Obtaining tickets is not a problem for lawmakers

But state officials mindful of ethics law as offers pour in

`There are no freebies'

Super Bowl Xxxv

Ravens Vs. Giants

January 24, 2001|By Jeff Barker and Thomas W. Waldron | Jeff Barker and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Like just about everywhere else in Maryland, the State House is bursting with Ravens fans anxious to lay claim to tickets to the team's first Super Bowl.

The difference is that in Annapolis, there are tickets to be had - if you're the right person or at least happen to know the right person.

The governor and his son, the lieutenant governor and members of her staff, the president of the Senate, at least two chairmen of influential committees, and several other lawmakers have been offered the opportunity to watch the team play the New York Giants Sunday in Tampa.

In most cases, the tickets were made available by the Ravens.

Some top officials - including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas L. Bromwell and House Speaker Pro Tem Thomas E. Dewberry, who are Ravens season-ticket holders - said they got the chance to buy tickets in phone calls directly to the team. Other season-ticket holders had to take their chances in a ticket lottery.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Michael E. Busch did even better. Both indicated they received invitations from Stephen J. Bisciotti, the team's minority owner, to fly down to the game on a special plane.

Glendening, whose $400 game ticket is being paid for by the state Office of Tourism Development, is still considering Bisciotti's invitation - and several other offers of transportation from Maryland business interests - but will definitely attend the game, according to spokesman Michael Morrill. The governor will reimburse the cost of the flight, Morrill said.

However, Busch said he declined his invitation from Bisciotti, a longtime family friend, because he didn't want to give even the appearance of an ethical lapse. "It's very gracious, but under the current ethics rules, it would be better for me and better for him to decline," Busch said.

Under an ethics law that took effect in 1999, legislators are banned from accepting free tickets from lobbyists and businesses with interests before the General Assembly.

But nothing in the law prohibits a legislator from buying a ticket from a lobbyist or a business such as the Ravens.

"If a lobbyist said, `I have some tickets and will sell them to you at face value,' yeah, you could buy a ticket," said William Somerville, the legislature's ethics adviser.

Busch's restraint underscores the sensitivity of some lawmakers to a public perception that their position brings perks.

After a contentious battle, the General Assembly in 1996 approved state funding for the new Ravens stadium in Baltimore. Some lawmakers said privately they are concerned that obtaining Super Bowl tickets could be construed as payback from the team.

Gary R. Alexander, the State House lobbyist for the Ravens, said he has tried to fairly allocate scarce tickets. And he said he hopes that some of those who helped secure stadium funding are among those who end up at the game.

"That was a hard vote, and to see the economic impact and the uplifting feeling for Baltimore and Maryland - it has paid for itself 50 times over," Alexander said.

But Del. Robert L. Flanagan, the House Republican whip, said General Assembly members need to be wary of the appearance of gaining access to an event from which most of the public is shut out.

"The fact that someone gets Super Bowl tickets [at] face value is clearly a valuable benefit that derives from their legislative status," Flanagan said.

Thomas V. Mike Miller, the Senate president, said he planned to go to the game as a guest of Glendening, and said it was important for state officials to be there.

"I'm president of the Maryland Senate," said Miller. "The governor of the state of Maryland called me and asked me if I would accompany him. I look forward to it."

Miller said he would be happy to accept a lift to and from the game from Bisciotti, adding he would reimburse him for the cost of the plane ride.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said he was also offered a chance to attend, but decided not to go.

Taylor said someone invited him to attend via private plane, but that his unease of flying caused him to decline. "If the game was close enough not to fly, I'd be there wearing purple," Taylor said. "And I'd pay for it. There are no freebies."

Taylor declined to identify the mysterious suitor. "I'd have told you if I was going," he said.

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