The Prince George's County Breakfast Club, the policy arm of the county Democratic organization, this week banned individual fund-raisers for incumbents seeking re-election this year.
Lance Billingsley, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee, said the old system of individual fund-raisers would be replaced by two countywide, organization-sponsored affairs - one in April and another in July - that would supply the candidates with all the money they would need for the primary election.
The action was not completely popular. Although the penalty against those candidates who ignored the ban was not made clear, several Democratic incumbents who opposed the move expressed fears that they would be $99[WORD ILLEGIBLE]$120from the organization's state if they violated the ban.
"This is the way to let the voters know where Democratic officials are getting their money and how it is being expended," said Billingsley. "Individual fund-raisers have created problems in the past, and we have to show that we're concerned about this area of politics."
The new fund-raising plan was accepted - without a vote - by a majority of the 35 Democratic officials at the gathering of the Democratic Advisory Committee, more commonly known as the Breakfast Club, which makes most of the important Democratic policy decisions and appointments in the county.
Among those who expressed discontent, however, was Councilman Francis White, whose own fund-raising practices have been questioned by some of his colleagues. He noted that the candidates for governor, county executive and Congress were excluded from the plan.
"The whole program seems a bit heavy-handed," said White. "I think everybody in this room has the capability of a (gubernatorial candidate) Steny Hoyer or (County Executive) Winnie Kelly to play by the rules and handle the books responsibly. This is the first time I've seen such a heavy hand over the officials."
Pauline Menes, a member of the House of Delegates from the 21st District, asked why the officials would agree to a slate fund-raising approach before it had been decided who would be on the slate.
"We're taking the cart before the horse," said Menes. "This should follow the slate-making process. It's rather strange for any of us to ask our supporters to assist us as well as a group of unknowns. At this point, I don't know who will be benefit."
Ann Hull, a 22d District delegate who may challenge state Sen. John J. Garrity for the senate seat, agreed with Menes.
"This proposal assumes more of a monolith in the party than I thought existed," said Hull.
The Breakfast Club members discussed the issue of what would happen to incumbents who did not follow the fund-raising policy.
Mike Donovan, a delegate from the 26th District, argued that the incumbent Democrats were "obligated to conform to the consensus of the group."
State Sen. Tommie Broadwater of the 25th District said he would be disturbed if a candidate ignored the policy and was still "considered a good guy, or good girl" by the party.
What Donovan and Broadwater implied is that candidates who choose not to follow the Breakfast Club mandate should be dumped from the organization slate. The group did not reach a consensus on this issue, although Billingsley said violating the ban "doesn't necessarily mean you're off the slate."
At least five incumbent delegates have held individual fund-raisers in the past few months and two more delegates - Frank Peschi and Charles Blumenthal - have tickets printed up for fund-raisers next month. Billingsley said he would "confer" with Pesci and Blumenthal in an attempt to convince them to cancel their fund-raisers.