Lobbyists solicited for tickets Schaefer aides asked 2 in computer fight

February 11, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Although Gov. William Donald Schaefer struggled to put distance between himself and lobbyists fighting over a $75 million lottery computer contract, his aides recently solicited two of them to buy tickets to a $1,500-per-person fund-raiser held by the Democratic Governors' Association.

The fund-raiser was last Monday in Washington. The contract award may be made as early as this week.

Monica Healy, the state's representative in Washington, asked a number of Marylanders, including Bruce C. Bereano, lobbyist for the computer company GTECH, to "participate" in the fund-raiser.

Ms. Healy said she called Mr. Bereano because he had purchased tickets last year. Mr. Bereano said he volunteered after getting a mailer announcing the event. He bought five tickets for a total of $7,500.

Mr. Bereano said he did not sit at the governor's table. But his GTECH lobbying partner, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, did.

"I'm a big supporter of Governor Schaefer," Mr. Bereano said. "I just do these things." It would be "extremely unfair," to suggest a connection between the contributions to the fund-raiser and GTECH's interest in the lottery contract, he said.

"I have worked so hard, and I just innocently go to a dinner," he said, and then "there is a lot of innuendo."

Gerard E. Evans, a lobbyist for Mr. Bereano's competitor, Control Data Corp., which has the lottery computer contract now, said he was asked to buy tickets by Lainy LeBow, the governor's scheduling director. Mr. Evans said he declined.

"Too steep for us," he explained.

Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, Paul E. Schurick, said the governor was not concerned about having his staff ask for contributions from lobbyists just as an important contract was to be awarded.

"Mr. Bereano frequently attends these types of functions," Mr. Schurick said. "He's attended this dinner in each of the last two years. It's not uncommon or surprising."

Mark Gearon, director of the Democratic Governors' Association, TC confirmed that each governor was expected to invite ticket-buying supporters to the event, though he said there was no firm quota. About 2,000 guests representing a number of large corporations attended the event, which raised about $600,000. The money is used to maintain the operation of the DGA and to assist Democratic governors in close races, according to Ms. Healy.

The ticket-selling by Mr. Schaefer's staff seemed to fly in the face of the elaborate effort he made last fall to insulate himself from the appearance of favoritism in the lottery computer procurement.

With four major lobbyists competing for the lucrative, five-year contract at one point -- and with several of them having close political relationships to the governor -- a unique procurement procedure was established in place of the usual process.

Two special study committees were appointed by the governor to analyze technical and cost aspects of the bids and to make presentations to Charles L. Benton Jr., the governor's budget secretary. Mr. Benton would then make a recommendation to Governor Schaefer and the Board of Public Works, which would make the final decision.

Presentations by the study commission are being completed this week, according to William F. Rochford, the Lottery Agency's executive director.

Mr. Bereano said it was only a coincidence that the DGA dinner occurred at a time when his client was awaiting a decision on the computer contract, the award of which has been delayed while the new process of evaluation is being completed.

Mr. Bereano said that GTECH also purchased tickets on its own and not in response to a request from the governor or his staff. Mr. Bereano said he sat at the GTECH table.

GTECH, located in Providence, R.I., bought 15 tickets at a cost of $22,500, according to Mr. Bereano. The company already has lottery contracts in several states, and it has been a supporter of the association in the past.

"My client had nothing to do with buying tickets for the governor's tables," Mr. Bereano said. "Absolutely nothing."

He said GTECH's two representatives at the dinner, Dave Smith and Ray Howell, did speak to Governor Schaefer, but Mr. Bereano said he did not escort them. "They just went over to say hello," Mr. Bereano said.

Mr. Bereano said GTECH's table, where he sat, was far removed from the Schaefer tables. Mr. Bereano said he sat with people from Arizona, Texas, Ohio and Arkansas.

Ms. Healy said she solicited Mr. Bereano because his name and others were on a list of contributors to the event last year. Mr. Bereano said he bought at least two tickets and perhaps as many as four last year.

Others in the governor's party last week included Richard O. Berndt, a Baltimore lawyer; George F. Cormeny Jr., an officer of First National Bank of Maryland; George V. McGowan, chief executive officer at Baltimore Gas and Electric; Peter F. O'Malley, a Prince George's County businessman and lawyer who has been a supporter of the governor; John Moag, a lawyer with Patton, Boggs and Blow; several members of the governor's staff; and Thomas Koch, a Schaefer fund-raiser and Baltimore businessman.

When he arrived at the party, Mr. Koch said, the governor asked whether he had brought anyone with him.

"I said at $1,500 a ticket, in these economic times, I had to come alone," Mr. Koch said. Despite the economy, he said, he bought a ticket because he knows the governor is "heavily involved" in the governor's association.

"They asked for the help," Mr. Koch said. "Like every governor, he wanted to have a table or two. His friends responded out of friendship."

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