Committee debates whether delegate erred with letter soliciting funds

July 23, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

In a closed meeting yesterday, the Maryland legislature's ethics committee debated whether a delegate, who faces questions about lobbying on his company's behalf, made a mistake with a recent fund-raising letter, sources said.

Del. Nathaniel Exum, a Democrat who chaired the Prince George's delegation, recently mailed a letter soliciting campaign donations on stationery that included his government telephone numbers. But he included a disclaimer that his campaign paid for the stationery.

Maryland lawmakers are forbidden from running their re-election campaigns from their state-funded offices. The legislature's ethics guide notes "the use of the title, office and official stationery [is] reserved for General Assembly business."

Ethics panel members agreed that Exum's letter could be seen as a modest error. They intend to send a letter reminding all 188 lawmakers of the guidelines and urging them to be more cautious, several sources said.

Efforts to reach Exum yesterday were unsuccessful.

Questions were raised about Exum this year after he invited the president of the company that employs him to a meeting at which county officials presented their legislative agenda.

Exum is challenging Sen. Decatur W. Trotter, a four-term Prince George's Democrat, for his District 24 Senate seat. Trotter, who serves on the ethics panel, asked in a July 7 letter to be recused if his colleagues take up the question of whether Exum crossed ethical lines in promoting his company's business.

The committee also has a pending complaint that two lawmakers from East Baltimore steered state grants to a project headed by their campaign strategist. Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden and Del. Hattie N. Harrison, who deny any conflict, have obtained more than $1 million in state aid for a job center that is outside their district.

"I want to get this issue resolved," McFadden said. The panel meets again Aug. 12.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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