Baltimore Press

“Citizen Legislators” Work For State Insurance Fund

Third in a series.

One year after the expulsion of State Senator Larry Young and the forced resignation of Delegate Gerald Curran, little has changed in the Maryland General Assembly. Although the legislature has passed new ethics legislation based on the recommendations of a blue rib­bon panel, the lines between private interests and public officials are so blurred as to be nonexistent.

Over a period of three weeks, The Baltimore Press has examined financial disclo­sure filings of legislative lead­ers and Baltimore area Senators and Delegates. The filings reveal overwhelming conflicts of interest that are accepted as part of doing busi­ness in Annapolis. This series will describe some of those conflicts of interest, and it will conclude with a listing of each Baltimore area legislator’s publicly disclosed conflicts of interest.

‘ State Legislators are quick to label Maryland’s General Assembly as a body of “citizen legislators.” According to Annapolis tradition, Senators and Delegates are part-time politicians, who come from the people and return to the gener­al populace after the conclu­sion of the annual 90-day ses­sion.

More and more legislators, however, are year-round employees of State agencies, drawing a second state pay­check after the legislative ses­sion is over. Senator Edward

Kasemeyer and Delegate Nathaniel Oaks illustrate this pattern. Both are employed by the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, a quasi-independent State agency that serves as a worker’s compensation insurer for businesses that cannot obtain insurance on the private market.

Kasemeyer, elected first in 1987 and again in 1995, is Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. In the 1995 edition of the Maryland manual, he said that he was “employed in real estate and mortgage banking.” In 1996, however, he took a job with IWIF as “Specialist.” On his financial disclosure forms, he has listed himself as a mem­ber of the “executive staff” of the agency.

Oaks, Who served two terms in the House of Delegates in the 1980s and was returned to office

in 1995, was hired by IWIF in 1984, one year after his initial elec­tion. He, too is a “specialist,” accord­ing to IWIF spokesperson Diana Wiggins. Oaks listed himself as “Assistant to the President” of IWIF in his 1996 financial disclosure forms. Both Kasemeyer and Oaks began their legislative careers in 1983 on the House Economic Matters Committee. As members of that committee they had direct oversight of the insurance industry.

Neither Kasemeyer nor Oaks would respond to telephone inquiries by The Baltimore Press. Likewise, IWIF personnel were neither enthusi­astic nor forthcoming when questioned about the legislators on their payroll.

Kasemeyer represents one of the more interesting studies in the art of balancing conflicting interests. Aside from his employment with a State agency, the Senator is married to Pamela Metz Kasemeyer, a lobbyist with a prominent law firm that repre­sents insurance agents and insurance premium finance companies. The Kasemeyer marriage, which took place after his election to office and after Mrs. Kasemeyer had established

herself as a member of her lobfr firm, raised an interesting quest! for the State Ethics Commission Under State law, gifts from lobb to legislators are restricted.

Kasemeyer and his bride-to-be h receive special permission to exchange wedding rings and oth gifts.

The Kasemeyers’ marriage cn an unusual situation for Ms. Kasemeyer’s firm, bordering on absurd. According to her partner Joseph A. “Jay” Schwartz, communications are necessarily strained between the otherwise collegial members of Annapolis’ inner circle, can’t talk to him,” Schwartz said. “We can talk to him only about f sonal matters,” Schwartz added he recently passed Sen. Kasemej the hallway of the Senate Office Building. When Kasemeyer asked to speak with him, Schwartz begge< because he was in the process of cussing a legislative matter with another Senator. “I congratulated him on his baby,” Schwartz said [Mrs. Kasemeyer is expecting.] “He’s a real good guy.”

Leave a Comment