By John O’Connor
ANNAPOLIS – State Sen. Alexander X. Mooney may be slogging through a bitter campaign against Delegate C. Sue Hecht, but he is the clear winner in campaign fund-raising — especially when it comes to out-of-state sources.
Mooney, a Frederick Republican, has raised more than $725,000 in his re- election bid, according to documents filed with the state Board of Elections. Almost $150,000 — 20.5 percent-of that money comes from donors in other states.
Hecht, a Frederick Democrat, has gathered only $5,820 — 2.2 percent — from out-of-state sources, despite raising more than $264,000.
Friday marked the deadline for candidates to file their pre-general election campaign finance reports. Those reports show that Frederick County does not have the only State House race drawing attention outside Maryland’s borders.
On the Eastern Shore, Republican E.J. Pipkin and Democrat Walter M. Baker raised similar sums of money in the quest for Baker’s 36th District Senate seat. But Pipkin has been much more successful than Baker with out-of-state largesse. About 36 percent of Pipkin’s $70,000 total was given by donors from other states — mostly from Kentucky, New York and Connecticut.
Democrats are not ignoring the benefits of interstate commerce either. C. Vernon Gray, a Howard County Democrat challenging for state Senate, has raised more than 21 percent of his $102,500 treasury outside of Maryland. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, has banked nearly $100,000 from non-Maryland donors in his personal campaign account.
The percentage of out-of-state money in these campaigns is unusual for Maryland, said a state campaign analyst.
“That’s huge,” said Owen Abbe, a research fellow with the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland, College Park.
During the 1998 election cycle, the last election CAPC analyzed, about 9 percent of donations came from other states, Abbe said. Those donations typically went to incumbents and party leaders with influence in the State House, he said.
Hecht is troubled by the amount of money being spent on the campaign, possibly the most expensive General Assembly race in state history.
“I think it’s disturbing that we’re seeing increasing out-of-county, out- of-state money to influence a state race,” said Hecht, a member of the House since 1995.
She decided to give up her “safe” seat to challenge the man voted Maryland’s least-effective state senator in a January survey by the Gazette newspapers.
Hecht’s criticism is hypocritical, Mooney said, considering her support for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Democratic nominee for governor.
“Sue Hecht can’t have it both ways,” he said in a written statement. “She can’t condone Ms. Townsend’s clambake for the rich in Hyannis Port — and then attack me for out-of-state fund raising.”
Mooney has allied himself with socially conservative causes — decrying the influence of homosexuality in the state, championing the Second Amendment and battling taxes. Those causes are all the base of Mooney’s grass-roots backing, which is supported by campaign finance reports.
Mooney’s average out-of-state donation is about $135, but most donations are much smaller — usually $25 or $50 — while some are as small as a single dollar.
There is a $4 donation from California, a $5 check from Florida and a $10 bill from Utah. More than 130 donations were $10 or less, and many donors gave month after month.
Mooney has also taken advantage of national mailing lists and regularly produces multi-page campaign newsletters.
Residents of other states donate to Mooney out of civic responsibility, said Ron Ayne, spokesman for the state Republican Party.
“Republicans (in Maryland) are running against long odds, and folks are interested in helping out,” he said. “Folks around the country are interested in seeing good government. Alex Mooney is a champion for proper checks and balances.”
His fund-raising machine was needed, Mooney has indicated, because Maryland’s Democratic governor, Parris N. Glendening, singled him out during last year’s legislative redistricting.
It was notable that challengers such as Pipkin and Gray were having such success out-of-state, Abbe said.
“That’s really interesting,” he said. “Challengers usually don’t have the leverage to attract interest groups.”
Mooney’s successful fund raising has spilled over to Hecht, who only raised $30,000 in her first campaign and $90,000 during her last campaign.
No amount of money can buy Frederick County’s vote, Hecht said.
Voters are more aware of campaign finance issues, said Sean Dobson, executive director of Progressive Maryland’s electoral reform program.
“I have noticed that in the last five years the whole issue of campaign finance has become more salient,” said Dobson. “It’s very prominent all of a sudden and I think that’s great. I think the voters are starting to notice.
“If the 2002 data shows a big jump, there might be a trend afoot.”