The $11 million man Glendening goal: Nonstop fund-raising by governor raises questions of propriety.

June 09, 1996

DURING THE 1994 race for governor, Parris N. Glendening was called the "$5 million man" because of his record-setting campaign kitty. Now Mr. Glendening wants to shatter that mark and become known as the "$11 million man."

That's what the governor has told some politicians. The idea -- hardly novel -- is to scare off potential primary foes by soaking up available funds. It would also give him a prominent advantage over a Republican challenge.

Mr. Glendening seems obsessed with raising funds. He is not shy about asking those who want to do business with the state to help him out with big-ticket events.

This raises troubling concerns. It leaves the perception that government is for sale, that Mr. Glendening will reward those who give to his campaign and ignore non-givers. What is a builder to do, for instance, when the governor asks him to host a $1,000-a-plate function and to find 50 people to fill the tables? He ignores this request at great risk to his company.

The director of Common Cause/Maryland says the governor's tactic "appears to border on extortion." We agree. It is unseemly for Mr. Glendening to actively solicit money from those doing business with the state. It leaves the public with the impression that this governor cares only about financing his re-election.

Mr. Glendening isn't the only state politician busily raising funds in anticipation of 1998. So are Republican Ellen Sauerbrey and Democratic House Speaker Casper Taylor -- two potential candidates for governor.

But Mr. Glendening has a responsibility as the incumbent governor to avoid any hint of a conflict of interest. The first time a major fund-raiser gets a big state contract, the governor's integrity will be questioned. The second time it happens, citizens will think the fix is in.

True or not, that is exactly what the public may believe if Mr. Glendening persists in his myopic focus on fund-raising. Given the scandals of the Agnew-Mandel years, the last thing Maryland needs is a controversy centering on favoritism and quid pro quos linked to campaign contributions and government contracts. We urge Mr. Glendening to find less offensive ways to raise the funds. Otherwise, the stench from these high-priced parties may chase voters away -- and for good reason.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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