Regents in wonderland

April 16, 2006

Here's a mind-boggling train of Alice in Wonderland logic:

1. Lobbying is generally defined as trying to influence legislation.

2. Members of the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents are prohibited from lobbying the General Assembly.

3. Regents Chairman David Nevins works for Constellation Energy.

4. The legislature recently considered bills that would have affected Constellation and its merger plans with Florida's FPL Group.

5. In February, Mr. Nevins coordinated "courtesy-call" meetings in which he introduced Constellation and FPL executives to General Assembly leaders.

6. On Wednesday, a regents committee found that Mr. Nevins didn't violate the board's rule against lobbying.

Someone needs to go back to school here. Mr. Nevins claims he wasn't lobbying because he didn't speak during the meetings. But he guided his bosses through the doors of some powerful figures in Annapolis. If that's not lobbying - if you don't think that all sorts of interests pay handsomely for that - then just try to do it on your own.

This is what lobbyists do. They make connections, facilitate meetings, help their clients make their cases before decision-makers. Mere introductions to political leaders may be their most valued service.

Mr. Nevins ought to admit his mistake.

But wait, there's more: The regents are conducting a review of the actions of another member, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, for testifying before legislators for an alcoholic beverage association. That's also something that lobbyists do. But Mr. Mandel maintains it was OK. We can hardly wait for the outcome of that regents' review.

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