Governor criticizes 'issue ad' donations $500,000 from owners of racetracks called 'Las Vegas money'

Campaign 1998

October 31, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jay Apperson contributed to this article.

With Maryland slot machine advocates donating heavily to Republican campaign funds, Gov. Parris N. Glendening charged yesterday that Ellen R. Sauerbrey had changed her position on gambling for the sake of "Las Vegas money."

The governor's volley follows published reports that two Maryland racetrack owners had given a combined $500,000 to an arm of the Republican Party that has been running ads attacking Glendening's record.

"They're trying to buy the election with Las Vegas money," Glendening said. "It illustrates the corruption that starts to come in when you bring slots and casinos into the state."

The Sauerbrey campaign responded that the governor's reaction the donations showed his "hypocrisy" on the subject of casinos -- noting that charity gambling flourished in Prince George's County when Glendening was county executive.

The exchange over gambling came on a day when the two campaigns continued to clash over the issue of civil rights. In the face of Republican demands that the governor withdraw a highly critical ad on the issue, the Glendening camp began running an even harsher TV spot.

The gambling issue, which has been in the background since summer, moved to the forefront yesterday as the Republican Governors Association confirmed that Joseph A. De Francis, owner of Pimlico and Laurel racetracks, has contributed $250,000 to a fund used to support Republican candidates, including Sauerbrey.

RGA Executive Director Clinton Key also said Hilton Hotels Corp., owner of the Delmarva Downs racetrack near Ocean City, had given the same amount to the Republican group.

Glendening has ruled out allowing slots at Maryland racetracks. Sauerbrey has left the door open to allowing local referendums on the subject if slots are needed to save the state's thoroughbred industry.

In the 1994 campaign, Sauerbrey, like Glendening, expressed reservations about expanded gambling. But gambling

opponents at the time viewed her as the more reliable ally.

Asked yesterday whether the contributions could be seen as affecting her thinking on gambling issues, Sauerbrey pointed to Glendening's position that gifts from unions and trial lawyers don't affect his decisions. "We would make the same assertion," she said.

Sauerbrey said she hoped Hilton and De Francis were contributing because they believe in Republican values. "It certainly should not be directly related to our campaign or any other campaign," Sauerbrey said.

De Francis has said he is supporting Sauerbrey because she cares about the thoroughbred industry and Glendening does not. He and a Hilton spokesman could not be reached yesterday to comment.

Key acknowledged the Republican governors' group has financed an aggressive "issue ad" campaign in Maryland but declined to say how much it was spending.

He said the Hilton and De Francis donations went into a common fund used to support Republican gubernatorial candidates around the country. By law, he said, there could be no direct pass-through to the effort in Maryland.

Glendening rejected that contention. "This is a direct channel of money to her for the purpose of bringing slots and casinos to this state," he said.

Sauerbrey has adamantly maintained that she opposes casinos and would allow slots at racetracks only as a last resort. But the anti-gambling movement rejects the distinction between slots and casinos.

Barbara Knickelbein, state coordinator for the National Coalition FTC Against Gambling Expansion, said many of Sauerbrey's supporters "are just so disappointed because she has compromised her principles on this issue."

Meanwhile, lieutenant governor candidate Richard D. Bennett renewed Republican charges that Glendening's attacks on Sauerbrey's civil rights record amounted to "race-baiting."

"This man is seeking to divide people on the basis of race. He's running a very ugly campaign," Bennett said, calling on Glendening to pull the ad.

The GOP charges received some support Thursday night when Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke criticized the governor's tack, saying he would not join in an attempt to portray Sauerbrey as "racist."

But Glendening refused to back down, and his campaign launched a new ad charging that Sauerbrey had "a civil rights record to be ashamed of."

The governor said he was not calling Sauerbrey a racist. Neither would he say she was not. "I have no idea what her motives are," he said. "We're not close confidants."

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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