Lobbyist Bereano’s friendship with Hogan bolsters bottom line

Bryan P. Sears//July 31, 2016

Lobbyist Bereano’s friendship with Hogan bolsters bottom line

By Bryan P. Sears

//July 31, 2016

ruce Bereano pointing to a sign that reads “ No Lobbyists Beyond This Point” in the State house lobby. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)
Bruce Bereano pointing to a sign that reads “ No Lobbyists Beyond This Point” in the State house lobby. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

It’s been a very good year, so far, for Bruce Bereano.

Bereano, the power lobbying fixture in Annapolis, has long been among the top annual earners — though his position has slipped in recent years. But this year is proving to be different as Bereano has already reported nearly $500,000 more in earnings in the first six months of the current reporting cycle than he did in all of the previous 12 months.

Some say — and Bereano doesn’t disagree — that his resurgence might be related to his close relationship and support of Gov. Larry Hogan that has helped him report earnings of nearly $1.4 million and vault to the second-highest earning lobbyist in Maryland, according to filings with the Maryland Ethics Commission.

“I’ve been very fortuitous,” said Bereano, who describes himself as a close and longtime friend of Hogan.

Bruce Bereano. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)
Bruce Bereano. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The head of a group that keeps an eye on the lobbying corps in the state capital said it’s not unexpected for groups to seek out lobbyists who have an in with the governor or other decision makers.

“Lobbying is all about relationships, and if you’re looking for a lobbyist why wouldn’t you want someone who has a relationship and access to the governor or a powerful legislator?” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

Hogan was sworn in as just the third Republican governor since Theodore McKeldin ended his second term in office in 1959. And while some Annapolis lobbying firms have attempted to bolster their presence with Republican hired guns, it’s been the locals and the old guard, represented by Bereano, who have done well.

“It’s all about relationships you’ve had and your knowledge and access,” Bereano said. “That comes together with access to decision makers and the depth of relationships. It really depends on who’s elected.”

A decade ago, Bereano, who became the lobbying corps’ first $1 million earner, found himself on the outside after being consistently at or near the top of annual lobbying compensation reports. Then-Gov. Martin O’Malley announced his “honest government pledge” and declared the second floor of the State House off limits to Bereano and Gerard Evans because of previous felony convictions.

“I had eight clients give me my walking papers after that statement,” Bereano said.

(Evans, it should be noted, tops the most recent earnings list with more than $1.9 million, better than the $1.8 million he reported a year ago that also was good enough for the top slot.)

But times have changed, and Bereano says clients now seek him out because of his friendship with Hogan, and his work on the campaign that elected the Republican governor.

Bereano, a New York native and long-time Democrat, has had a number of close relationships with top Maryland Democrats over the years, including former Gov. Marvin Mandel.

Bruce Bereano wears a shirt that reads “Lobbyists Have Issues” while kissing a girls hand in 2014 at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam bake . (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears.)
Bruce Bereano wears a shirt that reads “Lobbyists Have Issues” while kissing a girls hand in 2014 at the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam bake . (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears.)

Bereano and Mandel were frequently together in the years preceding the former governor’s death last year. Bereano organized Mandel’s 90th and 95th birthday party tributes and released information on his death and funeral arrangements.

The lobbyist’s relationship with Hogan dates back to 1992 when Hogan ran for Congress against Steny Hoyer, whom Bereano strongly supported — and once worked for as an aide when Hoyer was Maryland Senate president. Bereano, who admits he can be passionate about issues and candidates he supports, said he first met Hogan on the campaign trail and made it clear he was unhappy with his run against Hoyer in a conversation that included the lobbyist poking a finger into the 24-year-old candidate’s chest.

A decade later, the two met again. This time, Hogan was named appointment secretary to then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Bereano said he believed the terse first meeting would ice him out of access to the new administration. But the two became friends, with Hogan inviting Bereano to his 2004 wedding and later to the wedding of one of his step-daughters.

Bereano said he and the governor “have attended sports events and broken bread and engaged in political gossip and had meals at each other’s houses” before Hogan became the chief executive of Maryland.

“It was a really natural friendship. I love the governor,” Bereano said, adding that he hopes to go back to doing some of those things once Governor Hogan becomes Citizen Hogan once more.

Bereano has made no secret of his support and admiration for Hogan.

This year at the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, Bereano’s almost Ringling Brothers-sized tent was topped with a sign welcoming the governor and his staff to the annual festival of crabs and Maryland politics. And Hogan and his staff didn’t disappoint, with some department secretaries mixing with other political officials in the tent throughout the half-day event.

“I’m a suck-up,” Bereano said as he proudly pointed out the sign on his tent to a reporter.

That friendship may have paid off in very tangible way.

In the reporting period from Nov. 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016, Bereano reported compensation of nearly $1.4 million — more than $490,000 more than the previous full 12-month reporting period. The increased earnings were good enough to vault him from sixth place in the previous report, which covers a full year of earnings, to the No. 2 spot for a reporting period that is made up primarily of the General Assembly session.

So far, Bereano lists 57 clients, according to the state ethics activity report database. Of those, 51 compensated him for services. The lowest of those — the Maryland Indoor Tanning Association —paid $1,650 for his services. At the other end, Maryland Medicinal Research and Caring LLC, which is seeking a license to grow and process medical marijuana in Maryland, paid Bereano $160,000.

Bereano also received $120,000 from Expedia. The online hotel booking company opposed a bill imposing hotel taxes on online booking companies. Hogan vetoed that bill and the legislature earlier this year overrode that action.

Bereano said Expedia, Airmall, which has been the focus of an effort to end its management contract at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport, and Cigna Health Care, which unsuccessfully sought to become the insurance provider for Maryland Transit Administration employees, are all examples of clients who sought him out after Hogan’s election.

Meanwhile, some of the more notable hires meant to make hay under a Republican governor have not fared as well.

Marina Hardy, who served as finance director for Hogan’s Change Maryland campaign, reported just under $52,000 for the same six-month period. Hardy’s firm, Taft Hardy Associates, entered into a strategic partnership with lobbyist J. William Pitcher. An announcement from Pitcher’s firm noted Hardy’s “unique perspective and understanding of the incoming administration.”

Another Republican lobbying hire, Todd Lamb, dropped off the list of 112 lobbyists reporting earnings of at least $50,000 in the period. Last year, for the 12-month period, Lamb reported earnings of just under $55,700.

Lamb, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-2004, was hired by Annapolis-based Capitol Strategies after Hogan’s victory.

A spokesman for Hogan acknowledged the friendship between Bereano and the governor but declined to comment further, saying he was unaware of Bereano’s resurgence in earning power.

“How any lobbyist does or doesn’t do is of little concern to anyone in this administration,” said Douglass Mayer, the Hogan spokesman.

“Bruce has relationships with a lot of people, including the speaker of the House and the Senate president and others in this town,” Mayer said. “Those kinds of relationships are not influencing policy on this floor. It’s not happening.”


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