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Poole hits Shank on his studies

October 29, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, has been hammering his Republican challenger in recent weeks, saying he accepted thousands of dollars in state scholarship money to learn how to become a "political animal."

Shank received money through the Maryland Legislative Scholarship Program, which gives lawmakers discretion over thousands of dollars a year to award to Maryland residents attending college or graduate school.

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Poole, who represents southern Washington County in the General Assembly, said it was wrong for Shank to receive the money from Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, because he lived outside Donoghue's Hagerstown district.

Shank also received scholarship money from Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and former Democratic Delegate Pete Callas.

Poole faulted Shank for taking the money while he worked for the Washington County legislative delegation and noted that he served as Donoghue's campaign treasurer.

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But most troubling, Poole said, is what Shank used the money for: a graduate degree in political management from George Washington University.

Poole cited a course book that listed classes like Media and Politics, Interest-Group Politics and Public Opinion and Political Socialization.

"To me, the crowning blow is when he got the money, he didn't use it to learn how to take care of senior citizens or cure cancer or be a more efficient accountant or a better police officer," Poole said. "He used it to learn how to be a candidate."

Shank said he applied for the scholarships and went through the same process everyone else did.

"He's making it sound like I awarded these scholarships to myself," he said.

Shank said Poole picked the most "egregiously political" courses he could find in the course catalog without finding out what classes Shank actually took.

"He was rattling off courses I never took before," he said.

What's more, Shank said that Poole has awarded tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money himself over the years. He said the rules do not place restrictions on the classes a student takes.

"It doesn't matter what particular degree one pursues," he said.

But Poole said it is a matter of ethics, not legality.

"I just think it's wrong," Poole said.

Shank called it an act of desperation by a politician who cannot defend his own record.

"He just wants to make it an issue," Shank said.

Poole's attacks on Shank put him at odds with Donoghue, a fellow Democrat whose Hagerstown district borders his own.

Donoghue has pointedly refused to endorse Poole.

"I'm just not involved at all," he said.

Donoghue defended Shank's application for the scholarship money, saying he met the same criteria everyone else did, and graduated first in his class at George Washington with a 4.0 grade point average.

Donoghue took issue with Poole's criticism of Shank's field of study.

"I don't think we have to start asking students to sign a waiver saying they will not take political science courses or will not run for office," he said. "I don't think that would be appropriate."

Donoghue's neutrality in the District 2B race has annoyed some Democratic Party activists.

"The policy of the Democratic Central Committee is that all Democrats should come together and help Democrats," said Rick L. Hemphill, chairman of the Washington County party.

"All Democrats should come together to support the entire ticket," he said.

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