By Glynis Kazanjian
Attorney General Doug Gansler expects to raise upwards of $750,000 at a single fundraiser Thursday in Bethesda, where Friends of Doug Gansler will host his 14th annual fundraiser.
There will be no shortage of big name donors contributing to the potential 2014 Democratic candidate for governor, according to the hundreds of names on the host committee in the invitation.
“That is in the ballpark of what we anticipate raising for the event,” Gansler said in an interview. “This year, I can tell you, I know every single person on that invitation. This is not atypical of any other year.”
The host committee lists over 500 names, including some of Washington’s most prestigious figures. Owners from major sports franchises — the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals, Washington Nationals and Washington Wizards — are on the list, as is the president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide and other firms. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., is scheduled to make opening remarks — each year Gansler has a high profile politician to fill this role.
There is also fair representation from the Washington area real estate development industry, including Tom Baltimore, president of Bethesda-based RLJ Development, LLC. When asked about the appearance of conflict of interest considering that protecting the environment is one of Gansler’s signature issues, he said he didn’t see a conflict at all.
“There are far more environmentalists on this invitation than there are developers,” Gansler said. “I don’t discriminate against people who happen to build people homes that they can live in and buildings where they can work. The issue is whether or not they’re developing in an environmentally friendly way.”
Front-runner in campaign contributions
Gansler was totally unopposed in last year’s race for attorney general, and already has about $3 million in his campaign coffers, according to the annual report filed in January. His campaign account far surpasses any prospective gubernatorial opponent, including Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive Kenneth Ulman, who each have about $500,000 in their campaign accounts. As of January, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown had only $18,000 leftover from his 2010 run with Gov. Martin O’Malley against Republican Bob Ehrlich.
Todd Eberly, public policy studies coordinator at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said money suggests Gansler is the stronger candidate right now.
“He already has a very substantial war chest, considerably more than what any of the other potential candidates have filed,” Eberly said. “His tactic is what the tactic of any presumed front-runner would be – make the mountain seem so insurmountable that no one would seem to climb it and try to claim the king of the mountain. If it looks like you can’t possibly out raise or compete with another person dollar for dollar, or even fifty cents on the dollar, the hope would be that some potential challengers would throw in the towel before even entering the race.”
Gansler said he doesn’t plan to announce a run for governor anytime soon and he would still consider another run for attorney general.
“There is no timetable. It’s very premature to think and talk about the next election, especially when there’s a presidential election between now and then,” Gansler said. “This fundraiser is for my next election, and that’s why we do it each year. As we start to gear up for my next election, then we’ll start to raise serious money.” Gansler said that would be in 2013.
Pushing campaign finance proposals
In the interim, Gansler’s office through his two deputies is trying to push through new campaign finance regulations that would “permit temporary investment of campaign funds in prudent investment vehicles.”
The request came in a June 29 OAG letter to the State Board of Elections. The regulations are recommendations from the OAG Campaign Finance Advisory Committee, which was created last fall by Gansler. Reforming campaign finance disclosures for political slates and protections against the creation of sham LLCs as donors are also a part of the priority requests.
Eberly said he would have some concerns with the proposed regulation changes.
“I would have some concern with regard to that much money being raised with the purpose of electing someone and then used to invest, which could introduce some distortions into the market. From a public policy and public ethics point of view, I have a little bit of concern with that proposal, but I could certainly understand politically why somebody would push for it.”
The State Board is scheduled to review a suggested list of investment vehicles by the attorney general’s office at its meeting Thursday in Annapolis.
Gansler, who said there is no political campaign going on right now, is having another fundraiser on Oct. 27 in Baltimore, his 6th annual event for the Baltimore area.
Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz gives his take on the Gansler event, including a detailed rundown of the “generals” on the host committee that contributed $4,000 a piece.