You already know him as an Annapolis super-lobbyist and a federal ex-con. Now Gerard E. Evans is working to craft a new identity: novelist.
The book, which is not quite finished, is a potboiler packed with sex, murder and political intrigue set in the marble halls of Annapolis. In the opening scene, an elegantly attired, snowy-haired state senator is blackmailed by representatives of the chemical lobby bearing smutty photos of the senator sprawled across his antique desk with a 17-year-old aide.
The book is also something of a bildungsroman that tracks the disillusionment of a fatherless young committee counsel (name: Tom Gerard) as he sinks deeply into the Maryland General Assembly's culture of corruption.
In Evans's book, lawmakers are obsessed by the money and power tied to a single, massive policy issue. But that issue is not the legalization of slot machines, which is roiling the current General Assembly session. No, in Evans's book, the issue that drives men to murder, suicide, blackmail and corruption is (believe it or not) lead paint.
"It's a great issue. There's a lot of depth and complexity," Evans said in a recent interview.
Lead paint also happens to be the issue that got Evans in hot water with federal prosecutors. Indicted in 1999, Evans was convicted in the summer of 2000 of defrauding several paint companies of more than $400,000 by hyping the possibility that legislation harmful to their interests would be introduced in Annapolis.
Prosecutors accused Del. Tony Fulton (D-Baltimore) of conspiring with Evans by threatening to introduce the bill the paint companies feared most, a bill that would make it much more likely that they would be held liable for the ravages of lead-paint poisoning.
A federal jury acquitted Fulton, but convicted Evans, whose sentencing judge coined the term "culture of corruption" to describe the milieu in Annapolis that allowed Evans's scam to succeed. Evans spent about a year in the federal prison in Cumberland, Md., and about five months in a halfway house before his release in May.
Evans said he started writing the book while he was working in the law library in Cumberland. He said the book includes at least one character based on a fellow inmate, a loan shark from Baltimore's Little Italy, fictionally dubbed Frankie Three Fingers.
Now that Evans is back in Annapolis lobbying for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, trial lawyer Peter G. Angelos and two other clients, he's trying to finish the book in his spare time. He has yet to line up an editor, an agent or a publisher, but he has high hopes for the project.
If the book is published, however, Evans may have some explaining to do to some of his closest political allies, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). Evans's fictional senate president backs a chemical industry shill for an open Senate seat as payback for massive campaign contributions. Miller has lately been in the news because the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which he chairs, has accepted more than $500,000 in donations from gambling interests.
Perhaps that's why the first page of Evans's book carries the byline "G. Emmett Evans."
The working title? "Quid Pro Quo."
Busch No Stranger to Slots
So who's the biggest slot-pulling, poker-playing gambler in the General Assembly? Why, none other than House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), the man leading the charge against slot machines in Maryland.
Busch told WTOP-AM this week that he isn't morally opposed to slots, he just thinks it's bad public policy, at least under the terms of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s plan to bring 10,500 of the one-armed bandits to Maryland. He also related how he often visited his father in Las Vegas, where the elder Busch lived out his final years, and gambled in the casinos with him there.
"Look, I've probably gambled more than all 188 members of the General Assembly," Busch told WTOP news anchor Bruce Alan. "I'm not proud of that, but I understand what it is to gamble, and I understand that people are going to gamble, and you're not going to stop them from doing that."
Put that man on a bus to Atlantic City.
Marine's Solemn Influence
They are fighting over slots, over taxes and over the budget.
But last week, a voice from overseas and the impending threat of war with Iraq forced Maryland's Democratic-controlled House of Delegates and the Republican governor to take a breather from partisan politics.
On the floor of the House on Friday, a letter was read from a delegate's son, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps who is heading to the Middle East from the Horn of Africa.
Del. Sheila Ellis Hixson's son Todd wrote a birthday letter to his mother, enclosing two coins from the Operation Enduring Freedom Anti-Terrorism Strike Force. Instead of sending the greetings directly to his mom, he mailed the card to a colleague of the Montgomery County Democrat and requested that one of the coins be given to Hixson and the other to Ehrlich.
A pleasantly surprised Hixson asked her fellow lawmakers to keep the men and women in the armed forces in their prayers. Ehrlich, who will have to tangle with Hixson over slots in her Ways and Means Committee, summed up the moment aptly:
"This reminds us of why and how we are able to do what we do," he said. "We get elected, we run around and wave signs and bumper stickers. . . . But we forget sometimes the foundation and the sacrifice that goes with it."
Staff writer Jo Becker contributed to this report.