Appearing presidential in city

The Political Game

Meetings: Within hours of each other, President Clinton and Republican front-runner George W. Bush, the Texas governor, will visit Baltimore to politick.

July 13, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron and Gerard Shields | Thomas W. Waldron and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

FOR A COUPLE of hours tomorrow, Baltimore will be America's political ground zero.

At mid-afternoon, President Clinton is to appear at the Baltimore Convention Center for a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council's annual meeting.

Later, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, will visit an East Baltimore community group and appear at a huge downtown fund-raiser.

No joint appearances are planned for Bush and the man who knocked off his father seven years ago.

Don't send contributions to the State House, please

A fund-raising effort by Democratic members of the House of Delegates recently went awry.

House leaders would like to bring the Southern Legislative Conference's annual meeting to Baltimore. To that end, they plan to open a "hospitality suite" (read: "open bar") this month at this year's gathering in Kansas City, Mo. -- to create good will.

But who would pay for such a suite, which will run several thousand dollars? Lobbyists, naturally.

With the blessing of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick of Baltimore County sent solicitations to some of the State House lobbying corps seeking contributions.

To avoid the legal restrictions on lobbyists' entertaining lawmakers, the letter said the money should go to Taylor's campaign fund. His campaign account would, in turn, pay for the Kansas City expenses.

To make sure no ethical questions were raised, Minnick included advisory letters from a legislative staffer and the attorney general's office saying that such contributions and expenditures would be appropriate under Maryland's broadly written campaign-finance law.

But in the solicitation, Minnick told the lobbyists to send their checks to Taylor at the State House. Government offices are not supposed to be used for fund raising of any kind, and Taylor immediately had a letter sent to correct the mistake.

"In the letter, I said something like, `Don't ever send a check of any kind to the office of the Speaker,' " Taylor said.

Taylor said he has no qualms using campaign contributions to pay for entertaining in Kansas City. Some of his delegates will be there, and such spending will keep him in good graces with the people who elect him speaker of the House, he said.

A curious angle: Under the ethics bill passed this year by the General Assembly, which goes into effect Oct. 1, a provision added at the last moment would allow lobbyists to pay for entertaining at out-of-state conferences. That means next year, the lobbyists could pick up the tab for the hospitality suite, with no middleman.

Mayoral race has a name likely to create confusion

A Baltimore mayoral election wouldn't be complete without a candidate on the ballot likely to confuse voters.

Meet mayoral candidate Robert S. "Bobby" Cunningham. The 28-year-old East Baltimore resident's uncle is Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, a former city councilman from the 3rd District.

Before the filing deadline, opponents of mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley scrambled to find a white candidate who could take votes from O'Malley.

O'Malley, a 3rd District city councilman and former state prosecutor, is the leading white candidate in the race. Pundits believe O'Malley has a good shot because the city's black vote -- which holds a majority of the electorate with 60 percent -- is expected to be spread among three African-American front-runners.

Before last week's filing deadline, reports surfaced that Bill Cunningham was asked to jump into the mayoral race to erode O'Malley's support, particularly in the 3rd District. He acknowledged that he was approached by friends and city business leaders to consider a run, but chose not to file.

Cunningham denied that his nephew Bobby's entry into the mayoral fray is an attempt to trick voters at O'Malley's expense. Calls and pages to Bobby Cunningham were not returned.

"I wouldn't be involved in anything like that," said Bill Cunningham, vice president of development for the Living Classrooms Foundation. "And neither would he. He's a good kid who wanted to do it."

Improper posting of signs for campaign irks resident

Northeast Baltimore resident Dave Desmarais is so disgusted with political signs being improperly posted in his neighborhood that he plans to hold a news conference tomorrow instructing candidates about city laws.

Candidates are not permitted to post campaign signs until Friday, the drop-out date for the race. Many of the signs for Democrats Carl Stokes and Lawrence A. Bell III have been removed -- after the law was brought to the candidates' attention.

But Desmarais said he continues to see Bell signs and those for Mary W. Conaway, many on vacant buildings.

"Every election, we have a problem with signs popping up on public properties and vacant buildings," said Desmarais, president of Moravia Walther Civic Association. "I think it's an affront to the community they go up in. They don't put them in Roland Park, they put them in poor communities."

On the final day before summer break, the City Council changed the law to make it a civil violation to attach campaign posters to city-owned utility boxes or poles.

The problem with the law is that it is rarely enforced.

The bill, sponsored by City Councilman Robert Curran of the 3rd District to target "visual pollution," would be handled by the sanitation officers of the city's new Environmental Control Board, instead of police, who have their hands full fighting homicides and drugs, Curran said.

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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