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Maryland's big-time fund-raiser Glendening gala: Governor pushes hard for large donations from business leaders.


HOW WOULD YOU like to have the governor of Maryland ask you to sell $20,000 worth of tickets to his Monday fund-raiser at the B&O; Museum? Dozens of so-called "key past contributors" are being put in that uncomfortable position.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, though, isn't above pressing business and civic leaders to rally round his re-election drive in a big way. The fact that some feel compelled to ante up thousands of dollars for fear of retribution doesn't faze the governor. He looks upon it as a routine part of modern-day fund-raising.

Since gaining office, Mr. Glendening has become famous for his nonstop pitches to businessmen in search of campaign contributions. He raised a record $5.2 million in 1994 and his current effort -- helped immensely by the fact that he's now the governor -- could prove equally impressive.

The goal is to collect so much money so early that potential Democratic challengers abandon their efforts. Indeed, some possible candidates have expressed alarm Mr. Glendening could succeed in drying up available money from "fat cat" donors, whom the governor is badgering to give the maximum $8,000 allowed in any four-year election cycle.

What's alarming is that so many business leaders express concern that if they fail to contribute, the Glendening administration could deny them contracts or look askance at their pet projects. They may not even be fans of the incumbent, but they don't want to jeopardize the well-being of their companies.

That is a potentially dangerous situation. Whether the fears of business leaders are well founded or groundless, the governor is leaving the strong impression that money talks in his administration. It makes it appear as though the state is "up for sale," according to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Mr. Glendening has brought on this situation himself. He apparently is a fervent believer that a pot of gold will win the election -- though he barely beat a Republican last time who ran on just a fraction of what he raised. He's firmly focused on cornering the market on big-time political contributions.

But at what cost? Mr. Glendening already has a credibility problem as a result of his incessant fund-raising tactics. Monday night's event will only add to the growing public unease. The governor's quest for campaign cash may win him big bucks, but it could turn into a decided liability.

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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