Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, in a paid television ad airing this week, falsely claims that his front-running rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Parris N. Glendening, eliminated funds to aid victims of domestic violence as Prince George's County executive.
The Steinberg TV spot, which went on the air Wednesday in the Baltimore and Washington areas, says: "Glendening cut funds for domestic violence against women and children to zero."
That is incorrect. The domestic violence account was merely shifted two years ago from one county department, Human Services, to another, Family Services, as part of a bureaucratic reorganization, according to budget documents and a senior county budget official.
M. Hirsh Goldberg, Mr. Steinberg's spokesman, said the ad will continue to run. He said that during the reorganization, Mr. Glendening terminated the domestic violence program as a separate account, or "line item," in budget terms.
Instead, Mr. Goldberg said, the money was placed in the larger Department of Family Services budget, available for use for any departmental program. "Domestic violence is a serious matter that deserves its own line item," the Steinberg campaign said in a prepared statement.
The Steinberg campaign is wrong, said Robert O. Duncan, Prince George's deputy chief administrative officer for administration, whose responsibilities include the budget.
"Sure it's a line item," said Mr. Duncan, an appointee of Democratic and Republican county executives dating back to 1976. He said the money "can only be used for domestic violence."
A spokesman for Mr. Glendening, David Seldin, said the Steinberg campaign's "confusion" may result from the county's fiscal year 1993 budget book, which shows no funds approved for the Domestic Violence Special Revenue Fund in the Department of Human Services section.
At the bottom of that budget page, however, a note points out that the zero figure is "for information purposes only" and that the complete fund summary can be found under the Department of Family Services -- where $273,650 is shown to have been approved for that fiscal year.
The domestic violence fund is used to operate a family crisis center that provides shelter for spouses who are victims of domestic abuse. Prince George's allotted $298,000 to the domestic violence account in fiscal year 1994 and $315,000 in fiscal 1995, Mr. Seldin said.
"Basically, the candidate who's running on a platform of saying, 'Only I know how to handle a budget,' doesn't know how to read a budget," said Mr. Seldin.
Mr. Steinberg has billed himself as a budget expert. He has stressed during the campaign that because of his professed budgetary expertise, he is best able to shepherd the state through anticipated revenue shortfalls over the next four years.
In the ad, Mr. Steinberg also claims that "Prince George's County has the highest crime rate in Maryland." In fact, Baltimore City has the highest crime rate in the state, followed by Prince George's. Mr. Goldberg said the ad was talking about the crime rate only among the state's counties.
The Glendening campaign accused Mr. Steinberg of "gross inaccuracies" and began airing its own TV response Thursday, saying the lieutenant governor "isn't telling the truth."
In what may be a new wrinkle in Mr. Steinberg's campaign, he is laying new stress on an old position, saying in the ads this week that he would ban parole for repeat violent offenders, a stand also taken by several other candidates.
Mr. Steinberg took a no-parole position when he announced his candidacy in January, but has said almost nothing about it in recent months.