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Trying to Close the Door On Giannetti Tailgate Party

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 7, 2004; Page SM09

Was a member of the Maryland Senate offering free booze to students at the University of Maryland's College Park campus?

There seems to be little doubt, if you read a letter that state Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's) sent to the university's campus newspaper, the Diamondback.

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Last week, Diamondback reporter Trish Barba reported that Giannetti had written to the paper inviting students to a tailgate party sponsored by Cornerstone Grill & Loft, Number 1 Liquors and other businesses before a football game against Florida State University.

In the letter, Giannetti promised free food and alcohol and said that he would provide recycling containers on the campus for "beer cans, pizza boxes and bottles," Barba wrote.

The article prompted an outcry from university leaders, who pointed out that the vast majority of students on campus are underage, and that even for those who are 21 and older, it is not legal to drink alcohol in public places unless it is specifically authorized.

College Park City Council member John M. Krouse wrote an angry letter in response to Giannetti's tailgate plans, saying it was "astonishing to see our state senator so openly pandering this activity to students, the vast majority of whom are underage."

Giannetti's first response, to the Diamondback, was to chide Krouse. The tailgate party was a positive activity that is "not all about beer," he said. He was quoted as telling the newspaper: "The City Council just doesn't get it. . . . It's about pride for the university, and it's something I'm proud of doing."

But his tune changed later in the week, when he came under fire from those within his own chamber.

The Gazette reported that Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld (D-Montgomery) called the tailgate idea "outrageous" and that she has called on the General Assembly's Ethics Committee to investigate Giannetti's conduct.

A more contrite Giannetti told the Gazette he "learned a lot this week" and pledged to "follow every university policy to the tee."

Non-Campaign Flier?

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R) told reporters last week that he is not yet ready to be out campaigning for reelection.

But some Montgomery and Prince George's county residents might have wondered, given the mailer they got at home last week.

The slick, six-page brochure has Ehrlich's picture and a message from him promoting the benefits of the intercounty connector.

"Everyone should be able to travel to life's everyday activities safely, easily and conveniently -- to work in the morning, to your child's day-care center, and back to your family in the evening -- that's my transportation vision for Maryland," Ehrlich writes. "The intercounty connector is the missing link in Maryland's east-west transportation network."

The mailer offers a defense of the proposed highway project, which would cross both counties, linking Interstates 95 and 270.

Although it might have had the look of a campaign piece, the return address suggests it was paid for by taxpayers. The sender? The Maryland State Highway Administration.

Baker's Ambitions

His name has cropped up in speculation about who will replace Isiah Leggett as the Maryland Democratic Party's state chairman. He is also frequently mentioned as a possible lieutenant governor pick for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2006.

But Rushern Baker's ambitions for a job in public life remain a mystery. The former state delegate, who chaired the Prince George's County delegation, lost a bid for county executive in 2002 and has since been practicing law.

There are signs he still plans to pursue elected office. This week, he's hosting a huge bash for his birthday and is asking guests for contributions of $50 to $100. The invitation makes no bones about the event's real purpose.

It reads, "Supporters rally and cheer his awaited return to the field of leading the people of Prince George's County."


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