Gov. Parris N. Glendening still owes a pile of dough in legal bills from defending the unsuccessful general election challenge by Republican loser Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
And the bills aren't going away.
Mr. Glendening raised $173,200 toward his $300,000-plus legal tab from individuals, companies and unions, then ran into a jam after refusing -- and then agreeing -- to disclose who contributed what.
Bruce L. Marcus, Mr. Glendening's lead lawyer who also represents the Maryland Democratic Party, says fund-raising to pay off the balance is on hold -- for now.
The recent "change in focus," he said, has nothing to do with the flap last month over the legal slush fund -- or that potential contributors could have been scared off by the governor's decision to finally disclose who ponied up.
"We will have to get back to it," he said. "I anticipate it will happen in next month or two, and our hope is to retire all legal bills by the end of summer."
After criticism of his refusal to make public the list of contributors -- which the attorney general says is outside the scope of state election reporting requirements -- Mr. Glendening finally did disclose the information.
That, however, created another problem for the governor, when it was revealed that just 40 individuals and companies had coughed up the money, including $95,000 from multi-millionaire Willie Runyon, his Baltimore ambulance company, and his daughter.
In the wake of the disclosure and subsequent brouhaha, the governor's rainmakers toyed with the idea of limiting to $4,000 the amount an individual could give, mirroring the state's the campaign finance laws. But ultimately, they decided not to put a limit on the amount of individual contributions that would be accepted, Mr. Marcus said.
"My recommendation to the governor was that since he agreed to disclose everything, and the attorney general had told us there are no limitations, there is no reason, under law or interpretive opinion, to limit a particular contribution," he said.
All it took was a quip by Del. Leon G. Billings, the Montgomery County Democrat, to push the Speaker's button.
Last week, Mr. Billings addressed House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. as "governor," in an attempt to be recognized on the floor of the House of Delegates.
Mr. Taylor appeared unamused. And, in a rare parliamentary point of personal privilege, he spoke to the issue of his gubernatorial aspirations -- a matter that was raised last week in this space.
"I want to assure the House that my good friend Governor Glendening looks good where he is, and I hope I look good here," he told members from the podium, deftly skating around the question of whether it was true.
While the Allegany County Democrat has made no secret of his hopes for the governor's job in the future, timing could be a problem. It was suggested here that Mr. Speaker was eyeing 1998 for a possible run, based on his high-visibility schedule during St. Patrick's week. (Actually, he ended up missing Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday.)
A 1998 bid, of course, could only happen if Mr. Glendening continues to stumble. And with a $1 million-a-year Glendening fund-raising goal between now and the next election, Mr. Taylor may have to wait until 2002 to run, no matter how low the governor dips in the polls.
Not to be outdone, though, Mr. Taylor has undertaken a new venture, "The Speaker's Society," a sort of annual gathering of the clan of some 300 former House members. That group includes many of the state's most powerful Democrats, among them, members of Congress, former governors and other state and local lawmakers.
The group, which meets for the first time tonight in the House chamber and then dines later at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, was established "in recognition of . . . service as a member of the House," Mr. Taylor wrote in his invitation.
Mr. Taylor even has gone so far as to have a medal minted to be be presented annually to a former member for exhibiting "personal courage and dedication to the principles of liberty and freedom."
The medal will be known as the Thomas Kennedy Award, after the former Washington County delegate who fought successfully to amend the Maryland Constitution in the early years of the 19th Century to eliminate a section that effectively barred Jews from holding public office.