Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, responding to concerns raised by House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin in the wake of questionable fund-raising efforts by two of his committee chairmen, has agreed to appoint a commission to study the state's campaign finance law.
Cardin, who was angered by recent revelations that the chairmen of the House Economic Matters and Environmental Matters committees were targeting fund raising to industry groups that do business before their committees, told the members of his leadership today that they could keep their jobs only if they adhere "to a higher standard" than that required by law.
Though Cardin stressed that neither Environmental Matters Chairman Larry Young (D-Baltimore) nor Economic Matters Chairman Frederick C. Rummage (D-Prince George's) had violated state law, he said that the incidents highlighted "weaknesses" in the state campaign law that should be corrected.
Among the "exceptions and loopholes" in the state law that should be addressed by the commission, Cardin said, are the widespread use of "continuing" campaign committees that function between election periods, the transfer of funds among campaign committees and the lack of limits on political action committee (PAC) funds.
Rummage, whose committee handles most legislation affecting business and labor, last year held three fund-raisers to which representatives of the state's banking, real estate and insurance industries were invited.
Rummage told a number of lobbyists and legislators that he intended to use the money to bankroll the campaigns of other legislators in return for their support for his campaign to become speaker in 1986. Rummage publicly denied that he was planning to use the funds to mount a race for speaker.
In the other incident, Young encouraged the creation of a group known as Health Advocates, whose members, all influential people in the health care industries regulated by Young's committee, were to pay $1,000 a year in exchange for quarterly meetings with Young.
"We should expect a higher standard of conduct in the House leadership," Cardin said today. "We must avoid the appearance that we are using our positions to gain an advantage . . . . I'm not sure all the members of leadership have followed that high standard."
Cardin said he had urged Hughes to appoint a commission to study campaign finance laws to build support for changes the legislature has been reluctant to make. Cardin said he supports proposed legislation to limit PAC contributions, but expressed doubt that it would pass.
Details of the state commission were still to be resolved.