ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland GOP Senate-House Committee, an obscure political action committee, has become a muscular force in legislative campaign finance.
The Republican PAC was the fifth-highest contributor to state campaigns in the November election, according to Common Cause, a non-profit government watchdog organization. The PAC gave $96,850 to 1994’s candidates. In the 1990 election, it was ranked fourth, contributing $91,470.
The committee was established in the early 1980s to boost the war chests of worthwhile Republican candidates. Unlike many PACS, it gives only in General Assembly races and only to challengers who survive the primary.
“It’s become a pretty sizeable force,” notes Sen. John Derr, R-Frederick and a PAC chairman. “We feel really good about it. This year we picked up 16 seats in the House and six in the Senate. I’d say we’re doing something right.”
Although the committee is not based in the Legislature or the party, it has roots in both. Its chairs are current members of the Legislature, and the honorary chair is former U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr. Other former chairs include former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Holt and former U.S. Sen. Bill Brock.
The PAC, which does not solicit contributions, is funded by an annual $150-per-ticket fundraising dinner in Baltimore, with big-name Republican speakers like former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp.
The PAC chairs interview candidates to determine who receives funding, Derr says.
“We judge them on several criteria,” Derr says. “We rank them on who gives the best appearance and who seems like they have a strong campaign. We also look at their district — obviously our money is not going to be put to the best use in a strongly Democratic district like Baltimore City.”
Derr says the PAC, which raised about $100,000 for the 1994 election, is considering adding more events to generate more money: “We’re hoping to raise $200,000 for the next cycle.”
Del. Richard LaVay, R-Montgomery, said he thinks the PAC’s success indicates party success.
“A while back, people would have snickered at Republicans gaining so much strength in Maryland,” LaVay says. “They’re not snickering anymore about that possibility.
“With our funding and growing numbers, people see us as a viable force.”
Although Maryland Democrats do not have the same kind of vehicle for fundraising, the party as well as the House speaker and the Senate president forward campaign contributions to candidates.
Greg Pecoraro, acting executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, says a PAC may be in the Democrats’ future.
“[A PAC] is something that we’re looking at for the next cycles,” he said. “Certainly we need to do more to support our local candidates, but we don’t know exactly what we’ll do.”
The following Republicans received campaign contributions from the Maryland GOP Senate-House Committee in 1994, according to records at the State Administrative Board of Election Laws: Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Caroline
$5,500 Sen. David Craig, R-Harford
5,000 Sen. Timothy Ferguson, R-Carroll
3,500 Sen. Patrick Hogan, R-Montgomery
5,500 Sen. Martin Madden, R-Howard
5,500 Sen. Edward Middlebrooks, R-Anne Arundel
2,000 Sen. Jean Roesser, R-Montgomery
Del. Robert Baldwin, R-Anne Arundel
$2,000 Del. Raymond Beck, R-Montgomery
1,000 Del. David Brinkley, R-Frederick
1,000 Del. Barrie Ciliberti, R-Montgomery
1,000 Del. Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery
2,000 Del. Patricia Faulkner, R-Howard
1,000 Del. Joseph Getty, R-Carroll
1,500 Del. Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel
2,000 Del. Thomas Hutchins, R-Charles
1,000 Del. Don Hughes, R-Dorchester
1,000 Del. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford
3,000 Del. James Kelly, R-Baltimore County
2,000 Del. John Leopold, R-Anne Arundel
500 Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington
2,500 Del. Matthew Mossburg, R-Montgomery
1,000 Del. Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert
1,000 Del. James Rzepkowski, R-Anne Arundel
2,000 Del. Victoria Schade, R-Anne Arundel
3,500 Del. Louise Snodgrass, R-Washington
1,000 Del. Nancy Stocksdale, R-Carroll
1,500 Del. Paul Stull, R-Frederick