The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee has voted, over the objections of its leadership, to allow the solicitation of ads for its Spring Ball program from firms competing for the county's lucrative cable television franchise.
The county's Democratic Party leadership sponsors the ball every year in May, and this year former President Jimmy Carter will attend. The program is a booklet that includes ads from various local businesses.
On Tuesday night, the 18-member central committee took a voice vote to approve a resolution that would allow the Spring Ball Committee to solicit ads from each of the eight cable television firms that have submitted formal bids for the county's franchise, according to Joan Lott, committee vice chairman.
The committee is awaiting an opinion from the Montgomery County Attorney's office on whether such solicitation would be proper. John Hurson, cochairman of the Spring Ball Committee, said the cable firms will be solicited if the county attorney gives the go-ahead.
The resolution said that the money from sale of the ads will be used for administrative purposes and will not go to the party's candidates, a party official said.
Some Montgomery Republicans lost little time in calling the action improper. "There is no place for this," said Paul Clark, County GOP chairman. "When you make it a point to solicit ads from an industry which, in the next six months, will be awarded a multimillion-dollar franchise, it is just not a very healthy thing to do."
Some members of the all-Democratic County Council said the decision could give the wrong signals to the public and undermine the council's efforts to keep the franchise selection process above question.
"This is a kind of a sensitive moment," said Council President Neal Potter. "I understand their compulsion . . . but I'd hope they would steer clear of it." Said Councilwoman Esther Gelman: "It doesn't build confidence in the public to see this kind of thing."
Democratic Central Committee chairman Stanton Gildenhorn, who is a legal representative for one of the cable firms, and vice chairman Joan Lott were against the committee's decision.
Tom Bratten Jr., the central committee's treasurer, who voted to allow the committee to solicit the ads, said that "people get too up tight about this. I feel like its a form of discrimination." "We have a county council that is above reproach . . . I think it is perfectly okay to accept ads from cable firms."