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THE POLITICAL GAME

Appointment: When a lobbyist was named to a panel looking at ways to increase state revenue, it was news his firm made sure clients heard about.

July 23, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

CAN PUBLIC service also prove to be good advertising? The Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver lobbying firm seems to think so.

Former state Sen. Laurence Levitan, a partner in the firm, was recently picked by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to be its representative on the Commission on Maryland's Fiscal Structure. That's the task force created this spring by the General Assembly to come up with ways to pay for the state's future needs in education, transportation and health care, and they'll be looking at such unpopular alternatives as increasing taxes or expanding the sales tax to cover more business services.

And Levitan's lobbying firm was proud of his appointment - so proud that they sent out an e-mail promoting it.

"Levitan, a former state senator who was chairman of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee for 16 years, is recognized as a state fiscal expert - he has proven experience in dealing with tough budget times," said the e-mail written by Michael V. Johansen, a partner in the firm.

"With Larry's help, Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver will be monitoring every aspect of the Fiscal Commission's work to determine how our clients are affected. If you have questions about the Commission, the state's budget situation or other issues regarding the fiscal structure of Maryland government, please call."

Johansen said the e-mail was intended to do nothing more than announce the selection to the firm's current clients. Levitan said he did not see the e-mail before it was sent.

"What we've done is advise our current clients that Larry has been appointed to this and remind them that we'll be monitoring what takes place," Johansen said. "We're honored they chose him and wanted to share that with our clients."

The e-mail shared with The Sun appeared to have been sent to members of the Maryland Association of Chain Drug Stores, which is represented by the Rifkin firm. But some companies that are members of the association also employ their own lobbyists - prompting some quiet grumbling around Annapolis last week that the announcement borders on solicitation. It seemed to remind potential clients that the Rifkin firm might have some unique influence on this task force.

But Levitan said he won't be thinking about his firm's clients during his service on the commission.

"I'm there to represent the interests of the chamber and the business community," Levitan said. "Since I spent so many years struggling with these fiscal issues in the Senate, I hate to sit on the sidelines when I think I can be a little bit helpful."

And what does the chamber think of the Rifkin firm making the most of its partner's appointment?

"My personal feeling is that it's a poor choice of words in the e-mail," said Kathleen T. Snyder, the chamber president. "Larry on this commission is representing the chamber, not any clients of the firm.

"This role is so critically important to the Maryland chamber and the entire business community, and I expect he'll do a great job on our behalf," Snyder said.

Bromwell fund-raiser gets a stellar turnout

For a 25-year-old first-time candidate to the House of Delegates, the guest list at a Baltimore fund-raiser was awfully impressive. Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Mayor Martin O'Malley. Former Gov. Marvin Mandel. Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. Baker king John Paterakis.

Then again, not every first-time candidate is the son of a 24-year Assembly veteran who just retired to become head of the state's Injured Workers' Insurance Fund.

Eric Bromwell, son of former Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, held his first big-ticket fund-raiser last week as he seeks office in the district represented by his father since 1979.

"I was really honored that so many people came out to support me," said the younger Bromwell, who is a government relations coordinator at Comcast. "My father has been a great influence and has taught me a lot, but I know I have to go out there and prove myself."

During the $250-a-ticket breakfast gathering, which raised about $40,000, the senior Bromwell told a story about 9-year-old Eric being home sick from school listening to talk radio.

Hearing a radio show host bashing Schaefer, Eric picked up the phone, called in to stick up for the then-governor and informed the radio listeners that his father was "an important state senator."

Schaefer sent him a thank-you note, "and now every time I see him we have something fun to talk about," said Eric Bromwell.

Executive proves a bit green as an announcer

Who knew C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger was such a big fan of Al Green?

Just before the R&B singer was to perform Friday night at Pier Six as part of a radio station anniversary show, the Baltimore County executive popped on stage to introduce him.

Whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his enthusiastic introduction, Ruppersberger shouted with a flourish: "Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary Al Green."

But Green didn't emerge, and someone quickly ran up to Ruppersberger and whispered a message in his ear.

"Uh, Al Green will be on in a couple of minutes," a sheepish Ruppersberger said, turning the microphone over to a comic while the band set up its instruments.

Timing is everything.

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