Glendening supports reform bill Campaign finance law should also apply to his opponents, he says

Assembly weighing

Fuller disclosure, quarterly reports are among proposals

February 06, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has thrown strong support behind an effort to overhaul the state's campaign finance laws -- with the caveat that the reforms should apply to his potential opponents as well.

The governor, who has been embarrassed on several occasions by the fund-raising missteps of his campaign organization, made his views known in a letter this week to the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that are considering campaign finance reform bills.

Hearings on the bills began yesterday in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee with a call by Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. to pass legislation that would help "change the cynicism" of Maryland voters. Taylor has sponsored a package of bills and underscored their importance by making them House Bills one through six in the current session.

The governor's letter, the most specific expression of his views on campaign finance reform, was released yesterday. It backs several key elements in the Taylor package.

Glendening specifically endorsed two Taylor proposals that were omitted from similar legislation proposed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat. The provisions would require that candidates find out and disclose the occupations and employers of individuals who give $250 or more and that candidates actively raising large sums of money make quarterly reports.

Glendening also said it would be "clearly in order" to increase penalties and extend the statute of limitations for violations of campaign finance law. Such provisions would go beyond the assembly leaders' proposals.

In a sign that he has not entirely forgotten his political interests, the governor said it is "critical" that any restrictions on fund raising by incumbents also apply to challengers.

"It is essential that NO candidate for office -- formal or informal, declared or undeclared, official or unofficial -- be exempted from the campaign finance laws," he wrote.

That refers to a provision in the Taylor and Miller packages that would ban fund raising by legislators and those holding statewide office during the 90-day legislative session and the 50-day bill-signing period that follows.

The governor's suggestion presumably would extend the ban to Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1998, and to some county executives who have hinted at challenging Glendening. In effect, it would put all political fund raising for the 1998 gubernatorial race on hold from January to early April of next year.

Deborah Povich, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland, a public-interest watchdog group, expressed skepticism about the governor's proposal. "We already have a level of unfairness in that incumbents have an advantage," she said.

Taylor, an Allegany County Democrat who is a possible Glendening challenger, told delegates yesterday that he agreed "with the substance of this letter" and suggested that the committee extend the restrictions to challengers.

The governor also suggested two reforms -- both arising from incidents that embarrassed him in the past year -- that are not addressed in the Taylor and Miller proposals.

One would ban contributions in the form of money orders or cashier's checks, which were used by Baltimore businessman Brian H. Davis to contribute to Glendening and other politicians under relatives' names.

The other would bar bidders on state contracts from contributing during the bidding process. That would address an issue that arose after the governor accepted a corporate jet ride to a New York fund-raiser sponsored by a bidder on a state health contract.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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