Special interest groups ranging from a national soap association to a Rockville gambling club paid their Annapolis lobbyists record-high fees for three months of work before the General Assembly this year, which is expected to push the year's total fees to more than $6 million, according to financial statements filed with the Maryland ethics commission.
The lobbyists, in turn, spent an unprecedented amount, estimated to be $180,000, wining and dining the legislators who decided the fate of their pet bills during the 90-day session that ended in April, a commission spokesman said.
"We undoubtedly will see that they spent more on meals and beverages in the session than all of last year," said John E. O'Donnell, the commission's executive director.
Not all of the 600 lobbyists who registered with the state submitted their disclosure forms by last Friday's deadline. But O'Donnell said that late returns should push the total entertainment expenses for the session over the $209,656 spent in all of 1984.
A key reason lobbyists were so active -- and so well-paid -- was that the 1985 General Assembly was so busy with traditional issues such as horse racing and a proposed coal-slurry pipeline, as well as relatively new territory that included interstate banking, health care costs, coal mining and a ban on phosphate detergents.
For the first time in the 15 years the commission has required lobbyists to disclose their earnings, one of them, Annapolis lawyer Bruce C. Bereano, has reported income of more than $300,000. Bereano's report said he earned $328,811 for the six months ending April 30, the period covered by the disclosure documents.
Bereano, easily one of the busiest fixtures in the capital when the legislature is in session, represented 43 clients ranging from an Easton-based health care association that paid him $28,321 to monitor a package of legislation affecting that industry, to the Sierra Club of Maryland, which paid Bereano $166.67 to push for a controversial but limited ban on phosphate detergents.
Other Bereano clients included the Ascension Catholic Church of Bowie and the volunteer fire departments of Bladensburg and Clinton, which each paid $5,000 to ensure the death of legislation designed to tighten Maryland's gambling laws.
However, neither Bereano nor the three Prince George's County groups had a great deal to worry about: a chorus of complaints about the legislation sealed its fate in a state Senate committee.
Rockville's Progress Club, a group of wealthy businessmen that had been the target of a city police investigation into illegal gambling, hired Bereano for $10,000 to oppose the gambling reforms. Bereano, who was out of town today and unavailable for comment, reported he spent $98.50 on gifts for state officials in the course of his work for the Progress Club.
Similarly, the Montgomery County Country Club Association, which is based at the posh Woodmont club in Rockville, paid Montgomery lobbyist James P. Goeden $4,500 to oppose the gambling bill, according to Goeden's statement.
Goeden, who earned slightly more than $51,000 during the session, was far more typical of the hundreds of lobbyists who plied the corridors of the State House in search of votes for or against a piece of legislation. Ricki G. Wadsworth, the lobbyist for Maryland Common Cause, reported a $14,202.44 salary for her efforts to reform state election and campaign finance laws. And the American Association of University Women paid Gaithersburg resident Virginia C. Andary just $350.73 to lobby on such issues as child support and Medicaid funding for abortions.
Such salaries pale next to fees paid to Bereano and other lobbyists. Franklin Goldstein, a Baltimore lawyer regarded as one of the most able advocates in Annapolis, was paid a total of $86,575 by Citicorp and its Towson subsidiary to fight for passage of an interstate banking bill and a companion measure allowing Citicorp to expand its Maryland operation. Goldstein won on both counts.
By contrast, Chevy Chase lawyer Devin J. Doolan was paid $40,756 to try to kill the phosphate ban and $33,311 to win an exemption from a Maryland law for Crown Central Petroleum, a Baltimore-based gasoline refiner. Doolan lost both battles.
But there's always another year. "Crown'll be back," Doolan said. "And I assume the soap and detergent association will ask me to keep my eyes on things."