Measure to close lobbying loophole introduced

Bill targets out-of-state entertainment expenses

General Assembly

January 17, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Legislation introduced in the General Assembly yesterday would close a loophole in the state's ethics laws allowing lobbyists to entertain legislators at out-of-state conferences.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. James Brochin, says his bill was prompted in part by the unfavorable publicity generated by lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano's plan to take legislators on a cruise of San Francisco Bay last summer.

A report in The Sun of Bereano's invitation to legislators to sailing during working sessions of the National Conference of State Legislators convention prompted the client underwriting the trip to cancel it.

That client, Comcast Corp., later fired Bereano.

Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said lobbyists go "hog wild" in their efforts to influence legislators during out-of-state conferences.

"I don't know why they're not subject to the same rules when you're out of state as they are at home," Brochin said.

While Brochin's bill would close a loophole, it would not affect the provisions of the law that allowed Bereano to extend the invitation legally, said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, chairwoman of the committee that will consider the bill.

Hollinger, also a Baltimore County Democrat, said Bereano's boat trip was legal not because of the out-of-state exemption but because the lobbyist invited the entire legislature.

The exception Brochin would eliminate allows lobbyists to treat individual or selected groups of legislators to meals and entertainment while at out-of-state conferences.

Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Howard County Democrat, said she plans to introduce similar legislation in the House next week. She said her bill would be tailored to address events such as the boat trip.

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