Money Talks, But What Does It Say?

September 08, 1994

Political bedfellows are not always so strange. News that Democrat James B. Kraft, who is running for a seat on the Howard County Council in District 4, has received $2,000 in campaign funds from developer Donald R. Reuwer comes as little surprise. Mr. Kraft is a long-time political operative in Howard who has run an aggressive campaign. He also, not coincidentally, has ties to Democratic Councilman C. Vernon Gray, whose own fund-raising ability among developers is legendary.

Mr. Gray has endorsed Mr. Kraft against his Democratic rival, Mary C. Lorsung. She has the backing of Councilman Paul R. Farragut, whom she has served as an aide and who is vacating the District 4 seat. Ms. Lorsung also has a long record of community service and an extensive knowledge of the West Columbia district. What she lacks is Mr. Kraft's fund-raising prowess.

In fact, if fund-raising alone decided the race, Ms. Lorsung, sadly, would lose. So far, Mr. Kraft has raised $11,615 overall to Ms. Lorsung's $3,735. Mr. Kraft is investing heavily in newspaper advertisement to boost his name recognition.

But Mr. Kraft has nearly exhausted the bulk of his funding, while Ms. Lorsung, whose grassroots work made her better known coming into the race, has hoarded her paltry war chest. They approach Tuesday's primary with nearly equal bankrolls.

That could put Ms. Lorsung on an equal footing with her challenger at a critical juncture, but it will not negate the fact that Mr. Kraft got a sizable boost from the development community early on. And while there is nothing wrong with Mr. Kraft accepting the Reuwer donations, it does taint his candidacy as one especially beholden to special interests. That is not an appealing distinction on a council that already has Mr. Gray as a powerful member.

Developers have an understandable interest in the political process, and a right to pick candidates they feel will best represent their concerns. And while backing a candidate does not necessarily guarantee an elected official's vote, it does equate to access. It is up to voters to act as a check and balance to assure that the influence derived through campaign funding is not undue.

Ms. Lorsung has shown she can tough it out without the help of special interests, even if it means running a campaign on the cheap.

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