Senate building is off-limits for fund-raising group


Leaders of an abortion-rights group were searching yesterday for a new location for an Oct. 20 fund-raiser because the state Senate president told them the Senate office building in Annapolis was off-limits for such an event.

"If we'd known anything like that, we wouldn't even have started it," said Eleanor Johnson, the state coordinator for the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, a group of clergy who support keeping abortion legal. "It was an innocent mistake."

The group had sent out about 1,000 invitations. The coalition planned to donate proceeds to the Campaign to Save the Right to Choose, formed to gather support for the state's new abortion-rights bill when it comes to referendum in November 1992.

John R. Stierhoff, legislative assistant to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the problem was not that the event involved the emotional issue of abortion.

The problem, he said, was that its goal was to make money.

"The issue for our office was that the Senate office building, which is a public, state building, should not be used for a fund-raising event. No fund-raiser, political or non-political, should be held there."

Ms. Johnson said she had no idea she would cause such a controversy when she approached her senator, Janice Piccinini, D-Baltimore County, to ask if the group could hold its event in a Senate reception room.

"I didn't know there was a regulation [prohibiting fund-raisers], and I also didn't know it was a fund-raiser," Ms. Piccinini said yesterday. "They've had meetings here before. They asked me to reserve the room, and I said, 'Sure.' "

Ms. Johnson said they were looking for another site. "I know something will turn up," she said. "I'm optimistic."

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