Lawyer begins comptroller campaign

March 02, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Rockville lawyer James B. Moorhead kicked off his campaign for Maryland comptroller yesterday with a broadside attack on Louis L. Goldstein, the nine-term incumbent he will face in the September Democratic primary.

Resurrecting old news accounts of Mr. Goldstein's lucrative real estate deals, Mr. Moorhead charged that the comptroller has "used his office to enrich himself, making millions of dollars since he was elected in 1958."

Mr. Moorhead, 40, a former federal prosecutor and first-time office-seeker, then called on Mr. Goldstein to place his personal financial holdings in a blind trust to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"To add insult to injury, Louis Goldstein has become a multi-millionaire at the same time he has failed to do the job he was elected to do," Mr. Moorhead said at a news conference in Baltimore, one of three where he formally announced his candidacy yesterday. The other two were in Rockville and Annapolis.

Marvin A. Bond, spokesman for Mr. Goldstein, dismissed the charges, saying that in years past, the State Ethics Commission had investigated allegations of possible wrongdoing by the comptroller and "found nothing."

Mr. Bond also said Mr. Goldstein, who will turn 81 in less than two weeks, would not place his assets in a blind trust.

"You have in this state a very comprehensive financial disclosure requirement," the spokesman said. "Every year, he files voluminous financial disclosure statements, which are all out in public view, and that seems to be the better protection for people."

Mr. Moorhead is being viewed by many in Annapolis as possibly presenting a real challenge to Mr. Goldstein, who has never had difficulty being re-elected. Mr. Moorhead said yesterday he has raised $230,000 since February 1993 -- an extraordinary sum for a Maryland comptroller's race.

In a harshly worded statement, he called Mr. Goldstein "a ceremonial comptroller" and charged he has not kept up with changing economic times. He referred to his own experience as a volunteer adviser to the Governor's Commission on Efficiency and Economy in Government -- the so-called Butta Commission, for its chairman, J. Henry Butta -- to highlight waste in state government, which he laid at the feet of Mr. Goldstein.

"Looking over this wasteland of inefficiency and indifference is a lethargic comptroller's office," he said. "Too comfortable, too secure or just too tired to summon the energy and vision required. . . . The current comptroller has allowed his office to wither away to a shadow."

Mr. Bond later countered that state law requires the legislative auditor -- in the General Assembly's Department of Fiscal Services -- to report on the efficiency of the executive branch. "The watchdog-type function is very clearly defined in Maryland as belonging in the legislative branch," he said.

Mr. Bond also defended the advances made in the comptroller's office, making special note of a pilot program for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on "electronic forms imaging" of tax returns.

"From the minute Louis walked in the door in 1959, he was looking at the 21st century," Mr. Bond said. Mr. Moorhead is a 1976 graduate of Harvard College and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1981.

He was an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore from 1983 to 1986, specializing in political corruption cases.

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