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Petroleum industry leads Maryland lobbying spenders — but lost

The American Petroleum Institute paid almost three times as much as the next-biggest spender on lobbying during this year's General Assembly session — but was defeated on its most prominent issue.

Figures recently released by the State Ethics Commission show that the Washington-based API spent more than $1.4 million to influence Maryland lawmakers. The trade association lost its fight to permit fracking in Maryland when Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly came together around one of the nation's strictest bans on the method of extracting natural gas.

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The API lost despite hiring some of the most accomplished and highest-earning lobbyists in Annapolis, including Lisa Harris Jones, Sean R. Malone and other members of the Harris Jones & Malone firm. The next-highest spender on lobbying during the period of Nov. 1 to April 30 was the Maryland Hospital Association at almost $500,000.

The Maryland State Education Association, which represents the state's teachers, came in third at almost $475,000.

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Exelon Corp. and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. came in at No. 4 and No. 5. Exelon owns BGE and Pepco. If the energy firms' lobbying totals are aggregated, the total would come to about $875,000, in second place but well behind API.

Drew Cobbs, executive director of the API-affiliated Maryland Petroleum Council, said most of the organization's spending had been on the fracking issue.

"We just thought it was important to make sure that option was open in Maryland to explore for natural gas," Cobbs said. "Obviously, it was the big issue. It was coming to a head."

Cobbs noted that the organization had helped hold off a ban for several years. But with a moratorium on fracking about to expire, opponents of the method gained momentum.

The measure easily passed the House of Delegates but was hung up in the Senate until Hogan surprised advocates by throwing his support behind a measure that was opposed by most Republican lawmakers.

The rankings of top Annapolis lobbyists was similar to that of previous years — with the top two spots held by colorful figures with felony convictions on their records.

Gerard E. Evans and Bruce E. Bereano were No. 1 and No. 2, at $1.8 million and $1.7 million, respectively. Timothy Perry, a less flamboyant figure who was chief of staff to state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller before making the transition to lobbyist, was once again third. He earned almost $1.3 million.

African-American lobbyists vaulted into the No. 4 and No. 5 positions. Jones, Annapolis' highest-earning female lobbyist, came in fourth with more than $981,000. Frank Boston III was fifth with $951,500.

Not surprisingly, the top-earning lobbyists were also among those most generous with campaign donations to Maryland politicians.

Evans led the pack with more than $48,000 in gifts, while Bereano donated almost $40,000.

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