Plans to launch a broadcast attack on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris N. Glendening fizzled yesterday when the three leading Baltimore television stations refused to run a bruising commercial produced by an independent group )) on behalf of Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
Producers of the commercial, about crime in Prince George's County, blamed Mr. Glendening, saying the ad was rejected after his consultants sent a warning letter to Baltimore stations.
Officials at two stations, though, said the letter had no bearing on their decisions. Officials at the third station could not be reached.
A group known as Citizens to Save Maryland, formed a month ago by a group of Baltimore business people, lawyers and lobbyists, raised the money for the ad.
The group hopes to raise and spend $125,000 on behalf of Mrs. Sauerbrey, whose own expenditures are capped at just under $1 million because she has accepted public financing.
Mr. Glendening's advertising consultants warned the stations in a letter this week that the ad's claims would be scrutinized.
"We . . . would caution you that your station may be liable for false statements or claims made by this organization," read the letter from Washington-based Greer, Margolis, Mitchell, Burns & Associates. "Liability will be determined by the courts."
"It just shows Mr. Glendening is afraid of his record and trying to cover it up with censorship," said C. Nelson Warfield, the producer of the ad and one of the organizers of Citizens to Save Maryland.
"If they tell the truth [in the ad], they've got nothing to worry about and neither do we," countered David Seldin, a Glendening spokesman. He defended Mr. Glendening's record on crime, noting that he had won endorsements from three leading police groups.
Accompanied by ominous music, the advertisement recounts the increase in some crimes during Mr. Glendening's 12-year tenure as Prince George's County executive.
"Parris Glendening. So Liberal, it's a crime," the ad concludes.
Joe Lewin, general manager of WMAR-TV, said the station will only accept political ads placed by an independent group that are either approved by the candidate being supported or contain that candidate's picture or voice.
The commercial contains a disclaimer that it was "Not authorized or approved by any candidate."
Bill Fine, general sales manager at WBAL-TV, said the station decided not to run the ad to save commercial time for the flood of ads coming in directly from candidates.
Officials at WJZ-TV could not be reached.
"It would be impossible to accept a third party at this time," Mr. Fine said.
Federal law requires television stations only to accept advertising from federal candidates.
Mr. Warfield said the group still intends to spend $25,000 to run the ad on Montgomery County cable television stations from Monday through the Nov. 8 election. The group had planned to buy $18,500 in air time in Baltimore -- a relatively tiny buy compared to what Mr. Glendening is spending on commercials.