The machinations of the 1986 race for governor keep showing up here, most lately in legislation filed by a colorful Baltimore City politician who has cast himself, for the moment, in the role of reformer.
Del. Paul E. Weisengoff, a cigar-chomping Democrat from the southwest part of the city, wrapped himself in the mantle of good government last week to speak in favor of a bill he is sponsoring that would close one gap in the crazy quilt of state election laws.
Weisengoff's measure would require political candidates who establish campaign committees for a single election to report contributions as regularly as those who maintain "continuing" committees, which may stay in existence for many years and several elections.
Under current law, candidates with "noncontinuing" committees, set up for a particular election and then disbanded, must report contributions every four years, shortly before primary elections. Continuing committees, by contrast, must file annually, usually in November.
Weisengoff, appearing before the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee, said that it was only fair to require noncontinuing committees to disclose contributors as often as continuing committees.
Weisengoff did not mention, nor did he have to, that a key beneficiary of his bill would be his old friend House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, a fellow Baltimore Democrat and gubernatorial candidate who lists four continuing committees with the state elections law board.
The motive behind Weisengoff's bill, according to several observers, was simple: to strip Attorney General and Cardin rival Stephen H. Sachs, who has one noncontinuing committee, of his current advantage to peruse Cardin's contributor list without revealing his own.
For example, under the current system Sachs will be able in the fall to review the contributor list from Cardin's giant fund-raiser last month.
"When viewed as a Cardin-versus-Sachs bill, it's Cardin saying, 'Dammit, I have to report and so should Sachs,' " said Ricki Wadsworth, executive director of Maryland Common Cause, who attended the hearing on Weisengoff's bill.
Common Cause, a public interest lobby here, has taken no formal position on Weisengoff's bill, but Wadsworth favors it.
"I think Paul was absolutely right," she said. "Why should some committees report when others don't?"
Weisengoff's bill marks the second attempt in as many years to close the loophole on noncontinuing committees. Last year, at Cardin's request, Del. Helen L. Koss (D-Montgomery), the chairwoman of the constitutional law committee, and her legislative ally, Majority Leader Donald B. Robertson (D-Montgomery), filed a measure virtually identical to Weisengoff's.
The House approved the bill, but it died in a Senate committee in the last hours of the 1984 session, partly because of the Senate's longstanding antipathy for Koss-Robertson legislation, several legislators said.
This year, though, the bill's prospects may be far brighter because it bears only Weisengoff's name. The House is scheduled to debate the measure tomorrow.
That Weisengoff and Common Cause have lined up on the same side of an issue has struck more than one observer here as ironic. Indeed, the delegate from Baltimore City -- who is the racing industry's best friend in the legislature, who opposes public financing of elections and who wants to raise the limits on campaign contributions -- was clearly relishing his role as a defender of sound public policy.
"Here I am, the antireformer, in favor of a good-government bill," Weisengoff said this week, a twinkle in his eye.