ANNAPOLIS -- Now that all the work is done -- now that the money has been raised and spent on the Victorian fountain, the landscaping, the chandeliers, the Waterford crystal, the Kirk-Stieff place settings, the remodeling and repainting, the original artwork, and the new windows and rugs and roof -- now that all of that is done, Gov. William Donald Schaefer says he is swearing off any future fund raising for the governor's mansion.
It has just become too big a political headache, he said yesterday.
"During the last election, it became a major issue of the campaign, my spending on the mansion," he complained at a State House news conference.
As a result, he said, "I will forgo asking anyone to help with the mansion, unless they want to. I will spend just the amount of money allocated with the legislature, and not ask for an increase."
Even though most of the money spent to redecorate the 52-room mansion's public rooms, to rip up and rearrange the lawn and to install the 12-foot-high cast bronze fountain with its Chesapeake Bay motif was raised privately, Mr. Schaefer said he was unfairly blamed for wasting taxpayers' money.
"Everywhere I went, [voters] said I spent too much money on the mansion," said the governor, whose loss of Anne Arundel County in the election was attributed by many in state politics to the handling of the mansion refurbishment by Mr. Schaefer and his friend and official mansion hostess, Hilda Mae Snoops.
Voters, the governor said, did not understand that the mansion "was falling apart."
The rugs had such big holes in them he almost tripped and broke his neck, he said. The wind "whistled" through the windows. Once, he said, he stepped through a floorboard that had rotted out. When it rained, the roof leaked.
To finance improvements beyond what the legislature would pay for, the governor raised money from business leaders, lobbyists and others at Chestertown crab feasts in 1987 and 1988. Proceeds went to a private Governor's Mansion Foundation, controlled by several of his supporters.
But active solicitation for mansion funds stopped in 1989, when proceeds from the annual crab feast were diverted to a new statewide "civic fund."
"When we came in, the paint was peeling off, the windows were painted in, you couldn't sit in the chairs," the governor said, adding sarcastically: "Outside of that, it was a great place."