Campaign chest has been filled with...

SEN. PAUL SARBANES'

August 23, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SEN. PAUL SARBANES' campaign chest has been filled with contributions from non-Marylanders.

In the first six months of 1993, Sarbanes received $175,418 from 278 contributors, 265 of whom were from out of state.

A lot of people think this is a bad practice. In fact, the Senate passed a campaign finance bill in June that includes this feature: a senator may not accept campaign contributions from out of state during the first four years of a six-year term. This is a compromise position. Some advocates of campaign finance law "reform" would ban out of state contributions altogether.

The reasoning behind this idea is that senators should represent only state interests, not special interests. I've never understood this. Members of Congress do things that affect people in every state.

Take Sarbanes. He not only votes on legislation that affects all Americans. He has more than the importance of one vote on some issues.

For instance, he is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. Public officials and developers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere are vitally affected by decisions Sarbanes makes -- just as much as are residents of Baltimore. Let's say he was running against an opponent who promised to try to kill some program Sarbanes and the developers were for. Of course those out-of-staters would want to help keep Sarbanes in the Senate -- and should be allowed to.

Another for instance: Sarbanes is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Trade, Oceans and Environment. Again, there are people all over the country who are vitally affected by how he leads that subcommittee.

There is another reason non-Marylanders might want to contribute money to help keep Sarbanes in the Senate. He is the only senator of Greek ancestry. Simple ethnic pride motivates citizens of Greek ancestry in every state to support him.

Blacks similarly have a compelling reason to help black candidates for the Senate, regardless of where they live. Same with women. Non-Maryland women contribute to Barbara Mikulski's campaigns. Maryland women have given and will contribute to Dianne Feinstein's.

Then there is the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Indians in every state have a very special interest in what it does -- and so might want to contribute to its chairman's campaigns. (That's Sen. Daniel Inouye, a first generation Japanese-American. What a great country!)

Then there are those American citizens who have the best reason of all for wanting to contribute to the campaigns of senators in whose states they do not live: residents of the District of Columbia.

They don't have any senators. Yet Congress runs their lives. What Sen. Jim Sasser, the chairman of the Subcommittee on General Services, Federalism and the District of Columbia, does is almost life and death for them.

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