Glendening fund raising shifts to inaugural parties

January 13, 1995|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer John W. Frece contributed to this article.

After amassing a state record $5.2 million for his election campaign, Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening has continued his unprecedented fund-raising efforts by asking corporations and lobbyists to help pay for two private inaugural parties next week.

Mr. Glendening's inaugural committee has asked for contributions starting at $5,000 and going up to $15,000 or more.

Michele T. Rozner, who heads the committee and will be one of Mr. Glendening's deputy chiefs of staff, said it already has raised She estimated that the total sum could reach $210,000.

In interviews this week, officials with several companies that donated money to the effort said they felt no pressure to do so and were happy to play a part in the events. Contributors include Ferris Baker Watts, the Baltimore-based investment house; Arthur Andersen, the international accounting firm; Bell Atlantic; and NationsBank.

Some lobbyists privately criticized the sponsorship drive, saying they feared that failure to contribute might cost them the governor's ear on legislation important to their clients. The solicitation also drew fire from Common Cause/Maryland, the self-proclaimed citizens' lobby.

"Five, ten and $15,000 donations certainly appear to be excessive," said Executive Director Deborah Povich. The sponsorship drive "appears to be almost a shakedown of lobbyists and corporate sponsors."

Mr. Glendening defended the effort this week as a way to save taxpayer dollars and denied that participation would have any political ramifications.

"Any lobbyist who believes for a moment that they have more or less access by contributing to any activity, including inaugural activities, does not understand what I'm all about," Mr. Glendening said. "Anyone that even remotely feels that way ought to tell us right out and if they have contributed, they ought to take their check back."

The state does not budget money for inaugural receptions or balls because they are private parties.

Ms. Rozner said the money will subsidize the events to reduce the ticket prices. Tickets to the inaugural ball Wednesday in Prince George's County are $125. Tickets to a reception Tuesday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards cost $75. Both events are by invitation, but anyone can call the committee office in Annapolis to get one.

Together, the two parties should cost $325,000 to $350,000, Ms. Rozner estimated. Companies such as Health Plus, a health maintenance organization in Greenbelt, will be helping to pick up part of the tab.

Christopher Doherty, the company's director of communications, said Health Plus contributed $15,000 freely and was glad to help defray costs. He said the decision to give was not connected to the company's considerable political interests in Annapolis, where health care is expected to be an issue this legislative session.

"We're just trying to be a good corporate citizen," Mr. Doherty said.

But several State House lobbyists said the sponsorship request made them feel awkward.

"There's a feeling that if you don't pony up, opportunities that might otherwise be available would disappear," said one lobbyist, who asked that his name not be used. "I feel compelled to contribute. I don't want to be on the outside looking in."

Other lobbyists said they had no trouble with the fund-raising effort. Gerard E. Evans, whose law partner, Joel D. Rozner, is married to Michele Rozner, called such complaints "crazy."

His firm, Dukes Evans Rozner Brown & Stierhoff, is contributing $5,000. Several of the firm's lobbying clients, including Health Plus and another health maintenance organization, U.S. Health Care, have donated a total of $40,000 to the inaugural fund, he said.

Soliciting money for inaugural celebrations is fairly common in American politics, as is the criticism it tends to generate. To raise funds for President Bill Clinton's $20 million-plus inaugural festivities, a committee turned to special interest groups such as the Tobacco Institute and the American Federation of Teachers for donations.

Virginia Gov. George Allen used corporate sponsors for his inaugural celebration last year and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is doing the same this year. Gov. Pete Wilson has asked some California companies for as much as $25,000 to help pay for his festivities. All three are Republicans, though the practice is bipartisan.

But Maryland has no such recent tradition. Gov. William Donald Schaefer didn't hold a ball in 1991 because of the state's fiscal crisis and canceled another in 1987.

Gov. Harry Hughes held the last inaugural ball in 1983. He drew criticism for using the $125-a-plate event as a fund-raiser to help pay off his $86,000 campaign debt.

That won't be happening with this year's inaugural fund, Ms. Rozner said. Any surplus -- she expects around $20,000 -- will go to charities, including the Hospice of Prince George's County, where Frances Hughes Glendening, the governor-elect's wife, serves as a board member.

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