MARYLAND LAW bars lobbyists from raising money for state legislators, a good-government measure intended to keep public servants honest -- or at least limit their dependence on monied interests. But the law says nothing about lobbyists raising money for a lawmaker's son, cousin or favorite uncle who is running for public office, so long as they happen to be out of state. That loophole might be lost on some. But not on Bruce C. Bereano, crown prince of Annapolis influence-peddlers.
Mr. Bereano -- convicted of mail fraud and disbarred in 1994, and more recently sanctioned by the Maryland State Ethics Commission -- lately has taken an interest in raising money for the D.C. Council race of a political newcomer, Vincent C. Gray. Mr. Gray, who is running for the District's Ward 7 council seat, has no apparent political connection to Maryland, where Mr. Bereano plies his trade. And when Mr. Bereano sent out an invitation to a fundraising event on Mr. Gray's behalf last week, he made no mention of Mr. Gray's background, positions or even party affiliation, according to The Post's Matthew Mosk. But in Mr. Bereano's book, Mr. Gray apparently does have one important political asset: He is first cousin to Maryland Del. James E. Proctor Jr., a Prince George's Democrat and member of the House Appropriations Committee. "I am sure that Delegate Proctor would be very appreciative of any help or support you can give to his cousin Vince," Mr. Bereano said in his fundraising letter. As to that pesky Maryland's ethics law, Mr. Bereano reassured potential donors: It "does not apply" to out-of-state elections, he wrote, underlining "not" for emphasis.
Mr. Bereano professed indignation at the suggestion that he was skating once again on thin ethical ice by soliciting funds on behalf of the cousin of a powerful Maryland lawmaker. "It is doing what the law allows you to do," he told The Post's Mr. Mosk. He pointed out that he has known Mr. Gray since 1962, when the two were fraternity brothers at George Washington University. "The fact that he is related to Delegate Proctor is just coincidental," Mr. Bereano said; never mind that Mr. Proctor's name occurs three times in the fundraising letter.
Mr. Bereano's tactics have sometimes been so brazen as to embarrass his own clients. Last year he was fired by one of them, Comcast Cablevision, when his planned project on Comcast's behalf -- a feast for 60-odd Maryland lawmakers taking a schooner cruise in Mississippi -- attracted unwelcome publicity. But Mr. Bereano has always bounced back; he collected $619,000 in lobbying fees during the Maryland General Assembly session, the Baltimore Sun reported. But in considering Mr. Bereano's lucrative tactics, Maryland's elected officials should take into account the cost to their own credibility, and to the integrity of the legislative process.