President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have made good on a promise to hang out with the new Republican governor of Maryland. This week, Bush invited Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his wife, Kendel, to spend Saturday night at Camp David.
Ehrlich let news of his impending visit to the presidential retreat slip during a speech late yesterday to a gathering of mental health advocates. Ehrlich told the group that he would lobby Bush to sign a bill in Congress that would increase insurance coverage for mental patients.
Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said Bush had indicated on several occasions that he wanted to visit with Ehrlich, who in November was elected the first Republican governor of Maryland in more than three decades. The visit appears to be the first to the Catoctin Mountain retreat by a Maryland governor since Bush's father asked William Donald Schaefer (D) in 1989.
Anti-Gambling Group Targets DNC
A Maryland anti-gambling group has filed a written complaint with the national Democratic Party, urging it to be more forthcoming on how much money the party has accepted recently from casino and racing interests.
NOcasiNO Maryland, a Glen Burnie-based group that is lobbying against the legalization of slot machines in the state, wrote a letter of protest Tuesday to Terence R. McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The group said it wanted to know whether the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, an arm of the national party, had recently accepted large donations from "the national gambling industry."
The Washington Post reported last week that gambling interests contributed more than $500,000 to the committee from Jan. 1 to Nov. 18, 2002, including $200,000 in donations from the Maryland Jockey Club, an owner of two thoroughbred racetracks in the state. The committee, which raises money for state legislative races across the country, in turn spent more than $150,000 on political races in Maryland last year.
The committee's chairman is Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), a leading proponent of slots.
"We don't want a huge influx of gambling money into our legislative process," said C. Richard D'Amato, a former Democratic state delegate and now special counsel to NOcasiNO Maryland.
The most recent finance report filed by the committee shows that it did not raise any money from gambling interests during the last five weeks of 2002, according to documents it provided yesterday. The committee is not required to submit its next quarterly report until April.
Miller said in a recent interview that he has not personally solicited any contributions for the committee since November's elections.
Schaefer Seeking Arrest Powers
The General Assembly is considering giving the state's comptroller the power to arrest tax cheats without a warrant.
As comptroller, William Donald Schaefer (D) is charged with collecting state taxes. Now he wants a 15-member team to be able to arrest those who cheat on income and sales taxes. Last year, the bill passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), whose bitter relationship with Schaefer is legendary.
This year, the bill has support in both Democrat-controlled chambers. Ultimately, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who touts his close relationship with Schaefer, may have to decide between the comptroller and a wing of his party that worries the bill will create what one House member yesterday called "super tax cops" able to barge into people's homes.
Del. Kenneth D. Schisler (R-Talbot), the deputy minority whip, tried unsuccessfully yesterday to weaken the bill, saying the small team would do better to focus on its current mission -- which includes policing cigarette smuggling -- and leave arrest powers to prosecutors. Other foes said the bill runs counter to GOP efforts at the federal level to limit the power of the Internal Revenue Service.
Some Republicans, however, spoke in favor of the bill. "I hate taxes," said Del. Herbert H. McMillan (Anne Arundel), "but we all have the responsibility to pay them.
Staff writers Jo Becker and Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.