Money Talks

June 14, 1995

In the Annapolis State House, money -- doled out by exceptionally well-paid lobbyists -- often proves persuasive. More and more, legislators are succumbing to the wiles of paid advocates whose livelihood depends on tilting the legislative process in their clients' favor.

That trend was hammered home once again with the latest six-month report from the State Ethics Commission on the millions of dollars spent on lobbying in the most recent 90-day General Assembly session. Even when lobbyists didn't win an outright victory, they shoveled money into influence-peddling in a big way.

Early in the 1995 legislative session, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, House speaker Casper R. Taylor, D-Western Maryland, and Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, pronounced all moves toward casino gambling this year dead. And yet the casino companies kept on spending and spending, hiring more and more lobbyists, in an attempt to make a good impression on lawmakers. It cost the casino interests $600,000 to soften up the legislature for next year's massive frontal attack. There's no telling how much these gambling enterprises will spend to try to get their way next January.

The amount of money being funneled into lobbying has made these advocates far more aggressive in the pursuit of success. Big bucks are riding on pleasing their clients. Over a lifetime of lobbying it could mean millions of dollars in income from just a single client.

We have repeatedly pointed out that the proximity of state legislators and lobbyists in the State House is highly dangerous. Some simple steps have been taken recently to put at least a little distance between the two. But lawmakers remain far too susceptible to the persistent pandering of high-powered lobbyists, who are always eager to please and always eager to befriend a member of the General Assembly.

When a lobbyist starts doing favors -- of any kind -- for a legislator, there's a covert quid pro quo written into this unholy contract. That bears special sensitivity as gambling lobbyists start offering the moon, the stars and the sky to legislators in exchange for the right to locate casinos all over Maryland.

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