The Swamp’s Very Own Congressman: David Trone

Usually repeated legal scrapes with both regulators and law enforcement effectively disqualifies a candidate from public office.  Not so with David Trone, Maryland’s Congressional district six representative. 

Twenty-eight years ago, David Trone faced 23 criminal counts, including nine counts of tampering with public records, four counts of criminal solicitation, four counts of operating a corrupt organization, two counts of perjury, and single counts of conspiracy, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity, deceptive business practices and obstructing the administration of justice.[1]  After several years of litigation, he eventually beat the charges, although not until after being required to pay the government $40,000.

Perhaps if Trone’s legal history stopped there, his excuse that he was the victim of over-zealous regulators would warrant consideration.  However, it reflects just one example of a distinct pattern of behavior by Trone. It was only the most recent in a series of criminal cases involving his business practices. Two prior arrests occurred in 1989.[2]

Afterward, another group of regulators concluded, based on Trone’s testimony before them and his personal history, that he “reflected a predisposition towards lawlessness.”

Going further they noted, that their conclusion that Trone’s “disrespect for law” is premised on the following:[3]

  • that Trone’s minimized his law violations as not ‘earth-shattering,’
  • that Trone was emphatic that enforcement actions against him had resulted in “no change” in his Pennsylvania and New Jersey business practices;
  • that Trone claimed that the government is being used by his competitors to manipulate the system against him, rather than his taking appropriate responsibility for his prior wrongdoing.

Minnesota regulators were especially troubled by:

  • Trone’s testimony that a $1 million fine in New Jersey was “insignificant, or
  • his attempts to explain away his criminal indictment by claiming that a grand jury was liable to indict a ‘ham sandwich’ and
  • his statements about the insignificance of all his past violations because he could afford to pay the necessary fines.

According to Trone, the lesson he drew from his indictment has been that: “We did not have a lobbyist; we never wrote a campaign contribution. We were taken to the cleaners because of our naiveté.  So generally, what we do now when we enter a new state is hire a lobbyist, hire a great legal team, and meet the regulators. It’s preemptive, 100 percent.” Trone also says that as a result, he adopted a strategy of generous campaign contributions. As he told Bethesda Magazine: “We need to be practical, and we need to try and get things done.”[4]

Populist sentiment among both Republican and Democratic voters has come to revile the “Washington Swamp.” Whether Trump or Sanders supporters, these voters object to the way in which politically connected insiders effectively sell access and outcomes to the highest bidder.

In contrast to this, David Trone freely acknowledges his transactional approach to politics and government.  His remarkably candid and cynical conclusion from his years at Total Wine, is that he needs only to spend enough to get what he wants.

Given his personal history, it comes as little surprise that Trone has made protecting criminals a higher priority than representing district six.  For example, he joined California’s Maxine Waters in pushing legislation that would prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on job applications.  

Without question, David Trone’s values reflect the worst features of the “Washington Swamp.”