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March 24, 2009

Parties in committee offices

The Washington Post reports this morning that House Speaker Mike Busch wants to make a rule against lobbyist-sponsored parties in legislative buildings in the wake of reports that Del. Sheila Hixson's St. Patrick's Day bash, held in her Ways and Means Committee suite, was sponsored by lobbyists for the horseracing industry.

Now, don't get too worried. Lobbyists will still be allowed to sponsor lavish parties for legislators -- they'll just have to do it the old fashioned way, in a hotel or restaurant. Because the location is really the issue, not the fact that monied special interests are buying steaks and cabernet for lawmakers en masse.

Posted by Andy Green at 9:51 AM | | Comments (11)


It's not clear in the Post article, are the lawmakers required to make public any details about these parties? Has Busch released proposed language for the rule he wants to introduce?

I don't know if the policy is written out yet or not. But there is a procedure to disclose the receptions and parties that now go on. In fact, the Department of Legislative Services periodically prints a schedule of them in advance. I'm not sure whether it's published on-line, though.

What about the parties that are held off state property, any public disclosure required, even for legislators who don't technically accept a contribution while attending the party?

Yes, the off-campus parties are covered by the disclosure rules. (And just to be clear, these aren't fund-raisers; the legislators don't get campaign cash or anything, just free food and booze.)

The corruption is rampant in Annapolis and Maryland in general. Hell, in all government it seems.

Currie, Dixon, Exum, Holton, Miller, did I leave anyone out?

When will the voters of Maryland open their eyes to it?

In 2010 and 2012 RE ELECT NO ONE!

Is this really any worse than what goes on now at all of the local restaurants during Session? Look at the money the top lobbyists spend on dinner now.

Tip: Sometimes a dinner is really for a particular lobbying client, but gets "allocated" for reporting purposes to many.

Example: A dinner costs $4000. Primary purpose is slots. BUT, because there's a particular committee, other legislation (supported by other clients) is discussed. So, the cost gets allocated. This means that a $4000 dinner might only appear as a $500 expense to the slots client, even though that was the main purpose because of how allocation is done. For a reporter, it would probably be interesting to look at the original receipts to see how much was really spent in total and not just how much has been allocated.

Haven't they learned anything from Congress? This should be sold a stimulus package for Flemings, The Prime Rib, Ruth's Chris, Morton's and Sullivan's.

Good point. Busch, after all, does represent Annapolis. Maybe he's just looking out for businesses in his district...

Why not ban the free meals altogether!
Or am I dreaming Andy?

Remember that the last reform they enacted was to say you can't wine and dine an individual lawmaker. If you're going to do it, you have to invite the entire committee. So basically you can continue to buy dinner for legislators as long as you have a ton of money with which to do it.

So ban free meals altogether? I wouldn't hold my breath.

Free meals will never be banned. The legislators like their steak and lobster meals and free flowing alcohold during the 90 day Session. Many of them will also bring spouses or get "to go" orders. They shouldn't really do either. But, do you think a lobbyist is going to speak up? No way.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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