At Maryland State House, Lobbyists Get to Bypass Security

Lobbyists pressure state to allow them to bypass facility's new metal detection and security system

Sean Looney, who represents Comcast in Annapolis and is head of the Maryland Government Relations Association, a trade group for lobbyists, distributed an e-mail with the bad news that his members would have to pass through metal detectors. Some top Annapolis lobbyists refused to accept that they were not part of the select group after Looney's e-mail message went out.

"They were going to let the county lobbyists and the state lobbyists go around," Bereano said. "We had to establish that we were going to be treated fairly and equally, and that we are as legitimate a participant in the Annapolis process as anybody else."

Hoffman said Ehrlich's staff was reluctant to grant access because "the governor didn't want to look like he was doing too much for lobbyists."

Lobbyists have a mixed reputation in Annapolis, and several top lobbyists have had tangles with the law. Bereano was convicted in 1994 of overbilling clients to get money for campaign contributions, and his behavior is often pointed to as the impetus for current restrictions on campaign contributions, meals and gifts. Another lobbyist fighting to keep privileges was Gerard E. Evans, who was convicted in 2000 in a scheme to introduce legislation that had no purpose other than to generate fees. Bereano and Evans have bounced back, returning to their positions as top earners in the capital.

Bereano said he dealt directly with General Services Secretary Boyd K. Rutherford, while Hoffman and others enlisted Miller to help, and former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., now a lobbyist, worked on House Speaker Michael E. Busch. The effort succeeded.

Humphrey said there's no reason not to let lobbyists in. "We believe that with sufficient safeguards - registration with two state government agencies and a police background check - the security risk associated with government relations professionals will be significantly reduced," he said.