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Bartlett's failure to comply might irk some voters

June 30, 2012

In the words of Ronald Reagan, here we go again: Another financial-disclosure requirement with which U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has failed to comply.

The Federal Elections Commission fined Bartlett $5,000 after he repeatedly filed incomplete finance reports. Since 2009, the FEC has sent 25 letters to Bartlett asking that he comply with the law — that’s more wasted time and more wasted taxpayer dollars than the federal agency has had to spend on any other member of the House.

Of course, to longtime Bartlett watchers, this is hardly news. The congressman routinely fails to live by the disclosure rules that all other members seem to be able to play by. Most recently, he was late in filing papers disclosing his own considerable wealth. All the other members of Congress in our coverage area were able to perform this small chore.

Bartlett always has an excuse, whether it’s an inattentive staff member or a new software program that he doesn’t understand. But the problems occur so often it is hard to believe that there is any explanation other than Bartlett’s own contempt for the law.

In case Bartlett has not received the memo, this is a bad political year in which to project such an attitude. Kings in ivory towers who believe that laws are for little people are losing elections right and left.

And going back to his battles with Frederick authorities over apartment buildings and dead goats piled on the banks of the Monocacy River, Bartlett demonstrates a clear pattern that suggests he believes that the laws all the rest of us must abide by do not apply to him.

A further irony is that when Bartlett was first running for office two decades ago, he browbeat his opponent, then-Del. Tom Hattery, for sloppy expense-account reporting. The refrain was that if Hattery could not be trusted in matters of simple record-keeping, how could he be trusted with the affairs of state?

We would ask Bartlett himself that exact question today.

Indeed, this might well be the year it all catches up with him. The newly drawn 6th District was challenge enough for Bartlett, but his lax financial record-keeping is unlikely to sit well with undecided voters. Already, the Democrats went against the establishment candidate in the primary, which should be another warning sign to an entrenched incumbent. Especially one whose actions suggest he believes his job is to make laws, not to follow them.

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