Amid Rancor, Long-delayed Campaign Reforms Pass

November 20, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

After two years, three months and four days of study -- and two hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds of debate -- the Annapolis City Council finally passed a campaign finance reform law for city officials.

Mayor Alfred Hopkins, who repeatedly referred to a stopwatch during the debate, wanted everyone to know how long and seriously the council deliberated over its decision to limit the donations a candidate may receive.

The amount an alderman may accept from a single contributor during an election cycle is now limited to $1,000; a mayoral candidate mayaccept up to $2,500 per cycle. Before Monday's vote, there were no limits.

The council voted, 5-4, to accept the limits proposed by Alderman Wayne Turner, R-Ward 6.

"After all this time, at least something was done," said Hopkins, who voted against the limits.

Alderman John Hammond, R-Ward 1, who first proposed a campaign finance reform bill in August 1989, was not impressed with the deliberation. He lashed out at Rules Committee chairman Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, for holding the bill up.

"The review on this bill didn't take two years. It didn't receive any attention from your committee until the last six months," Hammond said. "I think that's an unfair and shabby way to treat one of your colleagues on the City Council."

None of the key aspects of Hammond's original bill -- a $500 per contributor limit, limits on loans, and a provision requiring candidates to empty out their campaign war chests between elections -- made it into the final version of the bill.

Snowden, who has approximately $11,000 in his war chest and has openly discussed his plans to run for mayor in 1993, viewed Hammond's original bill as a personal attack.

"It's part of the process," he said, explaining why the bill took two years to pass.

True to Hammond's jibe that "there was more 'campaign' than 'reform' in this campaign reform bill," the new law also contains a swipe at and a political victory for city Democratic Central Committee Chairman Michael Brown, who figures to challenge Turner forhis seat in 1993.

The victory for Brown is a line requiring polling places to be as close to the center of a ward as possible. Brown, who lost to Turner by only 4 votes in the 1989 election, has complained about the placement of the polling booths for Ward 6, both of which lie in Ward 8 -- far from the low-income communities that form the core of Brown's constituency.

The swipe at Brown came in the form of an amendment forbidding the solicitation of more than one emergency absentee ballot during an election.

County and state investigators decided not to press charges against Brown after a year-long investigation, despite evidence that three emergency absentee ballots returned by his campaign on election night 1989 were fraudulent.

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