Group behind Sauerbrey will raise money for ads CAMPAIGN 1994

October 04, 1994|By Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writers

A small group of Baltimore business people, lawyers and lobbyists yesterday kicked off an independent fund-raising effort behalf of Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a move that could help offset the huge financial disadvantage facing the Republican candidate for governor.

The group, according to a written summary of its plans obtained by The Sun, hopes to raise at least $125,000 to mount a television advertising campaign attacking Mrs. Sauerbrey's well-heeled Democratic opponent, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening.

That campaign could begin as early as next week, said Lisa G. Renshaw, the president of Penn Parking Inc. and a former GOP congressional candidate who is chairing the group.

"Citizens to Save Maryland" -- the name the group filed with the state election board Sept. 26 -- aims to ease the financial pinch for Mrs. Sauerbrey, who is limited to spending slightly less than $1 million because she has accepted public campaign financing.

Mr. Glendening -- who is not using public financing and thus has no limit on expenditures -- has said through aides that he plans to spend roughly $2.5 million for the general election campaign.

He also stands to benefit from the activities of the state Democratic Party, which can spend another $2 million on state and local candidates.

By contrast, any money spent by the state GOP and its county affiliates for Mrs. Sauerbrey counts against the limit -- $997,800 -- TC which she must adhere, according to an advisory opinion by the Maryland attorney general. The state party is challenging the opinion in court.

Citizens to Save Maryland is an independent expenditure committee under Maryland law. That means it can raise and spend any amount as long as it does not coordinate its activities with the Sauerbrey campaign. Contributors -- individuals or firms -- can give up to $4,000.

Ralph S. Tyler III, deputy attorney general, said the group's efforts appear to be legal. "If a nonparty committee makes

expenditures without the knowledge and consent of the nominee, those expenditures do not count against the nominee's public campaign finance limit," he said.

There was no indication yesterday that the Sauerbrey campaign had knowledge of the group's efforts. "We've gone to extreme measures about that," Ms. Renshaw said.

Carol L. Hirschburg, communications director for the Sauerbrey campaign, expressed surprise at hearing news of the group. "Really?" she said. "It sounds like a very high-powered and influential group of people. We're pleased to hear that they're going to be promoting her message of fiscal responsibility."

But David Seldin, Mr. Glendening's press secretary, suggested that the Sauerbrey camp was attempting to skirt the public financing law.

"There seems to be a pattern developing here of the Sauerbrey campaign working to evade the spending limits," he said.

Two other independent expenditure groups have already emerged this year. But neither "United Sportsmen for Sauerbrey" nor "Democrats for Sauerbrey" is known to have plans as ambitious as Citizens to Save Maryland.

About 15 prospective members of the group had an organizational meeting yesterday morning at Baltimore's Center Club. Each was asked to come up with $4,000 by Thursday, according to one participant, who spoke on the condition he not be identified by name.

Ms. Renshaw said later, "If we raise a million [dollars], we're going to spend it."

Those attending yesterday's hourlong breakfast included Richard E. Hug, chairman of Environmental Elements Corp., which designs and installs air pollution control equipment; J. Stevenson Peck, retired chairman of Signet Bank/Maryland; Earle K. Shawe, a labor lawyer who represents management; and Carolyn T. Burridge, the chemical industry's lobbyist in Annapolis.

The participants at the breakfast received a slick seven-page summary entitled, "The Independent Expenditure Opportunity: The 1994 Campaign for Governor of Maryland."

The goal of the group is clear. The governor's race, the summary says, "presents an unparalleled opportunity to elect a candidate who is strongly committed to the kind of pro-growth economic policies this state desperately needs. That candidate is Ellen Sauerbrey."

The document also reveals the game plan: "A paid media effort in the $125,000 range targeting the Baltimore metro media market can have a major impact by defining Glendening in unfavorable terms on crime, tax/spending and jobs throughout the pivotal Central Maryland region."

Television is the preferred medium and ridicule the tactic of choice.

"Creative TV gives the best bang for the buck," the document says.

At another point, it says, "Humor is the best weapon. Attack a politician and you might make people scared. But get people laughing at that politician, and he has real trouble. Our aim is to craft a message [that] takes serious crime and pocketbook issues, and makes Glendening laughable."

It also details the potential political value of the group to Mrs. Sauerbrey and makes a number of other points, including the following:

* Because Mrs. Sauerbrey is not associated with the committee, the group can air negative commercials (the summary calls them "comparative advertising") and "absorb any backlash -- insulating Sauerbrey."

* Under no circumstances should the advertising "touch on abortion or other issues on the social agenda. . . . While these issues are highly polarizing, they do not lend themselves well to the wholesale political message this effort seeks to deliver."

* The Sauerbrey camp "can't even publicly suggest that interested donors contact us. . . . All an independent expenditure group can count on is its own resources to get its message across. Money counts."

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