Master million-dollar deal-maker Lobbyist Evans is tops of profession in Md.

January 01, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN STAFF

Funny and profane, gregarious and clever, Maryland lobbyist Gerard E. Evans cultivates the image of a master deal-maker who knows everybody and knows how to get things done.

Now, after a decade of lobbying, he is the top man at his profession in Annapolis.

Las month, state reports revealed he was the highest paid of Maryland's nearly 500 lobbyists. During the 12-month period ending in late October, he earned $1,051,300, becoming only the second lobbyist to break the million-dollar mark in a year.

"He is a hard worker, an intelligent worker and, above all he gets things done," said Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who paid Mr. Evans more than $200,000 to be legal counsel in negotiations for a new stadium in Prince George's County.

Mr. Evans has largely built his reputation on three issues at the forefront of Maryland's political agenda: health care, casino gambling and the Redskins stadium. A student of the school of lobbying that emphasizes personal relations, he has succeeded largely on the strength of his amiable manner, street smarts and political connections.

"Gerry," as he is universally known, serves his more than two dozen clients as a legislative technician, a public spokesman and, sometimes, an amateur psychologist.

Over the years, he has become skilled at persuading legislators to insert lines into bills to help his clients and to delete language to protect their interests. During stadium negotiations, Mr. Evans provided a sympathetic ear for Mr. Cooke's frustrations.

A state source involved in the negotiations said Mr. Evans calmed his mercurial client and kept him from walking out several times before he struck a deal with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

When it comes to political connections, Mr. Evans and his lobbying law firm -- Dukes, Evans, Rozner & Stierhoff -- have some of the best in Annapolis.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. -- one of the three most powerful elected officials in Maryland -- is godfather to Mr. Evans' twin daughters. Before joining the firm in 1994, John Stierhoff was Mr. Miller's assistant and legislative counsel for many years. When Mr. Glendening was Prince George's County executive, Joel D. Rozner was one of his chiefs of staff.

Aura of influence

Coupled with his partners' past associations, Mr. Evans conveys an aura of political influence.

"I think Gerry carries with himself that mystique of power," said Baltimore County Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

But Mr. Evans has his critics.

Some say he spends too much time on personal relations and not enough arguing the merits of his clients' cases. Others think his flamboyant style draws more notoriety to a profession that already has a poor public image. On the last day of the 1995 General Assembly session, his firm provided legislators with trays of lox and bagels as they debated an ethics bill requiring greater disclosure of meals between lobbyists and lawmakers.

"In all honesty, if I were a client of his, I wouldn't appreciate that high-visibility road that he travels," Mr. Glendening said. "I don't think that is necessarily productive."

Some find his tactics heavy-handed. When lobbying in favor of casinos last year for a Nevada gambling company, Mr. Evans suggested that government leaders were supportive and opponents risked becoming politically isolated if they didn't switch positions. The strategy backfired, though, when public opposition increased and some prominent state officials declined to take a stand on the issue.

Mr. Evans defends his brand of lobbying, saying his skill is finding ways of matching the interests of his clients with those of legislators. While friendships may help get him in the door, he says people listen to him because of his knowledge of issues. He says the public image of lobbyists as backslapping, influence peddlers is unfair.

'Those days are gone'

"I cannot pick up the phone and say, 'Senator X, do this because I'm asking you to,' " Mr. Evans said. "Those days are gone."

As a staffer running Mr. Miller's office in the late 1970s, Mr. Evans said, he learned to view constituents as customers. Today, he says, he treats his lobbying clients the same way. At a news conference to announce the stadium deal, Mr. Evans -- ever the detail man -- took a glass of chilled water to Mr. Cooke on the rostrum to preserve his speaking voice.

"I wait on people," he said.

In a profession where enemies tend to accumulate, Mr. Evans has succeeded, in part, because he is hard not to like. He goes out of his way to make visitors to his office feel at home. Mr. Evans will offer guests a soft drink, perhaps a Redskins poster, then settle back into an overstuffed leather chair for a fireside chat.

"He's got an extremely generous personality," said Alan M. Rifkin, his former law partner and now a rival lobbyist.

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