If the 1985 session of the Maryland General Assembly has shown anything, it has shown how addicted many politicians are to the narcotic of special-interest money.
A prime example emerged last week when the House of Delegates laughed off an attempt to limit the amount that political action committees may contribute to political campaigns.
Since 1977, PACs in Maryland have been able to contribute unlimited amounts to state and local candidates, thanks to a loophole poked in the campaign finance law when the legislature voted to increase the amounts individuals and corporations may contribute.
Despite widespread sentiment that the loophole was an inadvertent byproduct of the 1977 law, no attempt to plug it has been taken seriously.
Last week was no exception.
Seizing on what at first blush seemed to be technical problems with a bill to limit PAC contributions to 20 percent of what a candidate may take in, the House of Delegates handily defeated a measure that was doomed from the start.
Only 42 delegates -- just 29 percent of the House -- voted for the bill. Eighty-one members voted against it. And 18 voted with their feet by taking a walk.
No one stood up to defend the growing influence of PACs on Maryland politics. No one said the sixfold increase in the number of PACs between 1977 and 1983 was a healthy sign.
Instead, the opponents -- at least those brave enough to stand up on the floor and vocally oppose the bill -- talked in terms of how unworkable the legislation would be, of how difficult it would be to keep track of campaign contributions so that no more than 20 percent at any one time would be from PACs.
Limiting PAC influence was a good idea, most said, but the bill in question wasn't the way to go about it.
All of which proved a point House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin made less than two months ago when he suggested creation of a gubernatorial commission to study revising the state's campaign finance laws.
In effect, Cardin said that the legislature didn't have the political guts to do it without prodding, and that it certainly couldn't be done before the 1986 election.
But the PAC question is only one aspect of a growing problem in Maryland politics, particularly in the legislature: the rising costs of campaigns and greater dependence on special-interest funds.
One has to look no further than the extraordinary number of fundraisers held during the 1985 session to see the extent of the problem. Holding political fund-raisers during the annual 90-day sessions is like picking fruit during a windstorm: The goodies fall into politicians' arms.
It is an unusual lobbyist indeed who refuses to buy a block of tickets to a fund-raiser when the politician in question is in the midst of considering legislation of interest to the lobbyists' clients.
Thus it was that State Sen. Dennis Rasmussen (D-Baltimore County), the chairman of the newly powerful Finance Committee, held a huge fund-raiser last month. This session, Rasmussen's committee has been a battleground for some of the most hotly contested special-interest legislation, including banking, health industry and racing bills, among others. Needless to say, the lobbyists representing those interests didn't have to be browbeaten into buying Rasmussen's tickets.
Even Cardin, who publicly chastised two of his committee chairmen for targeting their fund-raising at special interests that appear before their committees, held a fundraiser in the midst of this session, an affair that raised nearly $500,000 for his 1986 gubernatorial race.
Montgomery County Democratic Del. Donald B. Robertson, the House majority leader who is a lonesome voice in the legislature for reforming the campaign finance laws, believes that it will take a public scandal to create the political atmosphere to force a change. But few legislators appear to be listening.
Here is the House vote on the bill to limit the contributions of PACs. Y indicates a vote for limiting the contributions, N indicates a vote against the bill, and NV indicates that a delegate did not vote.
Montgomery County: Joel Chasnoff, N; Gene Counihan, N; Jerry Hyatt, N; Judith Toth, Y; Marilyn Goldwater, Y; Nancy Kopp, Y; Constance Morella, N; Mary Boergers, N; Jennie Forehand, Y; Michael Gordon, Y; Helen Koss, Y; Donald Robertson, Y; Patricia Sher, NV; Idamae Garrott, Y; Lucille Maurer, NV; Joseph Owens, N; Sheila Hixson, N; Diane Kirchenbauer, N; Ida Ruben, NV.
Prince George's: Timothy Maloney, N; Pauline Menes, Y; Thomas Mooney, NV; David Bird, NV; Richard Palumbo, Y; Frank Pesci, Y; Gerard Devlin, N; Joan Pitkin, Y; Charles Ryan, N; Nathaniel Exum, NV; Francis Santangelo, N; Sylvania Woods, Y; Dennis Donaldson, N; Jerry Perry, N; Albert Wynn, N; Christine Jones, N; Marian Patterson, Y; Frederick Rummage, N; William McCaffrey, N; Joseph Vallario, Y; Gary Alexander, Y.
Anne Arundel County: John Astle, N; Elmer Hagner, Y; Robert Kramer, N; Philip Jimeno, Y; Charles Kolodziejski, NV; John Leopold, N; Tyras Athey, N; Patrick Scannello, N; George Schmincke, N; John Gary, N; Robert Neall, N; Elizabeth Smith, N.
Southern Maryland: John Parlett, N; Ernest Bell, N; John Slade, N; Thomas Rymer, Y; Samuel Linton, N; Michael Sprague, N.
Baltimore County: Lawrence LaMotte, N; Michael Collins, Y; R. Terry Connelly, N; Michael H. Weir, N; John Arnick, N; Louis DePazzo, N; Robert Staab, N; Dale Anderson, N; Joseph Bartenfelder, NV; William Burgess, NV; Donald Hughes, N; Thomas Kernan, N; Martha Klima, N; Thomas Chamberlain, NV; Wade Kach, N; Ellen Sauerbrey, N; Arthur Alperstein, N; Paula Hollinger, N; Theodore Levin, N; Kenneth Masters, N; Louis Morsberger, N; Nancy Murphy, N.
Eastern Shore: R. Clayton Mitchell, NV; William Horne, N; Daniel Long, N; Richard Colburn, Y; Ethel Ann Murray, N; Ronald Guns, N; John Ashley, NV; Mark Pilchard, N; Samuel Johnson, N; Lewis Riley, N.
Frederick: James McClellan, N; M. Albert Morningstar, Y; Thomas Hattery, Y; George Littrell, NV.
Harford: William Cox, N; Barbara Kreamer, Y; Eileen Rehrmann, N; William Clark, N; Joseph Lutz, N.
Baltimore City: Benjamin Cardin, Y; Elijah Cummings, Y; Ruth Kirk, Y; Larry Young, Y; Mary Adams, Y; Ralph Hughes, Y; Howard Rawlings, Y; Margaret Murphy, N; Nathaniel Oaks, N; Wendell Phillips, NV; James Campbell, Y; Samuel Rosenberg, Y; Gerard Curran, N; Henry Hergenroeder, Y; Charles Bucky Muth, Y; Curt Anderson, N; Dennis McCoy, N; Anne Perkins, Y; Clarence Davis, Y; John Douglass, N; Hattie Harrison, N; Anthony DiPietro, NV; Raymond Dypski, Y; Amer Joe Miedusiewski, NV; R. Charles Avara, N; Joseph O'Malley, NV; Paul Weisengoff, N.
Western Maryland: Peter Callas, Y; Donald Munson, N; Paul Muldowney, N; William Byrnes, N; W. Timothy Finan, N; Casper Taylor, N; George Edwards, N.
Carroll: V. Lanny Harchenhorn, N; Richard Dixon, N; Richard Matthews, N.
Howard: Virginia Thomas, Y; William Bevan, Y; Susan Buswell, Y; Edward Kasemeyer, N; Robert Kittleman, NV.