THE GOF FIGHT ‌ Burning Issues 

Will Randy Maatta hold Rep. Brown's feet to the fire?

Henry Brown has little to show for his three terms representing the first congressional district. He seems to subscribe to the Strom Thurmond school of public service — that it is enough to just be white and take care of constituent services. As for the great issues of the day, Rep. Brown — like Thurmond before him — is happy to leave those to the more sentient members of Congress.

As a result, we have seen Brown walk in lockstep with national Republicans as they have led the nation to a record deficit ($8.2 trillion, an increase of 60 percent over the last five years) and an unnecessary war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We have seen the pharmaceutical industry rewrite our Medicare prescription program, with the predictable result that it is now incomprehensible and unusable for millions of elderly Americans. We have seen the Republicans dismantle century-old environmental regulations. Four years after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina showed us that America is still not prepared for a major terrorist attack. And, being a faithful GOP lapdog, Rep. Brown has signed off on all of it.

Because he keeps his mouth shut and does as he is told, Brown has made little news and attracted little attention in Charleston or in Washington. His most notable accomplishment in the last six years was to allow a controlled burn on his property in the northern part of Charleston County to escape into Francis Marion National Forest, where it burned 20 acres of public land. When the Forest Service tried to fine the congressman, he threw up a barrage of bureaucratic flack from his D.C. office.

The Post and Courier quoted one Forest Service officer as saying that Brown told him, "...if the Forest Service persisted and issued him a (ticket), Forest Service programs might need to be scrutinized more closely." Forest Service personnel naturally took Brown's remark as a threat. Perhaps as a result, six months elapsed between the fire and the time the fine was levied. The story broke in a series of articles in the P&C in September 2004.

Forest Service officials said at that time that issuing the ticket six months after the fire would hamper the criminal investigation against Brown. Apparently that is just what happened, because the matter has disappeared from the public radar and the pages of the P&C.

Perhaps it was this incident that congressional candidate Randy Maatta obliquely referred to two weeks ago when he said it was one of his goals to protect the Francis Marion National Forest.

There are a lot of things on Maatta's agenda. He's a bright fellow with many things he would like to accomplish, but he can do none of them until he defeats Brown for Congress in November.

I met Maatta recently and he had a bit of the deer-in the-headlights look, which is probably to be expected a week after announcing his first run for political office and starting at the congressional level. But while he has never held office, as a financial officer with the State Department and the Federal Communications Commission, he has been around many who have.

Maatta is a 48-year-old West Ashley native who majored in political science under Dr. Bill Moore at the College of Charleston and later earned an MBA from the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore. He is a real estate investor who has taken leave from the business world to spend the next year of his life running for Congress. And it won't be cheap. He estimates that it will cost a million dollars to unseat Henry Brown. He is spending his own money and cranking up the fundraising machine.

There is no doubt that Maatta is smart, that he has a grasp of the numbers and the issues. There is no doubt that he is concerned about the people who are being crushed by this administration's economic policies, by this administration's foreign policy, by this Congress' corruption. But he expresses his concern in a sort of hand-wringing demeanor, when he needs to be pounding on the pulpit and telling folks they are getting royally screwed and they ought to be mad as hell. That's the kind of politics Southerners understand and, in this particular case, the cause deserves a good hellfire sermon.

This promises to be an interesting race and I intend to follow it closely. Henry Brown's poor performance in Washington is enough to make him vulnerable in the upcoming election. But his bullying and whining after his pyrotechnical accident in 2004 should disqualify him from ever again holding public office. His attitude is a perfect reflection of the culture of corruption the Republicans have brought to Washington.

He needs to be removed and Randy Maatta is the man who can do it.


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