Brock bolsters campaign with his own money

April 16, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock put $290,000 of his own money into his campaign to unseat Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes during the first quarter of 1994, more than the $240,000 that Mr. Sarbanes raised in the same period.

A copy of a Federal Election Commission campaign finance report that Mr. Brock was filing yesterday showed that the 63-year-old Republican raised an additional $145,000 in the first three months of the year. Seeking again to quell the "carpetbagger" issue, Mr. Brock, who represented Tennessee in Congress for 14 years in the 1960s and 1970s, said 80 percent of his contributors were Marylanders.

But nearly half of the contributions came from out-of-state donors, many of them luminaries from Republican administrations, and an additional 6 percent came from special interest political action committees, an examination of the report showed.

Meantime, one of his GOP rivals said Mr. Brock "tried to run" for governor of Tennessee this year and then switched to the Maryland race after failing to generate sufficient support in his native state. Ruthann Aron made the claim in a new 30-second television spot that she said will run -- at a cost of "around $70,000" -- until April 28 in Baltimore, Washington, Hagerstown and Salisbury.

Mr. Brock said that "people asked me to come back [to Tennessee] and run" but that "it didn't take me long to say I couldn't do this. It's not what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be."

Mr. Brock tested the waters during a trip to Tennessee in the fall of 1991, though Tennesseans have differing views on the extent of his exploration. David Y. Copeland, a former Republican state representative who is running for governor, said he talked to Mr. Brock at the time and that the former senator "was considering" that race.

M. Lee Smith, a columnist and publisher of a political newsletter, said he, too, talked to Mr. Brock at the time and that the former Tennessee senator "gave it at least some preliminary consideration."

Other Republicans and friends of Mr. Brock had a different view.

Ted Welsh, a Nashville businessman, said he discussed Tennessee politics with Mr. Brock during the 1991 trip but that "I never got the impression that he was seriously considering running for governor of Tennessee."

The heir to a candy fortune, Mr. Brock spent $360,000 on his campaign during the first quarter of the year and had $75,000 left in his campaign account on March 31. Mr. Sarbanes, seeking his fourth Senate term, spent $68,000 during the first quarter and had $741,000 in the bank on March 31.

Stuart Rothenberg, a Washington political analyst, said that by national standards, the first-quarter fund-raising wasn't "particularly impressive," and he noted that Mr. Brock's balance "shows that as fast as it comes in, he's writing checks."

Mr. Rothenberg cited several candidates in other states who reported raising more money than Mr. Sarbanes and Mr. Brock. Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, said in a statement yesterday that he had received nearly $600,000 in the first quarter for his 1994 re-election campaign and had a balance of $1.6 million on March 31.

Campaign finance reports had to be filed in Washington or postmarked by midnight last night. Ms. Aron said at a noon news conference that her report was not ready but would be submitted on time. She refused to say how much she has raised.

She acknowledged that her first campaign commercial -- five months before the primary -- is an effort to build name recognition. The 51-year-old Potomac millionaire, an attorney and owner of a small development company, is making her first run for public office.

A February Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research, Inc. poll found that only 14 percent of Marylanders questioned knew her name, compared with 33 percent for Mr. Brock

and 96 percent for Mr. Sarbanes. The same poll showed that three-quarters of the Republican voters were undecided in the September primary.

"The Republican nomination, at least on paper, is still wide open," said Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon. He saw the Aron ad as an effort to establish credibility with the news media.

Ms. Aron is running as an outsider against two career politicians: Mr. Brock, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and member of Ronald Reagan's Cabinet after losing his Senate seat in 1976; and Mr. Sarbanes, who has been an elected official for nearly 30 years. She is also hammering at Mr. Brock as a "carpetbagger" and at Mr. Sarbanes as a liberal who voted to increase taxes.

She hits those themes in her commercial and also criticizes Mr. Brock for representing foreign governments in Washington. Until he began gearing up for his Senate race, Mr. Brock headed a Washington consulting firm whose clients have included the Mexican, Taiwanese and German governments.

Mr. Rothenberg characterized the Aron commercial as "a double-attack" ad because it goes after both Mr. Sarbanes and Mr. Brock. "That's very unusual," he said. "The standard rule in political advertising that is rarely violated is that you had better introduce yourself to voters before you start attacking."

That did not necessarily mean that the virtually unknown Montgomery County Planning Board member was making a mistake with this approach in her long-shot campaign, he said.

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