WASHINGTON – Sen. Paul Sarbanes spent $1.5 million campaigning last year, almost 12 times the amount raised by the Republican he handily defeated in November’s general election.
Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, has about $200,000 left from that race, according to end-of-year campaign reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.
The same reports show that fellow Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, spent $115,000 in campaign funds last year, although she’s not up for re- election until 2004. Mikulski has $379,000 in the bank to fend off any political challengers.
Incumbent cash like that makes it almost impossible to unseat a senator, said Paul Rappaport, the man who lost to Sarbanes in November.
“There was no way I could raise what he was raising,” said Rappaport, a former police chief from Howard County.
Rappaport raised about $127,000, with $2,000 from political action committees. Sarbanes raised about $790,000 from PACs.
An aide defended Sarbane’s 2000 campaign spending, noting that it was down from 1994, when he spent about $2.8 million in a race against former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock. Jesse Jacobs said the senator used last year’s election to tout his record to voters and help former Vice President Al Gore, who easily won the state in the presidential election.
“Overall we feel the expenditures were justified,” Jacobs said.
Sarbanes will not raise campaign money again until 2004, two years before he is up for re-election, Jacobs said. But he may use campaign funds to travel to Democratic Party events or to support Democratic candidates.
Much of Mikulski’s spending went to party building and party activities, including about $5,000 on airfare and rooms at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles last summer for herself and campaign workers. Mikulski had some prime-time spots on the center stage at the convention.
Mikulski also gave $27,000 to the Democratic Party or to fellow Democrats, including new Democratic Sens. Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Mikulski raised about $64,000 in campaign contributions last year, including $44,000 from PACs. She spent $115,000 last year, including $12,600 on a golf tournament fund-raiser last summer at Walden Golf Club that raised $40,000.
She continues to employ one part-time employee and likely will continue to use campaign funds to travel to Democratic-leadership functions, said her spokeswoman, Johanna Ramos-Boyer.
Ramos-Boyer said it is “open for interpretation” whether Mikulski’s $379,000 cash on hand might scare off political opponents. She said Mikulski’s potential opponents more likely would see a popular senator with a strong approval rating.
Mikulski raised about $3.8 million and spent about $3.6 million in 1998, when she got 71 percent of the vote against GOP challenger Ross Pierpont, who spent about $300,000, according to Common Cause.
“Compared to a lot of other states, $3 million is not a lot of money,” said Ramos-Boyer.