They have almost all disappeared into some political no-man's land, the aides who wielded so much power on behalf of Maryland's suspended governor, Marvin Mandel. Spots were found for some in one obscure state agency or another. Others were unceremonilusly swept out without even that cold consolation.
But nobody in the new administration of Acting Gov. Blair Lee III had to find a spot for Frank DeFilippo. He had already made his own.
Even before Mandel's conviction last August on political corruption charges, the governor's former press secretary and chief political stratgeist had nimbly extricted himself from the crumbling Mandel administration and stepped in as one of the key advisers in lee's 1978gubernatorial campaign.
At the same time DeFillippo moved from his $38000 job with the state to a $50,000-plus job with one of Maryland's leading political advertising agencies, he delivered damaging testimony against his former boss.
During the eightyears he worked with Mandel in the Statehouse, this compact, impeccably dressed man withthe roguish laugh learned the tricky art of political survival better, even, than the man who had been his teacher.
DeFilippo learned who you have to know in Annapolis and how t get along with them. Hw became exceedingly skillful in >olding the public's perception of pliticians - friend or fo. He earned the trust and even the affection oc many of'Maryland's Statehouse reporters. Even though, by his own admission he was not always completely truthful!
During the last few years, when the news out of Annapolis was filled with a steady stream of exposes, he sidestepped the flow to emerge unstained.
"Flip (DeFilippo's nickname) was never identified with the things that Marvin did and was convcted forexplained Edmond F. Rovner an official of the National Governor's Conference who workded for Mandel in the nearly 1970s and became a close friend of Defilippo.
"What Flip did was always to maintain his independence of whatever nefarious activity went on up there> while staying one of the boys when talking about politics," Rovner said. With a laugh , he said, "Flip was really the piano player in the whore house."
"Flip is a valued commodity in Maryland politics," said one Lee aide. "He's got a quick political mind, he can size up a situation in an instant. And obviously, a takebted guy can be talented for you or against you"said the aide, who asked not to be identified. The implication was that one ad agency was to precents him from going to see opposition. There is respect in the remarks, but little affection. For DeFlippo is marked as a Mandel man, and one who in the past, got a few jabs in at thenLt. Gov. Lee. Now, It seems, people in both the Lee and Mandel camps are uncertain about how to approach him.
With the skill of an adept juggler, DeFlippo is working both on behalf of the disgraced former governor,whom he shepherded to and from a recent TV interview, and on behalf of the new governor, who must keep himself as far as possile from a recent TV interview, and on behalf of the new governor, who must keep himself as far as possible from his predecessor's disgrace.
At the moment, it seems to be working. But though observers say that DeFilippo has attained influence with the new governor, they add that he will never become as intimate and trusted an adviser to Blair Lee as he was to Marvin Mandel.
"Marvin is a very special friend to me," DeFlippo said. "I porbably had the best relationship with him that a press secretary ever had to an executive - and that's a credit to him."
For years, as the Statehouse reporters for the Baltimore News American, DeFlippo had vocered thei "little gray man" - who was speaker of the state House of Delegates and who had perfected the political skills needed to get his way.
Then for a large part of the Mandel administration, the two men were so closely identified that people seldom knew if Mandel was speaking DeFlippo's words, or if DeFlippo was repeating Mandel's.
"IT was a teach-student thing , with Mandel as the teacher and Flip as the student,"said Rovner, who has kept up a a close friendship with DeFlippo. "I think the realtionship between Flip and Mandel, oddly enough, was one of his closest confidants, according to Rovner.
The intimacy between them, miraculously was barely disturbed by DeFlippo's appearance on the withness stand during Mandel's trial. Under questioning, DeFlippo told the jury that Mandel had once told him that two codefendants had promised to give the govenor a job in their insurance agency when he leftoffice. The testimony was helpful if no crucial to the prosecution in showing the jury facors that Mandel was promised by, ir received from his codefendants in exchange for his help in afvancing legislation to benefit their business interest. The govenor and his five codefendants were convicted of mail fraud and racketeering charges last August.
Some of Mandels aides held DeFlippo's testimony against him, particularly the more earthy aides who never thought too highly of his liberal arts education, his designer shirts and three-piece suits and his close relation with some reporters. "DeFlippo said things he didn't have to say on the stand," said one former aide. "He voulunteered things they didn't ask for."
The govenor, however even while facing a four-year jail sentence, seemed somehow to understand, anand apparently has never held it against him. "Flip" now serves as his agent and adviser as Mandel seeks a new career in writing or boradcating.
It was, perphaps, with a similar kind of understanding tthat the reporters Flippo occasionally dissemble and squirm out of ht way of their inquiries, in part because they accepted it as part of his job. Also , he remained trusted as one of the best sources of political gossip in the state.
"I don't recall any major deceptions," DeFl ippo said, when asked if he had ever lied to the press. "I fudged, I dissemble. It's is the nature of the job . I'm not going go say I always told the absolute truth. "
But he told enough of it and knew enough of it to keep the faith of most reporters. Now he has an opportunity to use that trust on Blair Lee's behalf. In some ways, that is an invaluable asset to the man who has spent the last eight years in Marvin Mandel-s shadow, and who now has less than a year before the election to establish himself as a governor in his own right.
"Flip can help Lee in many ways," said one close Lee aide. But he added that DeFilippo's advice may be discarded as often as it is taken. "Lee has pretty good instincts of his own and he likes to follow them."
It is an adjustment for the 47-year-old DeFilippo, being needed professionally but not being relied on personally. "Blair and I are friends," he said. "But I'm kind of detahced from everything. I don't have all the pieces of the puzzle that I used to. I don't get all the nuances now."
Now he spends most of his time at the Rosenbush agency in the Baltimore suburbs, 40 miles from Annapolis and the action. In the brief spaces of time between political work, he writes Roto-Rooter jingles - for a salary at least $15,000 higher than his former state pay.
But the distance grates on him."I miss the excitement," he said. In these early days of the Lee campaign, his work has been mostly devoted to such matters as printing fund-raiser tickets - nothing to get his adrenalin flowing.