Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Gambling debate helps lobbyists hit jackpot

ANNAPOLIS — This year’s high-stakes gambling debate contributed to a big payday for top General Assembly lobbyists, who saw their earnings for the six-month period that includes the 2012 legislative session leap 38 percent year-over-year.

Penn National Gaming Inc., operator of Hollywood Casino Perryville and owner of casino candidate Rosecroft Raceway, spent $877,432.84 on lobbying between Nov. 1 and April 30 — about $375,000 more than any other employer, according to lobbying totals published by the State Ethics Commission Wednesday.

Gerard E. Evans, who counts Penn National among a diversified portfolio of clients, was the top-earning lobbyist for the period, pulling in $1.05 million. Evans was the only Annapolis lobbyist to earn more than $1 million in the six-month span, but nine of the top 10 earners represented companies with gambling interests.

Overall, top lobbyists — those earning $50,000 or more — earned $21.4 million in the period that includes the assembly’s regular session, almost $6 million more than the $15.5 million total for the corresponding period in 2011.

Bruce C. Bereano — No. 4 on the list with earnings of $772,500 — said the gambling issue was a big reason why lobbyist earnings increased so much in 2012.

“I think that [the more] the state is dealing with gaming issues, and the various locations in the state, and the competing parties dealing with those issues, it increases lobbying activity,” said Bereano, a lobbyist since 1979. “It increases the stakes, and there’s a lot of work to be done, and some people are paid accordingly.”

Bereano also said companies were hiring more than one lobbyist for high-profile issues, like wind energy, and that firms raised their lobbying rates as the economy improved, driving up lobbyists’ earnings.

Joel D. Rozner of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC (No. 2 with $906,848.71 earned), Lisa Harris Jones of Harris Jones & Malone LLC (No. 3, $840,195) and Michael V. Johansen of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver (No. 5, $728,195.69) round out the top-five earning lobbyists.

Evans, who also represents the Baltimore Orioles and the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos PC, called 2012 “one of my best years.”

He highlighted among his successes the defeat of the administration’s public-private partnerships bill, which would have created rules to govern the procurement of such contracts between the state and private firms. The bill was passed in the House of Delegates with a committee amendment that made the legislation retroactive and allowed an accelerated appeals process, but the amendment drew fire in a Senate committee.

The legislation’s retroactive amendment was made so the state could appeal two Baltimore City Circuit Court rulings in a lawsuit over the contract award for the proposed State Center development. The state had requested the lawsuit against it be dismissed, and attempted to file a countersuit. Both motions were denied.

After extensive lobbying — including a visit from Angelos himself — members of the Senate Budget and Taxation committee passed its own version of the bill without the controversial amendments. The new bill did not receive a vote in the House before time ran out on the final day of the regular session.

“Killing the [public-private partnerships] bill was a big win,” Evans said. “It was a bill that, largely, was its own undoing. The bill itself as introduced wasn’t a bad bill,” but the amendment changed it significantly.

“The Senate said ‘wait a minute, this is not the way we do business in Maryland, this is a wolf’s in sheep’s clothing,’” Evans said.

Gambling, though, was a different story for Evans. Karen Bailey, a Penn National spokeswoman, said the majority of the company’s lobbying expenditures went toward promoting Rosecroft Raceway as a location for a Prince George’s County slots parlor.

Rosecroft has since been shoved aside as a location while lawmakers grapple with each other over a deal that focuses on National Harbor as the site for a Prince George’s casino.

“Gaming has been a somewhat confusing mess lately,” said Evans, who was paid $150,000 by Penn National. “I don’t know what they’re doing. … We’ll see what happens. You never know.”

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce ranked 36th on the top-spenders’ list, paying $133,964.44 to a half-dozen staff and hired lobbyists.

Ronald W. Wineholt, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs, said money was spread among a wide variety of tax, health care, work place, budget and environmental issues.

“We took positions on 146 bills,” Wineholt said. “Certainly, my time and others’ time would have been in those areas.”

The Maryland State Education Association spent the second-highest amount of money on lobbying ($502,345.36), followed by Human Rights Campaign ($494,099.86), Maryland Association of Realtors Inc. ($443,117.03) and Verizon Maryland Inc. ($356,080.58) in the top five.

The Daily Record employed Alexander & Cleaver PA as its lobbyist during the six-month period and paid four members of that firm a total of $15,999.98.

Top-spending employers

  Amount spent Company/Organization
1 $877,432.84 Penn National Gaming Inc.
2 $502,345.36 Maryland State Education Association
3 $494,099.86 Human Rights Campaign
4 $443,117.03 Maryland Association of Realtors Inc.
5 $356,080.58 Verizon Maryland Inc.
6 $327,781.96 Maryland Hospital Association
7 $296,871.00 MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society
8 $279,954.75 National Association of REALTORS
9 $268,043.31 Maryland Bankers Association
10 $261,378.87 Baltimore Jewish Council

Top-earning lobbyists

  Amount earned Lobbyist
1 $1,051,000.00 Gerard E. Evans
2 $906,848.71 Joel D. Rozner
3 $840,195.00 Lisa Harris Jones
4 $772,500.00 Bruce C. Bereano
5 $728,195.69 Michael V. Johansen
6 $681,260.00 Nicholas G. Manis
7 $663,631.53 Timothy A. Perry
8 $617,906.00 Gregory S. Proctor Jr.
9 $614,086.00 D. Robert Enten
10 $563,700.00 Frank D. Boston III