Lame duck Glendening afloat in contributions

The Political Game

Donations: The governor is prohibited from seeking another term, but that hasn't stopped the dollars from rolling in.

November 30, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

WHILE THE MARYLAND political world has focused on the aggressive early fund-raising by potential gubernatorial candidates in 2002, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has also been busy.

Although barred from running for re-election, the governor has raised $400,000 this year, money he has said he needs to keep his political options open and advance his "progressive" agenda.

So who would give to a lame-duck governor?

Lots of people, it turns out, nearly all of them with a manifest reason for doing so.

As is often the case in Maryland Democratic politics, the list begins with Baltimore attorney Peter G. Angelos, majority owner of the Orioles. The major-league baseball team and several Angelos-controlled corporations gave Glendening $21,000.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Angelos has a fortune riding on the actions of state government. He and Maryland officials are locked in negotiations over the size of his fee for handling the state's case against the national tobacco companies. At stake is hundreds of millions of dollars.

Among other contributors were corporations affiliated with the Harborview development in southern Baltimore, which gave $8,000. Harborview is seeking state assistance with $20 million in repairs to the crumbling waterfront along Key Highway.

Glendening has also tapped into a ready source of assistance -- his political appointees. Twenty of his aides, Cabinet secretaries and other administration officials gave him a total $15,500. Among the $1,000 donors was former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a consultant to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The governor hasn't spent much and had $325,000 in the bank as of mid-November, according to his campaign finance report filed last week.

Glendening gave $1,500 to Baltimore's Eastside Democratic Club, a group associated with Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, five days before the city mayoral primary in September.

He also paid his $2,000 dues to the Democratic Governors Association.

One check that had to be painful for Glendening was $27,803 sent in July to Tim Phillips, who was fired as the governor's campaign manager in May 1998. The payment was Phillips' "win bonus," which was part of his contract with the campaign.

Another campaign for public financing

For the past two years, legislators have introduced bills in Annapolis that would set up a public financing system for General Assembly candidates. Each time, the measures died in committee.

Advocates are planning a renewed push when the Assembly meets in January.

A bill being drafted would allow legislative candidates -- many of whom rely heavily on State House lobbyists and corporations with interests before the Assembly -- to tap into a taxpayer-supported fund for the bulk of their campaign spending.

Candidates would have to raise a certain amount of money, in small amounts, to qualify for the public financing. In exchange for the taxpayer support, the amount they could spend during the race would be limited.

Kathleen S. Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/ Maryland, which lobbies for campaign finance reform, estimates that it would cost about $20 million to pay for campaigns in all 47 legislative districts, a small fraction of the state's $9 billion general fund.

Besides decreasing reliance on special interests, public financing would draw more candidates into politics, Skullney said.

"The election process becomes available to anyone who can substantiate the required level of constituent interest," she said.

Four states -- Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont -- have established a public financing system for legislative races. All did so through ballot initiatives that bypassed legislatures.

That is probably because incumbent legislators traditionally maintain a huge edge in fund-raising and are reluctant to vote for a system that would provide public funding to their would-be challengers.

Reform advocates are holding a forum on the issue this week to try to generate public support for their proposal. It will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Baltimore Merrick School of Business, 11 W. Mount Royal Ave.

Coincidentally, a party showing the current campaign finance system in full flower -- a $500-a-head fund-raiser for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller at PSINet Stadium -- will be held at the same time. That event will no doubt be crawling with the usual assortment of business people and lobbyists who have financial stakes in the actions of the legislature.

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