Eminentoes

I, Marion Barry

The former D.C. mayor strikes again.

By 1.30.09

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Marion Barry wants the world to know there isn't just one Messiah now living in Washington, D.C.

This irrepressible creature of habit seems convinced he is a living god, unencumbered by the laws of mere mortal men.

The dashiki-wearing Democratic former mayor of the District of Columbia who years ago aggressively led the capital city into insolvency, has yet again failed to file his personal tax return, the Washington Post reports.

Barry did this while on probation after being convicted in 2006 of failing to file federal and district income tax returns from 1999 through 2004.

This is just the latest incident in a lifetime of law-breaking for the liberal municipal lawmaker who now represents Ward 8 on the Washington, D.C. city council.

Barry was previously a member of the local school board and city council. He then served three terms as mayor until he was convicted and sent to prison on federal drug charges in 1990. He was videotaped by the FBI smoking crack cocaine with a woman in a hotel room and sent to prison.

After serving six months in prison he was released and, of course, ran for mayor again. Sensing his higher calling, the voters put him back in the mayor's office again, this time for a fourth term.

While there he presided over unprecedented deficit spending that put the nation's capital on the brink of total collapse. With the city's bonds rated "junk" by Wall Street, Congress intervened in 1995, seizing power from the district's elected leaders. Congress created a financial control board and gave it veto power over city affairs.

Under the leadership of then-mayor Anthony Williams, the district -- with no help from Barry -- balanced its budget four years in a row. The return to solvency caused the board to go dormant in October 2001.

In his brief stint out of office, Barry offered his services as a financial rainmaker to New York-based municipal bond firm M.R. Beal & Co. That firm disclosed in filings with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board that it paid Barry at least $50,000 in 1999 for his expertise in parting the Red Seas of public finance.

Restless, the man who started his career in politics as a civil rights crusader for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, returned to politics again.

Barry is now a member of the D.C. city council, having returned to politics in 2005 as the council member for Ward 8.

He remains a recidivist.

In October 2005, Barry pleaded guilty to failing to file federal income tax returns and failing to pay federal income taxes.

At a February 2006 sentencing hearing I covered as a daily newspaper reporter, Barry arrived in the courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse and greeted his fans. "Do I look good? Am I fresh?" he said.

Barry didn't think it was important to bother bringing documents the presiding judge demanded. These included the delinquent tax returns that were the basis of the charges against the former mayor.

Surprisingly cheerful about Barry's brazen contempt of her order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson postponed the hearing. Robinson seemed to care little that Barry had tested positive for cocaine and marijuana use in November while awaiting sentencing.

A month later Robinson sentenced Barry to three years probation, but refused to fine him. She could have fined him up to $100,000 on the federal count and $5,000 on the D.C. count.

She ordered the septuagenarian to pay $75 in court costs. She didn't even scold him.

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About the Author

Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist at a conservative watchdog group in Washington, D.C. Vadum is also author of Subversion Inc: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers.