A photograph in last week's Maryland Weekly was incorrectly identified as one of Del. Charles Ryan (D-Prince George's). Ryan is pictured above.
For Benjamin L. Cardin, who this week began his seventh -- and probably next to last -- session as speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, one of the first tasks in the current 90-day legislative session will be reasserting his leadership over some of his wandering flock.
Cardin, who has always demonstrated a remarkable degree of control over the 140 other delegates, is beginning to pay the price of his decision to run for governor in 1986. Legislators, particularly those in leadership positions with ambitions of their own, have less and less to fear by going their own way as Cardin nears the end of his tenure.
That phenomenon was demonstrated last year, when six members of Cardin's leadership bucked him on the all-important pension bill. And it was seen during the legislative interim when two committee chairmen engaged in some rather cavalier fund-raising activities that Cardin thought inappropriate.
First, Larry Young, chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee and the first black to head a standing committee, encouraged or allowed (interpretations differ) creation of a "health advocates" group, whose members were to pay $1,000 a head for the privilege of meeting with him four times a year.
For the chairman of the committee that handles health legislation, that smacked of extortion, and Cardin put a stop to it right away. But the perception lingers among many legislators and lobbyists that Young expects those interests doing business with his committee to contribute to his campaign fund.
In the second instance, Frederick C. Rummage, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, held a number of small fund-raisers, organized by industry, and told a number of people that the purpose was to bankroll his ambitions to become speaker in 1986.
"My problem," Cardin said last week, "is that they [Young and Rummage] didn't do anything wrong" under state law. "What they did was perfectly legitimate, except it gave people the idea they were being asked to contribute because of the positions" of Young and Rummage as committee chairmen.
Cardin believes that some changes are overdue in the state's campaign finance laws, changes that would restrict the use of political action committee funds and the practice of setting up "continuing" campaign committees that stay in business from election to election.
Cardin also knows that as a gubernatorial contender, anything he tries to do about it will be viewed as politically expedient. He is a realist who believes that the legislature wouldn't accept the changes anyway.
Nonetheless, Cardin plans to use his power as speaker to squelch any further campaigning for his speaker's job and those fund-raising activities that appear to trade on a legislator's leadership position.
"I'm going to put in writing some guidelines about what they can and cannot do," said Cardin.
There is no clear heir apparent to Cardin, but a dozen members could be considered credible candidates.
The problem for Cardin is keeping those ambitions in check, because once open campaigning begins the usually orderly House could quickly disintegrate into chaos.
One automatic limit to the amount of campaigning is that, historically, about one-third of the House turns over after every election. As Del. Gerard F. Devlin (D-Prince George's), one of those hoping to become speaker, said: "How do you run for an office when one-third of the electorate hasn't even been chosen?" Yet Devlin has taken to wearing a small gold gavel in his lapel, a symbol ofboth of his ambitions, the speaker's chair and a judgeship.
A better limit would be some forceful action by Cardin. Though retribution is not Cardin's style -- he did not punish any of the six leaders who voted against him on the pension bill -- circumstances could force him to make an example of someone.