WASHINGTON – Maryland’s high-rolling Democrats are putting their money on Hillary Clinton, who leaped ahead of Barack Obama in the state’s cash campaign, according to the latest reports.
These fund raisers were among John Kerry’s “vice chairs,” those who raised at least $100,000 each for the Massachusetts senator in his bid against President Bush in 2004.
This year, seven of Kerry’s nine vice chairmen from Maryland have personally contributed $4,600 or close to it — the maximum allowed by the Federal Election Commission — for Clinton’s campaign.
They are: Matthew “Mac” Bernstein, an attorney with DLA Piper, of Bethesda; Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House counsel, of Potomac; Gary Gensler, a financial analyst, of Brooklandville; Susan Liss, a lobbyist for the state of Massachusetts, of Chevy Chase; Susan Ness of Bethesda, a former Clinton Federal Communications Commissioner; Wayne L. Rogers, president and chief executive officer of Synergics, of Annapolis and Nancy Zirkin, deputy director of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, of Chevy Chase.
In addition, Rogers said he helped organize four fundraisers that netted $500,000 for Clinton.
“Fund raising is the normal course of business,” Rogers said. While he’ll continue to raise money for Clinton, if she fails to win, Rogers said he’ll raise money for the eventual nominee.
Overall, Maryland residents donated $2,995,014 to Clinton this year — 28 percent more than they gave to Obama, at $2,342,132, according to the FEC’s campaign contribution reports from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30. The next closest candidate was Republican Rudy Giuliani with $722,250.
Zirkin is more private than Rogers about her fund-raising activities.
“Whatever,” she said of her Kerry campaign title. “People become active in politics because they believe in the candidate.”
Some of the former Kerry vice chairmen contributed to multiple candidates for the primary, but none gave to any candidate, other than Clinton, for the general election.
Until last quarter, campaign contributions from Maryland residents followed the national trend, with Clinton raising the most, $90,935,788 nationally, and Obama close behind with $80,256,427.
But according to the third-quarter, FEC electronic filings, Clinton raised $974,129 from individual contributors, while Obama raised about half that, $493,537.
Is the money gap a reflection of Obama losing support in Maryland?
According to an August OpinionWorks poll published by the Baltimore Sun, Clinton led Obama among Democratic primary voters, 32 percent to 18 percent.
Analysts say Clinton’s financial popularity may be due to her connections, whether professional or personal, with Marylanders.
Polling expert Keith Haller, CEO of Potomac Inc., attributes Clinton’s success largely to her relationship with Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has tapped into his political base and raised money for her, Haller said.
“It could (also) be that Kerry supporters are predisposed to supporting Clinton,” said Paul Herrnson, a political science professor at the University of Maryland in College Park. “Among the small group of Marylanders that contribute, many work for or have an association with the federal government and may have a preference for a more experienced candidate.”
Ness, who has known the Clintons since the 1980s, agrees that connections count.
“People in this area know the Clintons from the eight years of the administration,” Ness said, which has a lot to do with Clinton’s support in Maryland.
Ness recently became a Maryland Women for Hillary Council whip, a group that will “grow the network of women” in support of Clinton, according to the campaign’s Web site. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and former U.S. Ambassador Cynthia Schneider also are among many other prominent politicians on the council’s list.
Ness has already been a co-chairwoman for fund raisers, although she does not know the totals. The Clinton campaign did not answer requests for comment.
“Fundraising is huge for all candidates in Maryland,” Ness said. “There is an intensive effort to get folks to contribute, considering how expensive it is to run in the primary. (We) have to prepare to campaign in a large number of states early on.”
Many states have moved their primaries to earlier dates. Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucus is the first of the selection processes, and New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary shortly afterward. However, this year New Hampshire is watching the other states and has not yet set a date. Maryland moved its primary to Feb. 12.
With only a few months left, voters are beginning to focus on the presidential election and make choices, Ness said.
Of the two Kerry vice chairs not financially supporting Clinton, former Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman of Chevy Chase has not given to an individual candidate, but donated $43,150 to party committees. And Constance Caplan of Baltimore has given $2,200 for Obama’s primary campaign.
Caplan, CEO of the property management firm Time Group, declined to comment on the race through a spokeswoman.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Obama’s co-chairmen in Maryland, are not worried about the Illinois senator’s fund-raising slowdown.
“What is relevant is the total raised from the people in Maryland, which is obviously very close,” Gansler said. “And Obama has a larger number of donors from a wider demographic, whereas Clinton’s money comes from power-broker established Democratic money-givers.”
Gansler and Cummings also agree that Obama is financially set.
“Obama has sufficient funds to be very competitive in Iowa and other front-loaded states,” said Mike Christianson, Cummings’ spokesman. “And he has sufficient funds to compete throughout the primaries.”