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Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?


Poor Bruce Bereano. After a long federal criminal investigation into his lobbying work and a trial that led to his conviction for defrauding clients, he now says he can't afford to pay his lawyers. In fact, he has yet to give them one dime of his own money, though he's run up a $668,000 bill.

Now those lawyers want to pull out of his federal appeal in Richmond, since Mr. Bereano refuses to agree to a payment schedule and doesn't appear eager to dig into his own pocket. The only money his lawyers have received to date has been a whopping $450,000 from a former Bereano client, GTECH Corp., which hit the jackpot in 1992 because of Mr. Bereano's lobbying skill on a $49 million Maryland lottery contract. GTECH returned the favor.

The high-profile lobbyist says that he is getting "a raw deal," that his lawyers are engaged in a "mercenary attempt" to wring the money out of him. He has even established a legal defense fund to pay off his lawyers with other people's checks. "I don't have the money," he claims.

Hold the tears. This spring, during the General Assembly bTC session, Mr. Bereano earned $112,000. Last year, he earned $703,000. The previous year, his six-month lobbying income totaled $811,000. The way we count it, that's $1.6 million in income just from lobbying. This doesn't include Mr. Bereano's legal fees for other kinds of work. It certainly indicates he has the ability to generate sufficient income to handle his obligations, even if he has to spread out repayment of some bills over a number of years.

No, it's hard to feel sympathy for Mr. Bereano's financial plight. He makes too much money for that. He's not being deprived of cash to cover basic necessities as are thousands of former DALP recipients in Maryland. He's not moving into a homeless shelter. He's not altering his lifestyle. Come January, he will be back in business full-time, lobbying legislators and the governor for his many clients as though nothing has happened. He'll continue to rake in a six-figure income, perhaps even in the mid-to-high six figures.

If Mr. Bereano sends you a solicitation letter or approaches you on the street, cup in hand, and says, "Buddy, can you spare a dime?," think twice before making a contribution. As Aesop noted in one of his fables, "The gods help them that help themselves."

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