No election in sight, but governor plans major fund-raiser

In lame-duck term, Glendening to advance 'progressive agenda'

May 19, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Under the Maryland Constitution, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is prohibited from running for another term, and there seems no chance he'll seek any other state office in the next election in 2002.

Even so, Glendening is trying to raise more than $200,000 in campaign contributions next month at a fund-raising event -- with some tickets costing an eye-popping $4,000 apiece.

The governor says he needs the money to pay for expenses he would face if he becomes chairman of the National Governors' Association next year, and he suggests he might use the funds to help candidates in Maryland as well.

Glendening is the first lame-duck governor in memory to hold a major fund-raiser, and some Democratic elected officials worry that he will soak up contributions that could be going to active candidates.

And some faithful Democratic givers are privately questioning Glendening's need for campaign funds with no election looming.

"I've heard from a lot of people who traditionally give who think this is over the line," said one longtime Democratic activist and contributor who asked not to be identified for fear of angering Glendening. "This is uncalled for."

Some of the governor's supporters have begun selling tickets for the June 3 fund-raiser at the Camden Club at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Tickets for the main party cost $1,000, and attending a smaller event before will cost $4,000. Overall, Glendening hopes to raise more than $200,000, said his campaign treasurer, Robin O. Oegerle.

The governor said in an interview this week that some of the money will be used to cover debts left from his re-election campaign last year, which an aide estimated total at least $40,000. Glendening raised more than $6.2 million in that race.

In addition, Glendening said he needs money to remain a player in Maryland politics.

"I want to continue to have a positive influence in the party and continue to advance a progressive agenda," he said.

He said he also is raising money to cover entertainment and other expenses he expects to incur if he wins an election this summer to become chairman of the governors association next year. And he said some of the money would defray expenses he will face leading the Maryland delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles next year.

"You have the normal function of being the head of the party in the next four years," Glendening said.

One Annapolis advocate of stricter election laws said Glendening was creating what amounts to a political "slush fund" that violates the intent of campaign finance laws.

"The spirit of the election laws is for bona fide candidates to raise money, not for questionable quasi-political expenditures obviously unrelated to a legitimate political campaign," said Kathleen S. Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland.

"The whole practice of politicians accumulating personal slush funds under the guise of political campaign money is why we put campaign finance reform on the books," she said.

Maryland's broadly worded campaign finance law allows candidates to spend funds on almost anything that advances their chances of winning office.

Under that law, candidates have used campaign funds for a variety of expenses, ranging from picking up bar bills for political supporters to buying cars that are sometimes used for campaigning.

Kathleen Hoke Dachille, an assistant attorney general who handles election-law matters, said Glendening's plans for the money he is raising next month sound appropriate, because the expenditures would tend to advance his standing should he run for office again.

"A lot of people fund-raise for the potential that they may run for office again," Dachille said. Though Glendening is prohibited from running for governor in 2002, she said, "It doesn't mean he couldn't run for another office." She pointed to the example of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who returned after four years away from office to be elected state comptroller last year.

As of Dec. 31, 1998, the Glendening campaign had more than $256,000 in the bank and listed no outstanding debts, according to reports he filed with the state election board.

Oegerle said that since then, the campaign has spent about $200,000 on payroll, taxes and bills for things such as phones and pagers. She said the campaign has about $60,000 in the bank and owes more than $100,000 in additional bills.

At $4,000 apiece, Glendening's more exclusive event is one of the most expensive in memory. Under Maryland law, a contributor can give no more than $4,000 to a state candidate during a four-year election cycle. With a new cycle that began Jan. 1, Glendening is free to again tap his most generous contributors from the last election.

Overall, a contributor can give no more than $10,000 to all state candidates in that cycle, meaning that anyone who makes the maximum $4,000 gift to Glendening will have $6,000 left to give to any other candidates before the 2002 election.

One ranking Republican, Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County, said that because Maryland election law is so broad, there is no doubt that Glendening's fund raising is legal.

"I think where the microscope needs to be aimed is to identify the contributors and what the motivation is," Flanagan said.

Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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