The wine that flowed freely at mid-afternoon, the long row of roast beef, shrimp and clams on the half-shell were all "Jerry's way of saying thank-you to the Maryland state legislators."
That was the way it was described by Barry L. Green, a Glen Burnie wine marchant who was serving state delegates his wares at the Annaplois Knights of Columbus Hall.
Jerry is Jerome H. Markoff, lobbyist for the Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland. More than a dozen members of the House of Delegates showed up for his 3 p.m. "thank-you" party while their colleagues were back at the State House holding public hearings.
Green explained his own presence by saying that Markoff is "our legal counsel and he asked us to bring some wine up . . . to say thank you."
As he poured a vintage chenin blanc into the (plastic) glass of Del. Donald F. Munson (R-Washington), Green said he was unaware that the party was for members of the Economic Matters Committee.
Or that the party had caused a slight rift among the committee members.
"I don't see how we can go off to Willie's party when we still haven't heard most of our bills," said Del. Charles A. Docter (D-Montgomery) as he repaired to his office to work for two hours rather than drink with his colleagues.
Willie is Del. William Rush (D-Baltimore County), a former tavern owner and chairman of the Economic Matters Subcommittee that considers all alcoholic beverage bills. Rush handed out some of the mimeographed invitations that listed no host, only the call to committee members on enjoy the hors d'oeuvres and wine.
Which is what those who walked down to the K of C hail near the city's waterfront did. They were Dels, Isaiah Dixon Jr. (D-Baltimore), Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's), Frank J. Komenda (D-Prince George's), Munson, Ida G. Ruben (D-Montgomery), Rush, Francis J. Santangelo Sr. (D-Prince George's). Elizabeth S. Smith (R-Anne Arundel) and John X. Ward (D-Montgomery). Others, like Del. F. Vernon Boozer (D-Baltimore County) on the committee.
Before the party, Del. Perry O. Wilkinson (D-Prince George's), one of those who didn't attend the function, declared: "This is the last 45 days in this session and I hate to be trite, but the party is over and we have a lot of bills backed up that we haven't considered.
"The chairman has a right to run his committee the way he wants to, but with almost 200 bills yet to hear we could have used those two hours for public hearings," Wilkinson continued.
Reports of such observations brought peals of laughter down at the wine-tasting. "Perry should attend our committee hearings if he's so worried," said one delegate, who asked not to be named.
"We voted on 20 bills before we came down here today," added Exum as he dipped his seafood into hot sauce. "Besides, I don't consider this a conflict of interest. They (the alcoholic beverage lobbyists) never ask me to vote their way. Just to consider their testimony."
The unofficial greeter at the door - George Leathers, another lobbyist - stood sipping orange soda pop.
"The host?" he said. "Who cares if the price is right."