Mitchell denies son had any role on bill STATE HOUSE REPORT

April 03, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff writer

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. has been lobbying for an auto insurance bill supported by his son's employer.

Mr. Mitchell, however, said that that connection has nothing to do with his efforts to pass the legislation, which targets drivers who do not have medical insurance.

The legislation would require such motorists to buy extra auto insurance -- called personal injury protection -- to cover their medical bills if they are injured in a car wreck. Mr. Mitchell argues that if the bill becomes law, hospitals and state government would be stuck with fewer unpaid medical bills from uninsured accident victims.

Supporters of the legislation include two Baltimore medical clinics represented by lobbyist Maurice R. Wyatt. Mr. Wyatt employs Mr. Mitchell's son, also named Clayton, on a commission basis in his real estate firm. The Washington Post first reported the story yesterday.

Both the speaker and Mr. Wyatt deny any correlation between the son's business connection and their separate efforts on behalf of the measure. The younger Mitchell would not benefit from the bill's passage, they said.

Mr. Wyatt, who was an aide to former Gov. Marvin Mandel, lost his license to practice law in 1982 for his role in a 1974 bribery scheme.

Two of Mr. Wyatt's current clients, Baltimore Industrial Medical Clinic and Metropolitan Clinics, would benefit if more people had personal injury insurance and could thereby afford medical treatment.

The president of Metropolitan Clinics, Arnold Praver, is a longtime acquaintance of Speaker Mitchell.

The speaker, a Kent County Democrat, said that that connection is also irrelevant.

"The bill's not designed to help any particular person," he said. "It's a shame my family can't come in the State House without being viewed as criminals," he complained.

He accused the bill's opponents of questioning his lobbying effort in an attempt to scuttle the measure, which is now before the Senate Finance Committee. That panel killed similar legislation last month.

One opponent, Sen. James C. Simpson, a Charles County Democrat, said that the younger Mr. Mitchell's connection to lobbyist Wyatt creates the perception that something is amiss. "That's what the perception is now. [The speaker] comes in to testify to the committee, and all of a sudden we find out about his son," he said.

Another opponent, Sen. Michael J. Wagner, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the bill is designed to help lawyers and physical therapists. The bill makes it easier for therapists to get paid, he said. It also encourages accident victims to run up larger medical bills, thereby helping their lawyers obtain more money from the driver who caused the accident, he charged.

Lobbyists for six insurance companies and insurance industry associations are opposing the bill.

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