Cancer research

Tobacco money: Governor belatedly frees up funds he promised to two universities.

January 17, 2001

GOV. Parris N. Glendening has finally, belatedly, done right by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, freeing up some $12 million in cancer research funds that had been promised them from Maryland's share of the national tobacco settlement.

Mr. Glendening had withheld the money, blaming a court's requirement that 25 percent of the national funds be placed in escrow pending settlement of a dispute with the state's lawyers.

That claim was taken at face value on this page in a recent editorial. On further reflection, it has become clear that the governor compounded the error of reneging on his pledge to the university cancer researchers by attempting to lay the blame on Baltimore attorney Peter Angelos.

At issue is the contract between the state and Mr. Angelos, ensuring his law firm -- in exchange for assuming the entire expense of the litigation -- 25 percent of any eventual settlement. The matter is now before the courts.

We would be naive if we didn't concede that the "reasonableness" of the fee -- which comes to an estimated $30,000 an hour -- is a legitimate topic of public debate.

The fact is, though, that the state -- the governor, the attorney general and others -- signed a contract that allowed for such an outcome.

If the contingency arrangement has proved not to be a good deal for the people of the state of Maryland, the fault surely is not that of Hopkins, the University of Maryland or present or future cancer patients.

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