Rules to live by for surviving in Annapolis

July 21, 2000|By Carol A. Arscott and Patrick E. Gonzales

ANNAPOLIS --In the wake of the verdict in the federal wire and mail fraud trial of state Del. Tony E. Fulton, Democrat of Baltimore, and lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, we offer these 10 rules to live by when negotiating the halls of the state capitol:

1. Don't become the leading money earner in the State House lobbying corps. The glow of the klieg lights can quickly turn into the glare of the spotlight for the top dog in Annapolis.

2. Consider registering Republican. Members of the minority party don't have any power, so no one even tries to corrupt them.

3. If you concoct a scheme to draft bogus legislation for the purpose of ginning up lobbying fees, go through the motions of having the bill introduced. You'll avoid a lot of unwelcome scrutiny this way.

4. Even if your firm can afford it, don't pay yourself $42,000 a month. As the Masters of the Universe in Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" learned, once you start living a $42,000-a-month lifestyle, you have to keep bringing home $42,000 a month. Forever.

5. If you threaten to introduce legislation not to boost a friendly lobbyist's income, but to shake down an industry to fund projects in your district to make you look like a hero, don't use that motive in your defense. It may not be illegal, but it sure smells like it should be.

6. If you doctor the fax line on a letter to make it seem as if you received it from someone in the position to do your clients real harm, don't show your idealistic young associates how to skillfully perform the cutting-and-pasting, for obvious reasons.

7. If you are indicted on a corruption charge, hire the chairman of the other political party as your defense counsel. This will all but eliminate any partisan rhetoric or fallout.

8. When you buy a $600,000 historic property in Annapolis to operate your lobbying business, take the commission yourself. Lawyers are allowed to do this.

9. If you take the stand in your own defense, don't try to win over the jury with a rags-to-riches story. Most of the 12 sitting in judgment are probably concentrating more at that moment on how they're going to pay their monthly bills.

10. And finally, never -- never -- try to pin it on Peter Angelos. His lawyers are better than yours.

Carol A. Arscott and Patrick E. Gonzales are pollsters based in Annapolis.

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