$4,000 schmooze fest is price for spot on O'Malley's A list

This Just In...

April 21, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS | DAN RODRICKS,SUN STAFF

PREDICTION: NO one is going to topple Martin O'Malley in the September mayoral primary. So all those lining up to give him $4,000 each at his fund-raiser next month in the Stadium That Should Be Named After John Unitas are doing it to stay on the A List. That's all.

They might say they're going to Festivus Martinus for good government, or to ensure that no other candidate challenges O'Malley. But they're just doing what people with disposable income always do to ensure they continue to have disposable income. You only give $4,000 to a politician if it serves the politician and, the politician serves you -- directly or indirectly.

Is this piggy, or what? Even people who like O'Malley might be grossed out this time.

I'd call it overkill except that, for the people making the contributions, it's not. The $4,000 is the legal max they can give to one guy in a four-year cycle and, if you're looking to protect or enhance your business interests in the city of Baltimore or wherever else O'Malley's ambition takes him, $4,000 is probably a wise investment. If someone from O'Malley's staff suggests maxing out your contribution, you're going to write the check if only to keep pace with the competition. There's a lot of muscling for room on the A List.

That's part of the reason they've set up the $4,000 special for Festivus Martinus on May 14. O'Malley's fund-raiser last year consisted of two tiers: the $250 level and the $1,000 level, but it did not satisfy the customers. "Many of those who came to the $1,000 fund-raiser last year said there were too many people there," O'Malley explained to The Sun recently. "So that's why we're doing a smaller group for those who can help me at that $4,000 level."

Isn't that quaint? He makes it sound like high tea.

If you kick up the $4,000, you get to hang with O'Mayor and a (presumably) small group of other fat cats for a full hour before the $1,000-a-ticket peasants arrive. Those who pay a grand get an hour in the mayor's atmosphere, and then the $250 deadbeats get into the room at 7:30 p.m.

Here's another thing -- our mayor is dreamy. He has star quality. That's another thing about the movers, shakers and wannabes who will throw money better given to charities at this guy's feet -- they think he could be president some day, and they want to be able to tell their grandchildren they knew Elvis way back when.

Note: The mayor shares top billing with no one at Festivus Martinus.

He doesn't need Bill or Hill or J-Lo to draw a crowd.

"He's all we need," says O'Malley's fund-raising consultant.

As grotesque as this superfluous fund raising is, I think O'Malley's people are selling their guy short.

Really. Shaking hands and schmoozing for an hour -- that's work for the mayor. And it's time away from official duties. The guy's golden. He could make a lot more money with a lot less effort.

Some suggestions:

Mayor At Work -- O'Malley, sleeves rolled up, sits at his desk in City Hall, conducts meetings, signs resolutions, or whatever, and once a week for eight hours the staff opens the door to the outside hallway and people pass by and have a peek. Charge: $25 a person, $50 if the big guy makes eye contact with you. I guarantee long lines, including tourists and conventioneers.

O'Malley Drive-By -- For $2,000, you get to set up a date and time to have the mayor drive by your house. Impress guests and neighbors! You can act like a real in-the-know big shot and say, "Hey, look, there's the mayor! Hi, Marty!" as he drives by the house, on the way to scheduled appointments, doing a Prince Charles-style wave. For O'Malley, this is easy money. Some people, I'm sure, will pony up $500 just to have him drive by, without the wave.

O'Mayor Merchandise -- His staff should be selling stuff he touched. And if they had any brains they'd develop a whole line of O'Mayor merchandise. Instead of selling time, access and influence to fat cats for $4,000 an hour, they should be selling O'Malley bobble-heads for $19.95. That way, more of us can take part in Festivus Martinus, and it will be, truly, a festivus for the rest of us.

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