Schaefer quiet about Bush bonuses Last-minute payback helps light rail

THE POLITICAL GAME

February 17, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

When he stepped away from his party last fall to endorse the Republican candidate for president, William Donald Schaefer says he was doing what he thought was right, exercising his prerogatives as an American.

And he paid a price. His closest Democratic Party friends deplored his desertion and then gave him the silent treatment. They wouldn't even officially censure him, judging that he had little time left in office and was almost history.

But there might have been a way out for him: A little financial sugar from Washington would make the medicine go down.

So the governor's friend, George Bush, got a letter reminding him of a few items of importance to Maryland, programs and grants that might be expedited by a touch of the departing president's hand.

Others were queuing up at the White House. Some had known the president longer. Some were probably Republicans.

But who had thrown himself on the sword of friendship with such drama?

So the state was given approval for its so-called fast-track design approach for the next leg of the light rail system. An environmental impact statement, which might have delayed the Baltimore-Glen Burnie link for months, was given final approval. Also, a favorable financing plan for the next leg was awarded as part of a demonstration project.

Requests were made for help with cleanup operations at the old Bainbridge Naval Station, which the state is negotiating to take over. Maryland won an agreement under which the federal government will cover the cost of any cleanup of toxic wastes that may be discovered after the property is transferred to the state.

So far, so good. Loyalty rewarded. Partial redemption at hand.

But the Schaefer administration has been uncharacteristically silent.

Why? Because, if the Bush administration wanted to say thanks, the Clinton folks might want to say something else. Despite their own deep devotion to Democratic principle, they might try to kill the deals if Mr. Schaefer seemed boastful.

Bring your checkbook along

If Bill Brock, the former Tennessee senator and Republican national chairman, runs for governor of Maryland in 1994, his candidacy will not be a political free lunch.

His wife has been telling GOP leaders pointedly that he'll need fund-raising support. Notwithstanding reports of great family wealth, the party should not expect him to bankroll his campaign single-handedly.

This is only prudent.

Cash contributions are votes of confidence from powerful or knowledgeable people who think you can win. The earlier you get 'em, the more they mean.

Republicans cannot be surprised and may not be altogether unhappy with this reminder. Some of them don't want Mr. Brock. They want a Maryland standard bearer. Many of them hate their image as the party of fat cats and may not want to be represented by one. Often they don't deserve the high-roller reputation, and they don't always come through with money for their candidates.

Maryland party leaders may assume Mr. Brock would come with the deep pockets a Republican is supposed to have. So a candidate who knows what it takes to win, a candidate like Bill Brock would be, wants to find out where he stands.

Now the question is: Will marriage look as good without a dowry?

Ending pressure for pothole politics

The framers may have thought voting and policy-making were the real stuff of politics. "Nowhere," says Del. John Bishop, "does the state Constitution say, 'Thou shalt get potholes fixed.' "

Political reality says precisely that, of course, and those who want to be re-elected know it.

Mr. Bishop wants to solve the problems of his Baltimore County constituents. He's an aggressive, hard-working legislator. But he finds himself a bit resentful of the constant call: one community meeting after another can become a drain on energy and time.

No knee-jerk Republican opposed to all government programs, Mr. Bishop has an idea. He wants Maryland to establish an office of constituent service. Kentucky has one and raves about it, he says.

He wants potholes out of politics.

He's already opposed to legislative scholarships, the big dollops of cash that win voter loyalty no matter how you vote.

Probably wants to abolish patronage. What about simple favors? Are they out, too?

Now that he has introduced a constituent service bill, is there any chance it could pass?

When pigs fly, maybe, or when a Republican wants another layer of governmental bureaucracy.

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