Party's stakes exclude slots

The Political Game

Preakness: A Maryland Jockey Club official says there will be no jockeying for position on gambling with lawmakers at its annual reception.

May 11, 2004|By David Nitkin and Larry Carson | David Nitkin and Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

MARYLAND lawmakers get a chance to participate this week in the hoopla surrounding the 129th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown scheduled for Saturday.

All 188 legislators have received invitations for a Friday night party held by the Maryland Jockey Club. This year's version of the annual event will be held at the B&O warehouse at Camden Yards as the game between the Orioles and the Anaheim Angels gets under way.

The Jockey Club has been in the midst of the intense debate in Annapolis over whether slot machine gambling should be legalized, and, if so, where the machines should be located. The club is a part-owner of the Pimlico and Laurel racetracks; racing aficionados worry whether Pimlico Race Course will survive if gambling is legalized but Old Hilltop doesn't get a share.

But Timothy Capps, Maryland Jockey Club executive vice president, said the party is an inefficient way to convince policymakers of the club's needs.

"It is more of a media party," he said. "We invite the media people who are covering the Preakness. ... We've had it every place you can imagine - every place that could accommodate a crowd that included 700 or 800 people."

Because of its size, Capps said, the party is not a good place for the horse-racing industry to buttonhole lawmakers and press its case for slots. "We invite every member of the General Assembly," he said. "Not many come. We are not really trying to encourage a lot of elected officials to attend. ... We're not talking to people about political issues."

State ethics laws prevent lobbyists from entertaining individual lawmakers, and require that invitations for meals and parties be extended to entire groups - such as a committee, or, in many cases, the entire legislature.

Lawmakers also cannot accept gifts worth more than $20 from people who want to do business with the state. Those who also want to attend the Orioles game must pay for their tickets, Capps said. He could not say last week how many had purchased them.

GOP punch line draws a Busch counterpunch

The state Republican Party can't stop jabbing Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch, especially in the aftermath of the $670 million tax package he pushed through the House of Delegates this year. The package was ultimately rejected by the Senate.

A year ago, the party launched a "Blame Speaker Busch campaign" after the defeat of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s slot-machine gambling bill, and the window of the party headquarters in Annapolis has displayed various Busch quotes and quips since then.

Last week, the party announced that it was naming Busch as a "2004 Man of the Year," although he had to share the honor with another recipient.

"The speaker has simply done so much for the Maryland Republican Party this year, we couldn't help but recognize him for his good work on our behalf," GOP Chairman John Kane said in a statement. "His efforts to raise taxes and foster a culture of obstructionist politics in Annapolis have done so much to strengthen the Republican tide in Maryland."

Busch accepted the honor with aplomb.

"I'm flattered, because I know they like to select people who exhibit leadership, responsibility and maturity," the speaker said. "Hopefully, in the future, they will be able to find members of their own party who exhibit those characteristics."

Howard senator making progress against leukemia

The terrible cold that Howard County state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, 78, seemed to be suffering from as the General Assembly session ended turned out to be chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), but he is recovering nicely, he said, thanks to a medication he takes once a day.

Kittleman said he had been feeling increasingly ill for "three or four months," and his doctor ordered a blood test that resulted in an immediate two-day hospital stay as April ended.

"This is the first time I've been in the hospital since I had my tonsils out when I was 10 years old. It was scary," the western Howard farmer said, adding that he expected to be choosing from an uncomfortable menu of standard treatment options for cancer.

But the medicine seems to be working, he said, blocking the production of too many white blood cells, and allowing the red blood cells to make a comeback.

Add Ehrlich's bad back to Md. first family's ills

Ehrlich canceled his afternoon schedule yesterday to seek medical treatment for a painful back, which he said he injured picking up his 4-year-old son, Drew. The governor's ailment comes a week after his 9-week-old son, Joshua, returned from the hospital after emergency surgery on his digestive tract. First lady Kendel Ehrlich had back surgery less than two years ago.

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