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Munson to volunteer for Donoghue

January 11, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Donald F. Munson
Donald F. Munson

ANNAPOLIS — Donald F. Munson has a new reason to be in Annapolis when his 36-year career as a lawmaker runs out Wednesday: He'll be an unpaid volunteer for Del. John P. Donoghue.

Munson, who was unseated by Christopher B. Shank in both a Republican primary and the general election, said he wants to stay involved in state government.

He also has another goal: to be a lobbyist.

"I wanted some way to keep my contacts relevant and stay on top of the issues," said Munson, who served five terms as a senator after four terms as a delegate.

Under Maryland law, state delegates and senators cannot become lobbyists immediately after leaving public office.

William G. Somerville, an ethics counsel to the Maryland General Assembly, said a lawmaker must wait one full 90-day legislative session before lobbying.

The exception is for a legislator becoming a lobbyist for a government body; there is no time restriction on that, Somerville said.

For Munson, the 90-day clock starts Wednesday, when the 2011 Maryland General Assembly session begins and Shank, his successor, is sworn in.

Although Donoghue is a Democrat and Munson a Republican, they've long been friends and colleagues. Before Munson lost, Donoghue frequently referred to the two men as a team for Washington County in Annapolis.

"He's offered to help me in any way he can," Donoghue said. "I took him up on the offer."

Donoghue has asked Munson to be his liaison to Meritus Medical Center, physicians and other people and groups in the medical field. They'll work together on implementing the federal health-care reform package in Maryland, Donoghue said.

Munson also will monitor bond bills, which are lawmakers' capital-budget requests for specific projects. Donoghue said that duty makes sense because Munson served nearly 20 years on the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which helps craft the state budget.

Munson will have space in Donoghue's legislative office in Annapolis.

"If you're going to work, you need someplace to hang your hat," Munson said.

For several weeks after his general-election loss, Munson looked for a job that might keep him in Annapolis.

"I had some other things in the fire, and they just didn't materialize," he said.

Munson plans to live off his savings for now, until a job comes along.

State senators and delegates are paid $43,500 per year. It's a part-time post, but Munson treated it as a year-round job.

If Munson finds a job, that will take precedence, Donoghue said. He also will let Munson decide his own hours.

As part of his goal of becoming a lobbyist, Munson is keeping his Hagerstown office open, even though he no longer will be a senator.

Last month, the Hagerstown City Council agreed to continue renting 28 W. Church St. to Munson through 2011. The rent is $400 a month, which Munson will pay himself, since he no longer will have state money for his legislative expenses.

So far, he has no specific plans for how he'll he use the Hagerstown office.

But he figured it's good to remain active and visible in the community — advice he said he got from Casper R. Taylor Jr., a former Maryland House speaker who is now a lobbyist.

Taylor, a Democrat, served 28 years as a state delegate. He lost to Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, in 2002.

"One thing that's important," Munson said Taylor told him about the transition to lobbying, "is to hang out your shingle," maintaining your public name recognition.

When he becomes eligible, Munson hopes to join a lobbying firm, which would be easier than starting out on his own.

For now, Donoghue will enjoy having his friend's help.

"Typically, people get an intern from college," Donoghue said. "It takes three months just to learn the place. He has a thorough knowledge. I couldn't have asked for a better person to work for me."

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