ANNAPOLIS – Four legislative leaders who championed an emergency bill that may help Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos in the wake of the baseball strike received thousands in campaign donations from Angelos-controlled interests, records show.
Sens. John A. Pica Jr., Norman R. Stone Jr. and Thomas L. Bromwell and Del. Gerald J. Curran – all Baltimore-area Democrats – were instrumental in passing the bill, which bars replacement teams from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The measure was signed into law Monday by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and took effect immediately.
Saying they would have supported the legislation anyway, all four lawmakers rejected suggestions that the donations – many made after the 1994 elections – create a conflict of interest.
“It’s a good bill,” Bromwell said. “I didn’t do this for Peter Angelos and I didn’t do it for Cal Ripken – I did it for Baltimore and Maryland because enough is enough.”
Pica, Stone and Curran echoed this sentiment, noting that Baltimore lost millions after the strike began and stands to lose much more should it stretch into the 1995 season.
But the new law also means protection for Angelos in a potential legal battle with other baseball owners. Angelos is the only owner refusing to field replacements.
Deborah Povich of the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland called the donations “clear attempts to curry favor from legislators.”
The donations also brought sharp criticism from Republicans, who already had questioned Pica’s and Stone’s work on the bill given that the two are associates in Angelos’ law firm.
“It’s a serious issue,” said Del. Robert L. Flanagan, R- Howard. “Quite frankly, it was an error in [Pica’s] judgment to have sponsored the bill in the first place.”
Del. Richard A. LaVay, R-Montgomery, said, “If you have to have to ask if it’s ethical, then it isn’t.”
Pica countered that the GOP was trying to turn beneficial legislation into a partisan issue.
And a Democrat who argued against passage of the bill remained impassive. “If you stop and think about it, you have conflicts of interests in everything we do,” said Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil. “You just have to try to use common sense.”
Pica, the Senate deputy majority leader, was the main sponsor of the replacement players ban. Stone, the Senate president pro tem, and Bromwell, Finance Committee chairman, were co-sponsors. Curran, chairman of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, sponsored the bill on the House side. The legislation had to clear Bromwell’s and Curran’s committees before reaching the Senate and House floors.
All four sponsors said they had no conversation with Angelos about the bill.
Gus Lenglet, comptroller for Angelos’ law firm, said Angelos has final say over donations from the law firm, and “probably the final word” on Orioles donations. Angelos did not return repeated telephone calls seeking his comment.
Campaign finance records show that on Dec. 30, 1994 – more than a month after the general election – the Orioles contributed $2,000 to Pica. This was in addition to a $2,500 donation in September from Angelos’ law firm.
“It’s not even close to being an issue,” Pica said of the donations. “I still have a campaign debt.” According to the records, Pica lent his campaign $28,000 last year.
Records show that Stone received a total of $4,500 from Angelos’ law firm in 1994 — $3,500 in October and $1,000 in November. Stone said last week that the $3,500 donation actually was a personal contribution by Angelos, and that he would seek to correct the records.
Stone added that “it’s a little insulting” to raise the conflict of interest question since the donations came before the bill was written.
Curran received $1,000 from the law firm on Dec. 30 — an early response to a fundraiser he held in January, he said.
Bromwell received $1,000 from Angelos’ law firm on Nov. 7, 1994, the day before the general election.
Povich pointed out that the contributions to Pica and Stone would exceed the limit of $4,000 for an individual donor during an election cycle. But because the donations came from legally separate entities, she said they did not violate the law.
“The donations are legal but very problematic,” Povich said.
Pica has passionately defended his sponsorship of the replacement players ban. At one point, he even physically threatened LaVay and Flanagan, who had suggested that he was working for Angelos.
“I do not have an interest in the Baltimore Orioles,” Pica said, adding that the bill “confers no benefit to Angelos in any way shape or form.”
Pica cited his past record of sponsoring sports-oriented legislation. He also said that because Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had requested the bill, he, as chair of the Baltimore delegation, was obligated to introduce it.
A review of campaign finance records for the General Assembly shows that six others received money from Angelos or his interests during the last election cycle. They were:
– Senate Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore ($2,000).
– Sen. Perry Sfikas, D-Baltimore ($1,000).
– Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore ($1,000).
– Del. James M. Kelly, R-Baltimore County ($1,000).
– Del. Betty Workman, D-Allegany ($350).
– Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore ($200).
Jennifer Castelli and Lori Wolfgang contributed to this story. -30-