The Prince George's connection: New lobbyists can talk to old friends

THE POLITICAL GAME

April 05, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

It's not always what you know, but who you know. And for one of the newest lobbying firms in Annapolis, the old adage couldn't be truer.

The Advocacy Group, a trio of lobbying neophytes, was created in January by a well-connected lawyer, a cop and a psychologist -- Leonard L. Lucchi, Darryl A. Jones Sr. and Harvey A. Goldstein, respectively.

"It's not your typical lobbying firm," says Mr. Lucchi.

Certainly not, considering its close ties to Prince George's County politicians, most notably Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

Thanks to Mr. Curry, the group was awarded a $125,000 no-bid contract to lobby the legislature and governor this year on behalf of the county -- the first time in memory that the lobbying isn't being handled by a county employee.

"It was considered a 'professional services contract,' and we didn't have to seek competitive bids," said Glenda Wilson, senior adviser to Mr. Curry.

"Let's just say the Curry administration felt comfortable with these gentlemen," Ms. Wilson said. "They worked with them in the past.. . . I know they've had long-standing relationships."

The group is subletting the county's old offices on State Circle. They've also hired the county's former lead lobbyist, Royal Hart, who retired last year.

"It's important to us to have institutional memory," said Mr. Lucchi, who is 37 and lives in Bowie.

He said the firm is well-positioned to represent the county's interests.

"All the Cabinet departments are full of Prince George's County people we've known for years," he said. "We think we have an advantage there."

Said Mr. Goldstein: "It can't hurt to know the cast of characters. If ever there was a time [to form a lobbying group], this was it."

Mr. Goldstein, 44, is a nationally recognized psychologist from Bethesda. He has been politically active and is now in his 15th year as a consultant to the Prince George's Police Department.

Mr. Lucchi has been active in a variety of political campaigns, most recently for Mr. Curry. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, however, he was chairman of the short-lived campaign of millionaire Montgomery County businessman Stuart Bainum Jr.

In 1992, he was one of the top operatives of the Democratic party's Get Out The Vote effort for Bill Clinton.

It was during that campaign that he became friendly with Larry S. Gibson, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's political strategist who chaired the Clinton campaign that year and later was active in Mr. Curry's camp.

The third member is Mr. Jones, 37, an Upper Marlboro resident who is the paid president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police. He has ties to both Mr. Curry and Mr. Glendening.

Mr. Jones is a former corporal in the county Police Department who retired because of disability in October, just after he delivered the endorsement of the FOP to Mr. Glendening for the general election.

While the FOP is a client of The Advocacy Group, Mr. Lucchi said that Mr. Jones does not do any lobbying for the FOP. "He shouldn't profit from a contract where he would sign both sides of the agreement," he said.

After Mr. Glendening's narrow win in November, he put Mr. Jones on his transition team as co-chairman of his public safety policy group with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

And in February, when the governor was smarting from the Prince George's County pension flap -- in which he and three of his top aides received early and lucrative pension benefits -- Mr. Jones rode to the rescue.

He defended Mr. Glendening in a letter to the editor of The Sun, opining that the top aides' pension plan was "no sweetheart deal."

In addition to the county government contract, the group has a handful of other clients, including the MAXIMA Corp., a Lanham-based company that for the moment has the Prince George's County government's multimillion-dollar computer contract.

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