Just sign your name right there, Mr. Transportation 0) Secretary
Newly installed Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer was taken aback recently when his driver asked for his autograph.
When a flattered Mr. Lighthizer quickly agreed, the state employee whipped out a copy of "The Lighthizer Years," the 96-page, color-glossy book that has been a source of continuing embarrassment to the former Anne Arundel County executive.
The book, estimated to have cost the county more than $100,000, is a fairly shameless tribute to Mr. Lighthizer and his eight-year tenure. It includes photos of him standing in a creek with waders, conducting an orchestra and meeting with his present employer, Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Outraged county residents have complained about the expensive, yearbook-like report, and members of a taxpayers group even brought it to the attention of state senators before Mr. Lighthizer was confirmed last week.
"I don't know where the hell he got it from," said a chagrined Mr. Lighthizer. "I went ahead and signed it anyway."
A NEW DAY?
Four years ago, Baltimore lawyer George Nilson was chairman of a commission that outlined all the good-government reasons why campaign finance laws in Maryland should be changed.
Mr. Nilson, a former assistant attorney general, and his commission proposed a series of changes that would have revolutionized the system -- limiting political action committees, curtailing the activities of lawyers, plugging loopholes and limiting the ability of various fat-cat candidates to bankroll their friends by transferring money between committees.
All the bills failed -- even an "apple pie and motherhood" bill that simply organized and published years of attorney general's opinions and advisories from the State Administrative Board of Election Laws.
Last week, though, Mr. Nilson thought he detected a new day dawning. Problems with U.S. senators and the savings and loan industry and problems involving lobbyists and legislators in South Carolina seemed to be getting the attention of some Annapolis legislators.
Mr. Nilson reviewed his commission's recommendation for the House Committee on Constitutional and Administrative Law.
Delegate Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, was one of several urgent questioners.
"The law is so unclear the state prosecutor can be looking into your affairs, and he has a whole pond to fish from," Mr. Cummings said.
"Sometimes," he mused, "you feel like you have to protect yourself against yourself."
Unlike Governor Schaefer -- who wonders why he got only 59 percent of the vote -- GOP gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard thinks he understands. Before and after the campaign, he has said: To know me is to vote for me -- and if more of the voters had known me, we might have different chief executive today!
But now Mr. Schaefer is not the only one who's annoyed.
In pursuit of his manifest political destiny since last November's election, Mr. Shepard has been writing op-ed articles mapping strategies, taking issue with Democrats -- and in general presenting himself as a leader of the Maryland GOP, appearing to not-so-subtly elbow aside a few of his predecessors. He has taken to sending copies of his articles to Republican leaders -- who respond with a slow burn.
A retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who only recently made Maryland his year-round home, Mr. Shepard has always provoked a muted resentment among GOP leaders who feel that he can never match them for dues paid.
"He thinks nothing happened in Maryland until he and his wife got back from Budapest," said one party leader. "He doesn't know a protest vote when he sees one. He doesn't know those people were voting against Schaefer. He thinks they were voting for him."
Five days a week, John C. Astle works as member of the House of Delegates. But the Marine Corps reservist would rather be in the Persian Gulf, and he is pleading to be sent there.
"I know a lot of people think I'm crazy," he says. "But I've trained to take my place alongside the active-duty forces in this sort of situation."
Mr. Astle, 47, is a moderate Democrat now in his ninth year as a member of the House. The Annapolis resident is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. He is a helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam and helped in the evacuation of Saigon in 1975. But he has not been assigned to a unit.
"I just keep calling, saying, 'Heard anything?' They keep saying, 'No.' "
Governor Schaefer's fabled unhappiness with people who disagree with him creates a certain level of wariness in the legislative office buildings.
After Sen. John A. Pica, D-Baltimore, submitted a major tax bill to benefit Baltimore, two staff members were overheard talking in a county delegation office. They didn't give Mr. Pica much credit.
"He's doing it for the governor," said one of them.
"Maybe I'll call Schaefer's office and complain," the other said.
"I don't think I'd do that," said the first., "I'm sure he has Caller ID."