when she comes up to Frederick for the weekend.

And as much as I appear to be bashing the delegate, I think he might be on to something. Guys pay lip service to commitment all the time, but this cash-for-cohabitation program forces them to put their money where their mouths are.

Come to think of it, it's probably his girlfriend who should get the credit for the plan. Maybe she should be delegate.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at"> Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under">, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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