Questionable fund-raiser deemed legal CAMPAIGN 1994

September 10, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron Harsher terms proposed in crimes against seniors

A fund-raiser that linked some Baltimore sports celebrities to the candidacy of GOP gubernatorial hopeful Helen Delich Bentley may have been misleading to the public, but violated no election laws, the state prosecutor has concluded.

Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, whose office investigates charges of official corruption and election law violations, notified the Bentley campaign of his findings this week.

The June 20 fund-raiser at McCafferty's Restaurant in Northwest Baltimore coincided with a sports party that included appearances by former Baltimore Colt John Unitas, Baltimore Canadian Football League team owner Jim Speros, and local sportscaster Vince Bagli -- none of whom were there to support Mrs. Bentley.

The investigation found that the expenses for the $50-a-person fund-raiser were covered by the restaurant and reported properly on Mrs. Bentley's campaign finance reports filed with the state election board.

Mr. Montanarelli's office also found that advertisements for the fund-raiser included the required notice that they were paid for with the authority of the Bentley campaign.

Another ad promoting the sports party did not include a campaign authority line, but since it was not deemed to be campaign literature, it was not required to have one, the prosecutor concluded. "Although the scheduling of the fund-raiser and 'Sports Party' by [McCafferty's] appears to have been done in order to deceive the public and the celebrities

attending the sports program, it did not violate the state election laws," Mr. Montanarelli wrote.

Brian H. Davis, a member of the restaurant's board and the person who oversaw the advertisements for the two events, said he was not trying to deceive anyone.

Mr. Davis said, though, that in hindsight he would have made it clear that the sports event was not related to the Bentley fund-raiser.

"We were trying as entrepreneurs to make as much money as we possibly could," Mr. Davis said. "The key was, if you didn't want to see Helen Bentley, maybe you'd come here to see John Unitas."

The investigation began after a complaint was lodged in late June. Mr. Montanarelli has declined to say who asked for the investigation. Candidates often select the friendliest possible location for a campaign announcement, and Patrick J. Smith is no exception.

Appearing this week at a Gaithersburg senior center, the Democratic candidate for Maryland attorney general said that criminals should get longer prison terms if their victims are age 60 or over.

He proposed a law calling for "time and a half" without parole for anyone convicted of any crime against a senior citizen. A six-year sentence would turn into a nine-year sentence if the victim was 60, for example, but it would be six years if the victim was 59.

Why should older victims be treated differently than younger ones?

"This is to restore the confidence of the seniors in the criminal justice system," said Mr. Smith, a Rockville attorney.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who is seeking a third term, is one so-called senior citizen with confidence in the system. He said that judges already consider the victim's circumstances when sentencing a criminal.

"Physically or mentally vulnerable persons can be any age, and I'm confident the judges would make serious examples of people who would harm vulnerable persons," said Mr. Curran who, at 63, considers himself neither elderly nor vulnerable.

The other Democratic candidate, Eleanor M. Carey, questioned Mr. Smith's age distinctions. "Someone who hurts an elderly citizen is reprehensible, but so is someone who kills a child. How can you say that one life is more important than another? All lives are important to us," she said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Smith made the same pitch again Thursday -- outside a senior center in Baltimore.

Marina Sarris

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