After conviction, lobbyist back in the saddle

This Just In...

January 31, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS

I SEE BY the papers where Gerry Evans, formerly Gerry Millionaire, the well-paid Annapolis lobbyist who went to federal prison for fraud, is back - and he's representing the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which very much supports the legalization of slot machines here. Isn't that nice? The horse people gave Gerry new life in straight time.

Beautiful.

A prominent Maryland lobbyist can concoct a scheme to force his clients to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees to head off what he purports to be harmful legislation. He can be convicted of fraud by a jury, condemned by a federal judge, sent to prison for 18 months - and released right back into the halls of the State House for more lobbying.

You talk about your revolving door of criminal justice! Gerry's hiatus from lobbying is so brief his Upmanns don't even go stale.

And this lobbyist, though disgraced, doesn't have to start at the bottom again, either. No, sir. Gerry's no busboy. He goes right back to the front of the house - and represents the horse breeders in their quest for something like half a billion slot machines at racetracks in Maryland.

The horse breeders must be convinced that Gerry has learned his lesson and won't be making stuff up - "I hear the Public Service Commission wants to regulate stud fees" - and sending them humongous bills for pre-emptive lobbying. I guess the horse breeders are trusting and forgiving.

Or just oblivious.

This Just In (in October): The state ethics commission wants Gerry Evans out of the State House as a lobbyist. This Just In (like, Wednesday): The new governor approved $30,000 for the commission to hire Steve Sachs, former Maryland attorney general and one of our most respected lawyers, to make the case that Evans doesn't belong on the schmooze circuit in Annapolis.

Of course, rather than find another lucrative profession - like selling therapeutic magnets or fine cutlery - Evans wants to fight the state, saying the law that would strip him of his lobbyist license, enacted after his conviction, is too new and should not apply to him. Get it? Evans says a lobbying law enacted because of Evans should not apply to Evans.

I hope the state wins this particular fight. Obviously, the corporations and special-interest groups who hire these guys aren't going to run the rascals out.

A federal jury convicted another lobbyist, Bruce Bereano, of mail fraud about eight years ago, and he's back as a full-time schmoozer, making hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees from clients forgiving, or clients oblivious.

Cutting remarks

I'm still awestruck by the series of words that rolled like inspirational poetry off the lips of Del. Pete Rawlings, co-chairman of "10,000 Slots For Maryland," a few months ago - evidence of the special relationship long-serving politicians have with the lobbyists who lobby them. "My concern," Rawlings said as he looked ahead to deliberations on the slots legalization issue, "is that African-American and minority lobbyists participate in the largess as well. If a major gaming company hires [white lobbyists such as] Ira Cooke or Bruce Bereano and is going to pay them $300,000, we would expect that there be some African-American and minority participation in this lobbying effort and that it be substantial, not just $10,000."

That Pete - always looking out for the little guy.

Pete and other black leaders apparently think African-American business people - including, one presumes, lobbyists - should get a piece of the slots action because a lot of the money that will be poured into the machines will come from the African-American community. In effect, they're saying: "Go ahead and exploit our constituents, but cut in some of our buddies for a piece of the deal."

So that's what led this columnist to hang a new nickname on the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee: Pete "Cut Me In" Rawlings.

Pete didn't like it, I guess. He called here the other day to say he didn't appreciate being portrayed as a "buffoon" in this column. Hey, your word Pete, not mine.

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