WASHINGTON – Republicans hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski next year plan to portray her as a politician who relies on out-of-state financial backers to win campaigns.
From 1991 to 1996, 53 percent of Mikulski’s individual campaign contributions of at least $200 have come from outside of Maryland – $480,128 out of $905,608, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
But such reliance on out-of-state money has become the norm in congressional politics, analysts say.
“That is a normal part of politics and political fund- raising,” said Paul Herrnson, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland and the author of a book on congressional elections.
“People who are getting access to her will give her money from all over the country. These are statewide elected officials who make national policy,” Herrnson said.
On the average, senators who served in Congress last year raised 42.2 percent of their money from out of state from 1991 to 1996.
Out-of-state money has been viewed as either linked to special-interest groups, or as weakening the ties between elected officials and constituents, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“Sometimes it is an indication that that person is spending more time listening to others than those in state,” said Kent Cooper, executive director of the center.
And the reliance on out-of-state money is growing. Incumbents raised 61 percent from out-of-state last year, up from the 50 percent in 1994, according to the center’s study.
Mikulski press secretary Rich Fiesta declined to comment on Mikulski’s fund-raising tactics, saying only that she favors campaign finance reform and “relieving the money chase.”
Mikulski ranked 31st out of all senators based on out-of- state individual contributions of $200 or more, according to the center’s 1991-1996 analysis of Federal Election Commission data.
Mikulski’s out-of-state money came primarily from California, $102,338; New York, $97,300; the District of Columbia, $58,791; and Texas, $32,900, according to the center.
Senators who collected higher percentages of out-of-state money include Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who raised 92 percent from out-of-state, Joseph Biden, Jr., D-Del., with 79.3 percent, and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., with 74.1 percent.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes raised 71.7 percent of his funds from out-of-state – $865,859 out of a total raised of $1,207,744 – almost twice as much as Mikulski brought in from non- Marylanders.
Republicans say Mikulski could not raise top money in Maryland alone.
“If she did not go out of state to raise it, then she would not have it,” said Maryland Republican Chairwoman Joyce Terhes.
Terhes contrasted Mikulski to Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kent County, who will not take any money from outside of his district.
Anne MacKinnon, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said while it is not unusual to raise money from out-of-state while holding a national office, Mikulski’s “voting record, personality and love for Maryland are things that money can’t buy.”
“Senator Mikulski is so strong and so favored, I don’t even think she needs to raise money,” MacKinnon said.
Mikulski’s two announced GOP opponents in next year’s Senate race, John Stafford of Silver Spring and Thomas Scott of Towson, criticized Mikulski for taking so much money from outside of the state.
“I challenge her to send it back, return it,” said Stafford, who said he plans on taking out-of-state money himself unless Mikulski stops accepting such donations. “She has taken money from large, corporate interests, Wall Street and Hollywood.”
Scott said she gets money from New York and California because they are “the centers where people support Ms. Mikulski’s liberal beliefs.”
Top donors to Mikulski’s campaign come from the labor, finance, health, law, defense and business sectors, according to the data.
Herrnson said the campaign for votes takes place in states, and the campaign for resources takes place in Washington, New York and Hollywood.
“Candidates run two campaigns,” Herrnson said. “One for votes, and one for money and other resources.”