Lobbyists note GOP influence Tickets: Those who make it their business to influence the General Assembly can count votes, and allocate their contributions accordingly.

The Political Game

December 31, 1996|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

DEMOCRATIC PARTY official and super lobbyist Gerard Evans got credit for buying 20 tickets at $150 each -- a total of $3,000 -- for the recent Republican Party fund-raiser at the Hyatt Hotel in Baltimore.

Evans had a super case of flu and did not actually attend, but it seemed almost everyone knew of his law firm's support.

"It's something we're proud and pleased to do," Evans, who sits on the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee, said of his contribution to the GOP. "We do it unabashedly. We have to get our votes from both sides of the aisle, and Republicans tend to be people who vote consistently pro-business. Our clients like that."

Republican lawmakers see the increased devotion of lobbyists as another sign of their growing strength in the General Assembly.

"We're getting attention from people who have been considered core Democratic supporters," said House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican.

"We have 41 delegates now instead of 16 [the pre-1994 total]. You can't pass any pro-business legislation without unanimous support from the Republicans," he said. Evans and other lobbyists can count, of course, and what they lobby for mostly is "pro-business legislation."

Thus did Kittleman and his well-focused team raise another $50,000 or so for the 1998 campaign. They sold about 350 tickets for their Dec. 10 event -- up from about 230 last year. Quite a jump.

The improved bottom line, Kittleman said, was the result of increasing recognition of GOP potential -- and hard work this year by a number of salesmen, including Del. Richard La Vay, a Montgomery Republican, and Sens. Martin G. Madden, a Howard Republican, and John W. Derr, a Frederick Republican.

The campaign fund they are building to help legislative candidates should reach $150,000 for the next election, 50 percent bigger than in 1994, when the GOP elected 25 new delegates.

In the past, only challengers have been eligible for the bucks as the party tried to build its numbers. This time, though, some of those breakthrough incumbents may need help to hold off Democrats trying to win back seats they had held for years.

A committee of Republicans, headed by Kittleman, picks the beneficiaries. He says the process is as scientific as it can be: "We target very heavily. We look at the district, the ratio of Democratic to Republican voters, the quality of the challenger, how entrenched the incumbent is and how hard the challenger is willing to work.

"We give money to those who are more likely to win."

A double welcome for Senator Neall

The GOP's 1994 gubernatorial candidate, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, was master of ceremonies at the fund-raiser. She spoke of the late Sen. John A. Cade, who died last month -- and of his successor, Sen. Robert R. Neall, an Anne Arundel Republican. Her comments came in the aftermath of a potentially worrisome struggle over filling Cade's seat. The county's more vigorously conservative Republicans were opposed to Neall and sought to block him. All's fair in love, war and politics, but the outnumbered GOP needs unity if Sauerbrey is to win in 1998.

She knows this, of course, and has tried mightily to keep the lid on while giving everyone a chance to be heard.

In case someone wasn't listening, though, the party's chair, Joyce Lyons Terhes, also took the opportunity to welcome Neall's return to the legislature after several years as a lobbyist and Anne Arundel County executive.

The Terhes comments were, at best, gilding the political lily for those who thought Sauerbrey had covered the subject well enough. At worst? Another effort to keep Neall's name in the minds of those who will decide who represents the GOP in the 1998 gubernatorial contest.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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