How to turn a defeat into dollar signs

The Political Game

Lobbying: A loss at the ballot box can end up being very lucrative.

July 26, 2005|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

IF GOV. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. gets his way and his chief slots nemesis, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, is defeated at the ballot box next year, there will be no reason to shed tears for the Anne Arundel County Democrat. Life after the speakership can be lucrative, as Busch's immediate predecessor, Casper R. Taylor Jr., is demonstrating.

Taylor became a lobbyist with the influential firm Alexander & Cleaver after his 2002 election defeat. The latest annual report from the Maryland State Ethics Commission, released this month, shows that Taylor earned $577,622 from Nov. 1, 2003, to Oct. 31, 2004, making him the seventh-best-paid lobbyist in Maryland.

A year ago, when he was just getting started, Taylor earned $56,741 as a lobbyist, which ranked 98th. The salary of the House speaker is $53,500.

Taylor's partner, former state Sen. Gary R. Alexander, held on to the top spot for at least the third straight year (the three most recent reports are online at http://ethics.gov.state.md.us). He earned just over $1 million for the 12-month period.

Another fast-rising earner in the lobbyist community is Lee Cowen, a Republican who came to Annapolis after Ehrlich's victory. Cowen is now the fifth-best-compensated advocate, taking in $754,813 for the year that ended last October. A year before, he earned $436,750.

Cowen's success is raising eyebrows among some of his colleagues, who say that he does not testify before legislative committees or work the State House hallways as visibly as they do.

Overall, the top 10 Annapolis lobbyists earned $7.3 million during the 2004 reporting period, an 11 percent increase from a year earlier.

Looking for the source of the O'Malley-Ivey rumor

A couple of theories have emerged as to how a rumor that Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley had selected Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey as a running mate and lieutenant governor candidate picked up steam last week.

Both O'Malley and Ivey denied the rumor, which seemed credible because Ivey - a Harvard-educated lawyer from the state's second-largest jurisdiction - is likely to make the mayor's short list.

Some political observers said the scenario gained credibility because the Ehrlich campaign might be gathering polling data on opponents, asking likely voters their perceptions of an O'Malley-Ivey ticket. Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell referred polling questions to the Ehrlich campaign office, which did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Another theory of where the rumor came from fingered Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who, like Ivey, is considering a run for state attorney general. By floating Ivey's name as lieutenant governor, the theory goes, Gansler could force Ivey into revealing which job he was most interested in.

In an interview yesterday, Gansler said he was not the source of the story, and said "the idea that [Ivey and O'Malley] have formed some kind of alliance is absurd." The reason: It is too early for either candidate to make a commitment, Gansler said.

First lady stumbles over GOP chairman's name

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane may have earned a personal fortune running his moving and storage company, raised thousands for the state GOP and provided some of the most quotable quotes in modern state politics, but his fame apparently doesn't extend to the White House.

Speaking in Bethesda as she helped Ehrlich raise $250,000 for his re-election last Thursday, first lady Laura Bush said: "I also want to thank Tom Kane, Maryland's Republican chairman, for joining us here tonight. Thank you, Tom."

Laura Bush praised Ehrlich, saying, "My husband likes to refer to him as Maryland's live wire. Bob Ehrlich has spent his time in the governor's office putting his energy to good use."

Independent poll offers good news for Duncan

A poll released last week by Rasmussen Reports offered some encouraging news for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, considered the underdog in a likely Democratic gubernatorial primary against O'Malley.

The Rasmussen survey, an independent poll conducted through automated telephone calls to 500 likely voters across the state, found Ehrlich leading O'Malley 46-41 percent, but Duncan ahead of Ehrlich 44-43 percent. With a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, the result can be considered a statistical tie.

But Duncan got some bad news with the good: Lanny Davis, a longtime Montgomery County political fixture and former special counsel to the Clinton White House who has supported Duncan, announced his endorsement of O'Malley.

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