Group to fight Angelosâ€™ tobacco fee bid
A newly formed citizens group said yesterday that it is willing to go to court to fight attorney Peter G. Angelos in his bid to collect a billion-dollar legal fee for handling the state's case against tobacco companies.
"Project $1.1 Billion Recovery" - a group founded by a financial consultant and a venture capitalist, joined by two taxpayers' organizations - also urged Marylanders to consider boycotting Orioles games to protest the efforts of Angelos, who is majority owner of the team, to collect a quarter of the state's $4.4 billion settlement with the tobacco industry.
"We believe Mr. Angelos should be fairly compensated for his efforts," said Jeffrey C. Hooke, a consultant and author who is the group's co-founder. "However, as a matter of law, the $1.1 billion amount is totally outrageous. This absurd demand is coming from a guy who is already worth hundreds of millions, who has traded away the Orioles' top players and who still wants $35 for a ticket to a baseball game."
The group also had harsh words for state officials, who initially agreed to a contract provision that would pay Angelos 25 percent of the settlement. The state is suing Angelos, arguing that a Maryland law requiring attorney fees to be "reasonable" dictates a smaller payment.
Noting that Angelos is a prominent contributor to Democratic causes, Hooke, who filed as a Republican candidate for state comptroller in 1998 before dropping out, said: "We believe the attorney general and governor are reluctant to play hardball with Mr. Angelos."
The group, which includes the Maryland Taxpayers Association and the Maryland Tax Education Foundation, called on state lawmakers to oppose the Angelos fee, and asked for contributions toward court challenges.
The foundation has raised $30,000 - including $10,000 from Hooke and project co-founder Andrew D. Klingenstein, a lawyer and venture capitalist - that could be used to intervene in the state's case against Angelos, group organizers said. Klingenstein said the group retained a law firm to explore intervention, adding that if the effort fails his organization might file its own suit.
Angelos could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a lawyer in his office said a statement might be issued today.
The recovery project released results of a statewide poll showing that 52 percent of Marylanders think Angelos should accept a payment that is less than $1.1 billion.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the state Board of Contract Appeals should decide whether it or the city Circuit Court should decide the state's case. The state is preparing to ask the Tobacco Fee Arbitration Panel to decide how much - separate from the $4.4 billion settlement - the companies should pay Angelos' firm.