O’Malley and Franchot Agree on Something — Giveaways to Business

To a politician, a pile of state money, just sitting around, is like a pile of fresh dung to a fly.  Some politicians, notably the notoriously attention-hungry comptroller Pierre V.R. Franchot, are buzzing around the state employees’ pension fund, hungrily eyeing the bounty.  The funds are supposed to be invested, with a goal of maximizing the return for the employees.  Pierre wants to snatch just a little bit of it – that is, about a billion dollars – in a way that will buff his image.

These days, apparently, that’s accomplished by handing over the money to businesses involved in biotech research.  It’s still corporate welfare, but it’s an attractive and progressive-sounding kind of corporate welfare.   Venture capital isn’t easy to find anymore, and many of these businesses are investing in research that may not convince bankers to back them.  So Pierre wants to invest the state employees’ piggy bank in these risky businesses.  The governor is on board with the idea: he’s proposed to squander $1.1 billion from the state’s general funds to buy some of these magic beans.

It’s always a bad idea for governments to pick winners in business, especially when those winners are politically active firms who are big donors to campaigns.  I wonder if AFSCME will complain about this?

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