1997 Awards of Merit: beyond bumper stickers Honors: Quotes, slogans and a vanishing memo made this year interesting.

The Political Game

December 30, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

HEREWITH ARE Political Game's Awards of Merit for 1997, some of them to be taken very seriously, some not.

Quote Master of the Year goes to Deborah Povich, former executive director of Common Cause, whose capacity for outrage knew no end. Povich is working on a number of public policy issues, retaining her interest in campaign finance reform with a group called Maryland Network for Clean Campaigns.

In a sense, her job at Common Cause was to be appalled, and she almost always was. Povich's comments were sought also because she has encyclopedic knowledge of Maryland's campaign finance laws -- and a computer full of information on contributions and who made them.

So renowned had she become, in fact, that businessmen from out of state would call to see how much had been contributed to important politicians by their competitors. If the amount was high, the inquiring firm could save itself the cost and trouble of putting in a bid (imagining as it did that contributions have some impact on procurement).

In such ways, said Povich, can campaign contributions restrict Maryland's ability to attract bidders and thereby lower prices for the goods and services the state buys.

The 1997 Bumper Sticker award goes to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who came up with a series of names for his priority projects, allowing voters to keep close track of their progress through the General Assembly. Thriving By Three was a program designed to increase access to health care for pregnant women and children. Despite its pleasing euphony, the program died.

Better luck came with Smart Growth, which addressed sprawl. Also, the governor's position on gambling did well: No Slots, No Casinos, No exceptions.

One recent poll showed his popularity rising, though another did not. And both surveys were taken before Sen. Larry Young's difficulties threatened to cast a pall on Democrats at every level.

As recently as yesterday afternoon, Glendening touted "Forty at Four," an election year homeownership proposal designed to strengthen older communities. It will provide $40 million in mortgage loan funds at 4 percent fixed interest to residents of 15 communities across the state.

"It just makes sense to grow where we already have streets, water and schools," he said. What we have here, the governor hopes, is bumper sticker synergy: "Through a variety of Smart Growth housing programs," he said in a news release, "we hope to provide more home-buying opportunities in traditional, established cities and towns."

Exile of the Year goes to James C. Rosapepe, delegate from College Park and newly confirmed ambassador to Romania. Rosapepe's ideas about how to distribute education aid to the counties put him at odds with House leadership and almost got him banished to some legislative version of Siberia. Now it's Bucharest.

The Dog Ate My Homework award goes to a person or persons unknown in the Glendening administration. An internal memorandum, made public by others, suggested Glendening might want to engage in a bit of political leveraging: blocking state action on something House Speaker Casper R. Taylor wanted to win support from Taylor for something else. Asked to comment on the embarrassing document, Glendening's people said it had disappeared before reaching the governor's desk. Voila! The governor didn't have to comment.

Profile in Courage and Commitment award to the late state Sen. William H. Amoss who, shortly before his death, wrote a letter recommending a colleague to succeed him in representing parts of Harford and Cecil counties. Devoting some of his waning strength to the selection of his replacement (then Del. Donald Fry), Amoss demonstrated the general truth that legislators care deeply about the work they do in Annapolis for their constituents.

The No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Award to Ellen R. Sauerbrey, once again a GOP candidate for governor. For Sauerbrey, who wishes to reintroduce herself as a warmer and more friendly candidate for governor in 1998, Laura Woolfrey as press secretary seemed a perfect public representative: friendly, accommodating and pleasant. But, alas, she must have been too nice to the media wretches and had to leave. Sauerbrey kept David Albert, a campaign manager whose style led to the departure of some volunteers.

Fund-raiser of the Year award goes to Dr. James D'Orta, the emergency medical specialist and racing commission member. He set a standard that might never be matched, at least for surroundings. The check writers repaired to his extraordinary new house in Georgetown, once the home of Ambassador Averell Harriman and his wife, Pamela, who raised money for Democrats and became ambassador to France. Her house guests had splashed about in the pool and had gawked at what D'Orta's guest, Richard Goodwin, guesses must have been "a billion dollars worth of painted fruit," referring, of course, to still-life renderings by assorted masters. A speech writer for President John F. Kennedy, and husband of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Richard Goodwin came to D'Orta's bash for Glendening and entertained the guests with wry recollections.

Pub Date: 12/30/97

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