Tiny Washington College of Chestertown, Md., found the perfect fund-raising recipe tonight: Take a distinguished alumnus who serves as the state's tax collector and who votes on nearly every state contract, add Henry Kissinger, shake up and down -- and watch the money roll in.
That recipe worked to perfection as the elite of Maryland's corporate, financial and political worlds converged on the Hyatt Regency Hotel for a $250-a-head tribute to Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein that netted about $230,000 to fund an endowed chair in his name at the liberal arts college on the Eastern Shore.
"This is the biggest Monday night crowd in Baltimore since the Redskins played here four years ago," said lobbyist Ira C. Cooke as he surveyed the hotel's Constellation ballroom packed to the gunwales with the rich and powerful from throughout the state. The attraction was threefold, Cooke explained. "One, to be seen here. Two, to be able to take people who want to be seen here. Three, it is obviously a worthwhile cause."
And, he added, the prospect of hearing a foreign policy address by Kissinger attracted many people who don't usually attend fundraisers honoring politicians.
Whatever the reasons, Washington College will be the better for tonight's event, explained Douglass Cater, the president of the 720-student school.
In a single night, the college raised almost all of what it needs to match a $300,000 grant from the Hodson Trust of the Beneficial Corporation that is being used to fund the Louis L. Goldstein Chair of Public Policy.
With the earnings from the endowment, Cater said, Washington College will attract "people distinguished in public affairs to the campus for varying periods."
Already in residence at the college is the chair's first occupant, former Missouri Congressman and House Rules Committee Chairman Richard W. Bolling.
Cater called Goldstein, who is chairman of the college's Board of Visitors and Governors, "a living example of public service -- he is the longest-lived elected official in America."
Goldstein, now in his 45th year as an elected officeholder in Maryland, a career that includes seven terms as comptroller, told the more than 1,000 dinner guests that "service to others" would be the hallmark of the Goldstein chair at the college.
"You are here tonight because you care," said Goldstein.
Actually some, including dozens of state legislators, were there because they were given tickets by lobbyists whose corporate clients paid the tab.
Bruce C. Bereano, the highest paid lobbyist in Annapolis last year, solicited enough money from his dozens of clients to pay for 70 seats, and eagerly passed out tickets to legislators.
"They feel it's a worthy cause," Bereano said of his clients. "They can contribute to a fine school and pay tribute to Louis Goldstein. It's a beautiful way to do it."
But another lobbyist, speaking privately, suggested that Goldstein's power as state tax collector and as one of three members of the Board of Public Works that approves most state building and service contracts had more to do with the turnout than simple altruism.
Kissinger, before delivering a speech analyzing American foreign policy prospects in the second term of President Reagan, acknowledged that he had never met Goldstein and told reporters that he had agreed to speak without charging his usual fee as a favor to Cater, a longtime friend.
The former secretary of state also said he is "optimistic" about the chances for a strategic arms control agreement with the Soviet Union during Reagan's second term, and expressed support for the principle of "preemptive action" against international terrorists.