It took diligence, but Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) achieved a perfect score for a second straight year from an anti-tax advocacy group. A perfect zero, that is.

The conservative Council for Citizens Against Government Waste targeted the four-term ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee with a statement calling him the "swine of the Senate," based on 20 fiscal and government votes in 1998. Sarbanes was the only senator who voted against the group on all 20 votes.

The award is nothing new for Sarbanes.

He might well use it as a foil for his popular support for Medicare, increases in the minimum wage and criticism of the Federal Reserve. The son of an immigrant Greek restaurant owner has long been known as a quiet fighter for social programs and progressive economics.

The group's 20 votes were selective, focusing on such big-ticket funding items as an international space station (Sarbanes voted for it); partisan issues, such as abolishing the federal tax code or privatizing Social Security (Sarbanes voted against both); and interest group politics, such as capping tobacco-related lawyer fees (Sarbanes voted against).

But whatever the tilt of the council's conclusions -- it praised Republicans in general and knocked Democrats as "lackluster" -- Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz singled out Sarbanes, saying, "It is truly a sad day in Washington when an elected official fails to vote even once in defense of overburdened taxpayers."

Sarbanes, who faces reelection next year, was unavailable for comment on the report, his office said.

The Dirt on Schaefer

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) was known for his funny hats and costumes during his terms as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor. And he recently shed his suit coat again to spend an hour playing in the dirt -- helping to plant 900 trees in front of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building, named after the political icon he succeeded.

The garden is the first MaryLandscape to be planted as part of the state's millennium celebration. In 1999 and 2000, the Commission for Celebration 2000 will offer grants of as much as $10,000 to community groups, schools and other organizations to plant similar gardens using native plants that minimize the use of water, fertilizer and pesticides.

"This will encourage others to see how easy Bay-friendly gardening can be and why it's so important," said Schaefer, who did more socializing and chatting than digging.

Looking for a Leader

Several prominent state leaders from Baltimore and elsewhere were deeply disappointed when NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced he was passing up a chance to run for mayor of the city.

Many leaders, including Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore) had been part of a draft-Mfume campaign, enthusiastically lending their names to his expected mayoral bid. Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), who had not been part of the draft committee, had given Mfume a prominent speaking role at his inauguration and throughout the legislative session.

Schaefer criticized Mfume for having "misled" people into thinking he was running. But after digesting Mfume's decision, many are back at square one about whom to support. The current contenders are led by City Council President Lawrence Bell (D), a second cousin of Mfume's, and former council member Carl Stokes.

"I'm not happy with the candidates we have now," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore), who has supported Mfume. "We're ready for an activist mayor. There is general dissatisfaction with the candidates that we have now."

"There are not many choices," Rawlings said. "But no one person stops the show."

Like everyone else, Rawlings and Hoffman are looking for a candidate to rally around. Stay tuned.

Power Brokers Party at Curry Estate

More than 300 political power brokers, business leaders and real estate moguls paid $1,000 a head to attend a swanky throw-down May 26 at the Upper Marlboro home of millionaire real estate lawyer-turned-county executive Wayne K. Curry (D-Prince George's).

Curry cannot run for reelection because of term limits, and he has not said whether he is running for any other office.

Still, guests included a high-powered bunch such as Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), racetrack owner Joseph A. De Francis, Maryland Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and former governor Marvin Mandel.

Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's), who has had a rocky relationship with Curry in the past but has been making nice with him for the last several months, also was there.

Food was provided by several caterers. The seafood came from Curry's hometown favorite, Jerry's in Cheverly. Barbecued chicken and ribs arrived courtesy of his pal Tommy Broadwater. Valet parking was provided at the curb, and a jazz band played in the back yard.