By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – National party committees poured a total of $461,252 into Maryland in the last election cycle because of the “very high-profile governor’s race” here, officials said.
The Republican National Committee gave $297,500 to its Maryland affiliates, according to a report released this week by the Federal Election Commission.
That was almost twice the $157,102 that the Democratic National Committee gave to Maryland state and local Democratic parties from Jan. 1, 1997, to Nov. 23, 1998, according to the FEC.
State Democrats got an extra $6,650 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, bringing the total they pulled in from the national party to $163,752.
The 1997-98 total is more than twice as much as the national parties sent to the state in 1993-94, the last gubernatorial cycle, when lightly regarded Republican Ellen Sauerbrey almost beat Parris Glendening.
The two met for a 1998 rematch that sparked the generous giving by the national parties.
“That’s why they (Maryland) got a good amount of money,” said DNC spokesman Peter Kauffmann.
His RNC counterpart agreed.
“Maryland last year obviously had a very high-profile governor’s race, and there were a number of perceived weaknesses with Glendening’s re-election,” said Tim Fitzpatrick.
Sauerbrey’s 1998 running mate, current state Republican Party Chairman Dick Bennett, said he thinks the RNC’s generosity in Maryland “probably reflected the strength of Ellen Sauerbrey’s campaign for governor.”
But Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Peter Krauser said the Republicans had to send more money to Maryland because they “had a much harder product to sell.
“They had to try to elect two people (Sauerbrey and Bennett) who had already been rejected in other races by the voters of this state,” Krauser said.
Bennett ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 1994, when Sauerbrey first lost to Glendening.
But Bennett said the RNC contributions to the state had to be substantial to counter the large amount of union support the Democrats received.
“I’m sure someone would say, well, the Republican candidates got corporate contributions … (but) we didn’t have an organized corporate entity like the AFL-CIO” to help fund campaigns for state office, he said.
Krauser conceded that Republicans are generally better- financed.
“The Republicans tend to have the money, and we tend to have the voters,” he said. “If money could vote, they’d be in a lot better shape.”
But 1995-96 figures from the FEC paint a very different picture. During that election cycle, the RNC gave just $71,800 to Maryland state and local parties, while the DNC gave $436,933.
Kauffmann said the DNC was able to send that much to the state because the party was especially flush during those two years. Krauser said the money was used “for party-building and to get out the vote.”
But Matt Keller, a lobbyist for the non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause, said the DNC’s huge transfers to states in 1995-96 were part of “a money-laundering operation” devised by President Clinton and his campaign advisers.
The money was designated as “soft money,” which is not supposed to be used for federal candidates. But Common Cause said it was spread around to the states with the understanding that it would be used on “issue ads” to support Clinton and other Democrats running for federal office.
The Justice Department recently rejected a call to probe what Keller called the Democrats’ “kind of diabolical” scheme.
Bennett agreed with Keller that the 1995-96 DNC transfers to Maryland were reflective of “some of the shenanigans that were present in other states.” But he said the DNC’s 1997-98 figures are “perfectly appropriate” and conceded that Democrats won the 1998 governor’s race without resorting to tricky accounting.
“They did a good job and they raised money and they got out the vote,” he said.