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Landow makes money talk -- and politicians listen


When he rose to defend himself against those who would have ousted him from his post as head of Maryland's Democratic Party, 58-year-old political kingmaker Nathan Landow made an admission.

"In my burst of energy and frenzy, I made some mistakes," he said. "I failed to take advantage of expertise in the party. In the past few weeks, I've been listening a lot better."

Known to associates as a "high-energy guy," Mr. Landow was promising to his party's executive committee that he would moderate his famous enthusiasm -- to save his job as Maryland Democratic Party chairman.

With help from political friends who appreciate his party-building drive and hope to use his ability as a fund-raiser, he succeeded.

A self-made millionaire developer who lives in Bethesda, Mr. Landow raised $1.9 million for Walter F. Mondale's unsuccessful drive to unseat then-President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and was a major money man for former President Jimmy Carter.

"He has such a high energy level that if he doesn't have something to do in a very pro-active way, one certainly isn't using his talents to the best effect," said Charles T. "Chuck" Mannatt, former Democratic National Committee chairman. It was Mr. Landow, he said, who managed construction of the Democrats' new national headquarters in Washington.

Mr. Landow recently bowed out of the Maryland effort to win a National Football League franchise. But he is almost certain to play an active role in the upcoming presidential campaign. When he attended the announcement by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa that he is a Democratic presidential candidate, party regulars

speculated the senator might be Mr. Landow's 1992 favorite.

Here again, his enthusiasm might have to be checked during the primary, some party officials noted, because the state's Democratic chairman is traditionally neutral until a candidate is selected.

Born in New Jersey, Mr. Landow moved to Montgomery County when his father, a serviceman, was assigned to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He graduated from Benjamin Franklin University, an accounting school in Washington, and went into the construction business.

His success as a political fund-raiser was built on his own commitment. He could go to others in search of contributions because he and his family made substantial contributions themselves.

Though he has been at odds recently with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mr. Landow promised in 1986 to raise $100,000 for the governor's first campaign. Schaefer campaign officials said later he had raised a substantial sum.

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