Fund raising resumes after rezoning is finished Balto. Co. councilmen again seek donations

March 29, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Although most of Baltimore County's seven councilmen abstained from campaign fund raising last year during the quadrennial comprehensive rezoning process, they are making up for it now -- but the link to their zoning work remains.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat and former council chairman, said he hopes that many of the $100 tickets to his May 1 fund-raiser will be bought by people he helped last year with zoning changes they requested, or by business owners who support him.

The council made hundreds of decisions on zoning changes in October. Because of an unwritten policy called councilmanic courtesy, each member has virtual final say on zoning in his own district.

Many of Gardina's decisions reduced the amount of land available for apartments and townhouses, to limit congestion and help older neighborhoods stave off blight. That was a popular stand in the county, and especially in his district stretching from Kingsville to Essex and along the waterfront.

"You've done them a favor and they do one in return," he said, noting that there are not many options for raising money.

Gardina said that asking for contributions after zoning decisions are made is ethical -- and preferable to raising money while decisions are pending, which can appear unethical.

Most of the seven council members are turning their attention to money now, preparing for next year's elections. Towson Republican Douglas B. Riley held his annual St. Patrick's Day event March 14, and three council colleagues including Gardina have fund raisers scheduled by May 1.

"I just can't wait any longer. I've got virtually nothing in there," Council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said of his $828 campaign kitty. He is planning a $100-a-ticket affair for April 17.

T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican who financed his own campaign in 1994, is holding a $75 fund-raiser April 29.

Even Dundalk Democrat Louis L. DePazzo, who in the past has bankrolled his own campaigns, is thinking about the need to raise outside money since he retired in 1993 from his law practice.

Riley's affair cost $35 a ticket, but the higher prices of events planned by the others likely will mean more purchasers from the business, development and legal fields than from the ranks of the average voter.

The fund-raising dilemma is a tough one for councilmen, who say they find themselves at the end of the donation pecking order.

Eugene Gallagher, a councilman from 1974 through 1986, said state legislators get contributions through lobbyists interested in bills that move through their General Assembly committees, but council members have no similar source of contributions.

"It's very demeaning to panhandle people," Gallagher said, citing it as one reason he retired from public life.

Most of the councilmen say they need a minimum of $40,000 to run an effective campaign.

Fund-raising expenses cut into the take from events. Gardina BTC says the cost of putting on a bull roast eats up $20 of every $35 ticket. At $100 a ticket, most of the cost is profit, reducing the number of events needed to finance a campaign.

Riley agreed with an observation that if everyone who voted for the councilmen in 1994 donated $3 to his candidate's campaign, none would need to peddle tickets to political fund-raising events.

But that is improbable, several noted. Fund raising, said Gardina and others, is a necessary evil.

"It's obscene, but it's what you have to do," says Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat. He and Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, both held fund raisers in November, a month after the zoning decisions were done. They have no firm plans for more events, although both say they will need to raise more money before the 1998 elections.

Kamenetz had $42,000 in hand after his November fund raiser. Moxley, who also had an event that month, reported having about $7,200, though he says more money has come in since. Gardina had $8,700 in the bank, and McIntire reported having $23,725 -- though he owes himself $20,000 in campaign loans.

DePazzo showed a balance of $273, with $39,000 in debts to himself, mostly from his unsuccessful run for a Circuit Court judgeship in 1992.

Riley -- who returned $3,000 in contributions last year that came from people who had zoning cases pending before him -- reported a $10,000 balance in November, the last campaign finance reporting deadline.

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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