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  •   GOP Outraged by Miller Outreach

    By Daniel LeDuc
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 5, 1998; Page M01

    In November, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) created the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee to take advantage of what critics are calling a loophole in the state's campaign finance laws. The committee allows Miller to create a slate of candidates, raise oodles of money and then pass it around to his candidates without limit.

    This has left Republicans in the General Assembly clucking. Outrageous, they say, an obvious violation of the spirit of the law.

    So last week, they said they wanted to change the law, close the loophole and, then, presumably, find another windmill to tilt at.

    Even at their news conference, they said they didn't expect the legislation to have much of a chance.

    But they're hoping that the public will become outraged and demand reform.

    The way Miller's committee works is that someone seeking to help Miller, or get his attention, can donate money to the committee, but Miller can direct the money to another candidate on his slate who may be a less successful fund-raiser.

    So donors may suddenly find "their money is going to Western Maryland to help somebody they've never heard of," said Del. Michael W. Burns (R-Anne Arundel).

    The Republicans said Miller formed the committee to counter the steady strides the GOP has been making in Maryland, and they complained that the system gives the Senate president way too much power.

    "The people of Maryland need to decide if they want true representation or if they want a king," said Del. James F. Ports Jr. (R-Baltimore County).

    Reached at his throne, uh, by telephone this week, Miller said, "We're doing everything within the law."

    He said that the national Republican Party was targeting Maryland races and that with the Democratic National Committee broke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) pouring all his money into his own campaign, Democratic "legislators are going to be out there on their own."

    That's where his committee comes in, so Democratic legislators won't feel lonely. As for the GOP, Miller said, "there's nothing that precludes the Republicans from doing the exact same thing.

    The News According to Rehrmann

    Eileen M. Rehrmann wants you to read all about it.

    Last week, the Harford county executive's campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination began distributing the News Maryland, a tabloid newspaper chock-full of four-color pictures, snappy headlines and lots of "news" about . . . Eileen M. Rehrmann.

    The 24-page newspaper will be mailed to 250,000 people across the state, said Rehrmann campaign adviser, Larry Gibson. Additional copies are being distributed by hand around Annapolis, at commuter rail stations and elsewhere.

    As you might guess, a lot of the "stories" are attacks on Gov. Parris N. Glendening, whom Rehrmann is challenging for the nomination. She also includes policy statements, including her proposal to eliminate the state property tax.

    There are even -- stop the presses! -- forms for volunteers and contributors to fill out and mail in.

    Rising to Fund-Raising Challenge

    Ralph G. Neas's initial strategy for challenging six-term U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) in the 8th Congressional District has been exceedingly clear. After watching underfunded Montgomery County Democrats get trounced in one election after another, Neas began by touting himself as the candidate most able to break the string because he could raise $1 million for the race.

    Neas, a former executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is moving toward the $1 million mark. But so is Morella.

    In year-end reports filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission, Neas said he had raised $239,000 and had $172,000 left to begin the election year. Morella, first elected to the House in 1986, reported that she had raised $389,000 in 1997 and had nearly $400,000 in the bank.

    Ecker's Campaign Update

    In the race for governor, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker (R) has raised $183,162 for his campaign, according to voluntary finance reports he made public last month.

    Ecker, who has run Howard for two terms but lacks substantial statewide name recognition, has spent $83,366 so far. That does not include $40,000 spent recently on television advertising that casts Ecker as a politician who earned his credentials running a government, in contrast to his Republican primary opponent, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a former state legislator.

    Building on a populist image, Ecker has accepted a challenge from the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics last year to file quarterly campaign finance reports. The next filing required by Maryland campaign law is Aug. 18, less than a month before the primary, but Ecker says he will detail his finances again in March. Ecker's report has been posted on the center's Web site (www.crp.org).

    Neither Sauerbrey, the former House of Delegates minority leader, nor any leading Democratic contender has followed Ecker's lead in filing quarterly reports. Sauerbrey campaign officials did say last month that they have $500,000 in the bank and have raised $1.3 million to date.

    Glendening Blasts WSSC

    Gov. Parris N. Glendening is throwing his weight behind the efforts of Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) to overhaul the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

    Speaking before the Suburban Maryland Building Industry Association at a dinner in Bethesda last week, Glendening (D) criticized the agency for failing to contain costs. "I think it's time for WSSC to start making sound management practices," he said.

    The governor added, "The proposal by the two counties to seriously study this agency and to recommend alternative ways of doing things is long past due."

    Glendening was sharply critical of the agency's "systems development charge," which imposes fees on developers for new construction. He opposed a proposal in the legislature to increase that fee, and he said the existing fee should be restructured.

    As it stands now, he said, the fee does nothing to encourage development in areas targeted by the state Smart Growth plan for higher-density development because WSSC applies the rate uniformly, in developed areas, as well as in brand-new subdivisions. And Glendening said the fee puts Maryland at a disadvantage in the competition for new construction dollars.

    E Pluribus Unum?

    The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce has taken a key step toward a possible unification of the various chambers of commerce within the county.

    Last week, the county chamber's board of directors voted to adopt a two-tiered plan to unite the separate chambers -- 13 of them, including the county chamber. Under the plan, a Greater Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce would be created, allowing the separate organizations to share overhead costs, programs and services.

    In addition, a Business Coalition would be created to give the various chambers a stronger voice in pursuing their economic and legislative goals.

    "This vote is the culmination of three years of effort," said Ronald E. Resh, the president of the county chamber. "We are very excited that it will provide the mechanism to formally unite Montgomery County's business community."

    The various chambers of commerce in the county have been looking for a way to work more closely together for years. Yet it has become clear, officials said, that individual chambers do not want to give up their identities. The proposed system would allow them to continue operating and yet take part in what essentially would be an umbrella organization.

    The plan approved by the county chamber is being forwarded to the local chambers for their review. Officials hope to have a new system in place by July.

    One of the Outstanding 10

    Del. Mark K. Shriver (D-Montgomery) recently was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. The chamber cited, among other things, his founding of the Baltimore-based Choice Program, which helps juvenile offenders find jobs.

    Shriver, 33, is in distinguished company. Past winners include Richard M. Nixon, Elvis Presley and Shriver's uncle, John F. Kennedy.

    Staff writers Charles Babington, Manuel Perez-Rivas, Richard Tapscott and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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