Annapolis lawyer Bruce C. Bereano received a record $400,000 to lobby before the Maryland General Assembly this year on behalf of tobacco distributors, health clubs, nursing homes and an eclectic range of special interest groups, according to reports filed with the Maryland Ethics Commission.
Bereano, a 41-year-old former aide to a liberal Democratic state Senate president, reported to the commission that during the six months ending April 30 he had worked for 53 clients, also a record number, according to several lobbyists and officials.
Bereano's clients paid him $423,731 in fees and $50,401 more for parties he hosted and gifts he bestowed on their behalfs. That was almost $100,000 more than Bereano made last year, when he was also the state's highest-paid lobbyist and the first to make more than $300,000 since the commission began requiring lobbyists to disclose their earnings 16 years ago.
The next highest-paid lobbyist, James J. Doyle Jr., received $237,268 this year. And Maxine Adler, who made $71,704, became the first woman to break into the ranks of the top-paid lobbyists.
By the end of the year, the clients of Bereano and 600 other lobbyists registered with the state will have spent more than $6 million for their representation before state lawmakers and officials, according to John E. O'Donnell, executive director of the state ethics commission. But he said the figure, which his office is still tabulating, may not top the record $6.9 million in fees and expenses that interest groups spent last year, when an array of complex economic issues, such as banking deregulation, dominated the legislative session.
"The general theory is that lobbying at the state level has become more significant, what with deregulation, with the perception that more is to be gotten at the state level," O'Donnell said.
As an example, O'Donnell pointed to a set of bills, hotly contested in the closing days of this year's legislative session, aimed at controlling the use of pesticides.
"At one time that might have been a federal issue but now you're having it being argued at the state level," he said.
By contrast, he said, the 1986 legislative session saw several conflicting trends. While Bereano broke previous earning records with a record number of clients, and other lobbyists increased their earnings over the previous year, many earned less or stayed about even.
A greater variety of companies apparently sought representation, according to several lobbyists, in part because some companies apparently feared a proconsumer, proregulatory fervor inspired both by the election year and by the embarrassment of the savings and loan crisis.
"This was a tough year," said Baltimore lawyer Doyle, the dean of Annapolis lobbyists who represented 19 largely blue-chip corporate clients such as American Express, Potomac Electric Power Co., and the American Insurance Association.
"The S&L thing created an atmosphere that I've never quite encountered down there," Doyle said "I don't want to call it collective guilt, but there was a certain atmosphere that permeated every other regulated client that I represent."
Bereano said he noted a "real myriad of separate issues that begot themselves because of the election year." Those issues, he said, affected his diverse roster of clients ranging from the First National Bank of Maryland, which paid him $36,181.25, to the Tobacco Institute ($40,000), to the Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland ($25,546.25).
But despite whatever effects the election year had, Bereano was successful in his efforts to have killed, on behalf of his tobacco industry clients, bills that would have banned smoking in public places, and to get passed, on behalf of his insurance and health care clients, measures to curb the amounts that victims can recover in some personal injury cases.
Among the array of lobbying tools Bereano employed on behalf of his clients were gifts of cigars, chocolates and flowers to lawmakers, as well as tickets to baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball games. Bereano also buys tickets to lawmakers' fund-raising events.
That practice evoked some criticism in recent years, particularly from Sen. Julian Lapides (D-Baltimore), who introduced a number of bills, most of which died, to expand disclosure rules for lobbyists and to curb their ability to make certain expenditures.
During the legislative session, Bereano said he did not oppose the measures but resented what he called Lapides's implication that his high fees resulted from untoward activities.
He reiterated his point today. "I work hard," he said. "I work very, very hard." CAPTION: Picture, Bereano got $423,731 in fees, $50,401 for parties, gifts; Chart, Top Maryland Lobbyists