McMillen turning up aces since defeat

THE POLITICAL GAME

June 23, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Citizen Tom McMillen, the former 4th District congressman, is the latest casualty of the political game to find himself doing quite well, thank you, on the commercial side of life in Washington.

Thrown by redistricting into the 1st District with Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest, Mr. McMillen made a bare-knuckled effort to stay in office during last year's election but came up a bit short.

Now, though, he seems to be having a victory a day.

He's not a lawyer, but he was recently hired by a 100-member law firm, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. He will serve as a "legislative business consultant." This title definitely does not translate as lobbyist, he says. Under current law, former members of Congress may not use their connections to advance the causes of their clients for at least one year.

Will he lobby eventually?

"I don't even know," he says.

Doesn't matter, says Donna Edwards, an attorney with Public Citizen, one of several public interest organizations that have tried to put the brakes on Washington's "revolving door," by which former congressmen and senators, rejected by the voters, learn that the ecstasy of wealth eases the agony of defeat.

The question is not whether Mr. McMillen has a law degree, Ms. Edwards said. Plenty of lobbyists don't. The public policy question is whether former congressmen should be able to land jobs in which they can profit handsomely by persuading former colleagues to vote in support of clients.

"It's not a question of whether he's lobbying if he's advising those who are lobbying," she says. The effect is the same and ought to be prohibited, she says.

Mr. McMillen says he's concentrating on mergers and acquisitions in the health care industry for Clinicorp Inc. His association with the law firm grew out of his work with Clinicorp, which is one of its clients. At the firm, he says, he will advise on such matters as investment banking.

Meanwhile, he's added to his profile by being named to serve as co-chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. President Clinton made the announcement earlier this week.

Mr. McMillen will serve in this unpaid post with Florence Griffith-Joyner, who set a world record in the 100 meters during the 1988 Olympics.

Mr. McMillen, of course, was an athlete, playing at the University of Maryland, on the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1972, and in the National Basketball Association for 11 years.

He does not sound like a man who's looking back, yearning to run again for the seat that gave him power on the Hill.

In a way, though, the former congressman is going back. He has already served one term on the fitness council, having been appointed as an 18-year-old high school student 23 years ago by Richard Nixon.

"It's a nice chance now to do something positive for our country -- and maintain involvement in public service," he says.

He says he has given little thought to taking another shot at elective office in Maryland. "I don't ever rule anything out, but my plans now are pretty focused on the things I'm doing here."

Ham 'n' eggs 'n' cash for Schmoke

A good political campaign, like a good day, often starts with a good breakfast.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had one last Thursday at the Cross Keys Inn with lawyers and businessmen and developers -- some of them members of his finance committee. They met to hear how things were going as he travels around the state introducing himself and listening carefully when he says he might run for governor.

The mayor and his political adviser, Larry Gibson, said no decision has been made. But the soundings are promising, they told the assembled potential backers.

Mr. Gibson said the event was one of the semiannual meetings the mayor has with members of this committee. "He believes that whether he runs for governor or mayor this kind of contact is beneficial. If he doesn't run for governor, he'll be a more effective mayor.

"We need help from the state, from members of the Assembly -- and the more they sense his problems and priorities, the more likely they'll find common ground to work with him as mayor or as governor," Mr. Gibson said."

The mayor will hold a fund-raiser on Sept. 27 and could announce his intentions then -- or even earlier.

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