December 30, 2009

Analysis: Legislators rush for cash before session starts

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Members of the Maryland General Assembly are rushing to rake in campaign donations before the legislative session starts Jan. 13 and they may not collect contributions until after it’s over April 12.

According to a list collected by lobbyist Bruce Bereano, the unofficial social secretary of the fundraising circuit, 40 legislators will hold events in the nine days from Jan. 4 to 13. That’s 20 percent of the legislature, including chairmen of four committees and House Speaker Michael Busch.

Thirteen of the events were added since Bereano put out his last list just two weeks ago. It’s a bi-partisan affair, with 12 Republicans holding events.

The speaker has the priciest event, starting at $500 “All-Star” tickets for a breakfast at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. You could be an “MVP” at $1,000 or even a “Hall of Famer” at $2,000.

Individual tickets to other events range from $50 to $250, with higher amounts encouraged for “silver” and “gold” sponsors.

Breakfast is a popular time for fundraising in these busy times, and Friday Jan. 8 is the most popular, with five breakfast fundraisers.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is also getting into the act. He, like the other statewide elected officials, must also abide by the ban on fundraising during the session, and he put out an e-mail to supporters Wednesday with the ominous subject line: “Ehrlich for Governor?”

“The GOP has some pretty significant built-in advantages in next year’s race,” O’Malley tells his backers. “The biggest is a Maryland law that prevents you from donating to my campaign during the Legislative Session. For three months, Ehrlich and the Republicans will be raising money from conservatives and right-wing groups from across the country while the lieutenant governor and I are fighting to create jobs and protect Maryland’s schools.”

The governor is seeking to raise $500,000 by Jan. 10. According to The Washington Post, O’Malley raised over $1 million at a single event in October. Republican Bob Ehrlich has yet to announce his intentions.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, also bound by the session fundraising ban, is seeking a more modest $10,000 by Jan. 12 “from people who care about fiscally responsible, independent leadership in Annapolis,” according to his Dec. 31 e-mail. As of Thursday morning, he had raised $4,300.

John Wagner in the Post blog has more details on the O’Malley e-mail, including the full text, as does Julie Bykowicz in The Baltimore Sun.

-Len