In this space last month took the Baltimore County...

AN ITEM

December 11, 1993

AN ITEM in this space last month took the Baltimore County public library system to task for lacking its own copy of "A Heartbeat Away: The Investigation & Resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew," Richard M. Cohen and Jules Witcover's definitive account of the downfall of this infamous Baltimore Countian.

Gallimaufry noted at the time that the book could be found in the library systems of Anne Arundel and Harford counties and at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library, all of which could make it available to Baltimore County library users through inter-library loan.

A colleague picks up the story:

"Then a fellow writer returned this past week from the Pratt's annual book sale of surplus volumes with a copy of 'A Heartbeat Away,' complete with its now-defunct Pratt catalog number on the spine.

"Swell, we thought. Another copy of this important book gets removed from public access.

"Then we hit on an idea: Convince our friend to contribute his copy of 'A Heartbeat Away' to the Baltimore County library.

"So far, no soap. But he promises to give this tax-deductible donation some serious thought."

* * *

REGARDING the Witcover-Cohen book, it includes an incident from the 1966 gubernatorial campaign that has been eerily echoed in the current race for the Maryland governorship.

Just before he was nominated for the top elected office by Maryland Republicans 27 years ago, Spiro Agnew was reported to have been offered a bribe by state slot-machine interests.

He later claimed he was approached three times with slot-related bribes that altogether amounted to $295,000.

Mr. Agnew didn't report the alleged bribes when they were made, nor did he ever name the person or persons tendering the cash. He indignantly brushed the matter aside to show that he tTC was above politics-as-usual sleaze.

Fast-forward to November 1993. Republican gubernatorial candidate Helen Delich Bentley claims on a radio talk show that pro-NAFTA forces would have given "way up in the six figures for my gubernatorial campaign if I'd switch my [anti-NAFTA] vote."

Days later, realizing she might have committed a slight boo-boo, Mrs. Bentley denied that any such "direct monetary inducement" was made.

Question: Is this ploy going to become standard among Republican candidates for governor, sort of their version of the Statue of Liberty play?

Once in a long while, sneak in a bribery allegation as a sure-fire way to goose up a campaign?

Now that Mrs. Bentley has used it, will Republican candidates Ellen Sauerbrey and Bill Shepard feel compelled to jump in with their own outraged accounts of being offered "direct monetary inducements"?

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