Finding the funds for Sauerbrey Politics: The Republican's candidate's finance chairman, Dick Hug, says she must raise $3 million more to unseat Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Campaign 1988

November 17, 1997|By C. FRASER SMITH | C. FRASER SMITH,SUN STAFF

In Ellen R. Sauerbrey's quest to become governor of Maryland, Dick Hug is the $4 million man.

That's how much he figures Sauerbrey needs to wage a winning campaign in her anticipated rematch with Gov. Parris N. Glendening next year. With $1 million raised already, Hug has $3 million to go by next fall -- which works out to roughly $300,000 a month.

Or $10,000 a day for the next 300 days.

"It's a horrendous thought," says Sauerbrey.

"Surprisingly easy," insists Hug, a 62-year-old retired businessman who comes to politics with skills perfected in civic fund drives, many with higher dollar goals: for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the National Aquarium's Marine Mammal Pavilion and the University of Maryland Medical System, among others.

As Sauerbrey's finance chairman, Richard E. Hug is a CEO-level, blue-ribbon volunteer who has overall responsibility for raising every nickel the campaign will spend in 1998. Every statewide political candidate has -- or hopes to have -- a finance chairman with a Hug-like resume.

His ability to reach his goals rests on relationships with able givers built over 20 years in the Baltimore business community.

Hug's personal contacts -- and Sauerbrey's -- are buttressed by private fund-raising companies hired by the campaign, a computer loaded with donor lists and a parade of national GOP stars whose presence in a hall can fill the $200 or $500 or $1,000 seats.

The resulting chemistry puts Sauerbrey in a financial world far removed from 1994, when she could command so little financial support that she abandoned her philosophic opposition to public financing of campaigns and took $1 million from Maryland's program. She justified her shift on grounds that the money was voluntarily given by citizens who contributed to the fund via their tax returns.

This time, though, Sauerbrey is the front-runner in the September GOP primary, a heavy favorite to defeat Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker -- as Glendening is in his Democratic primary race with Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

After some discussion among her advisers, Sauerbrey chose to go the private fund-raising route to avoid a repeat of what she calls a media pummeling from a better-financed opponent in 1994.

Four years ago, she had raised less than $100,000 at this point in the process. Her showing this time is a result of Hug's work -- and of the belief in some quarters that she could win next November's general election and become Maryland's first Republican governor in 32 years.

"He's provided entree for me to a lot of business people I didn't know," Sauerbrey says. Hug's involvement, she says, adds credibility that matters when you're asking people to invest money and risk offending a sitting governor.

Hug's approach begins with the formation of a campaign finance committee, a core group numbering 115 persons -- each of whom has promised to contribute the maximum $4,000 that can be given to a candidate under Maryland law. He expects the group to number at least 200 by summer.

On a Wednesday morning late last month, a pointed letter was flashed by fax to all 115 committee members. Hug's message to them read like a bill from the gas and electric folks or a credit card company.

"If you haven't done so yet," the letter said, "please bring your account current." If you haven't ponied up your full $4,000, in other words, pony now.

And while you're at it, the letter went on, sell a table or two worth of tickets (five or 10 to a table) for the fund-raising dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

"We're not bashful," Hug says. "You send out three or four letters or call people three or four times and pretty soon they say, 'If you're going to ask me again for money, Hug, I'm going to send you a check just to get you out of my hair.' "

The faxes went out in final preparations for an Oct. 30 event featuring an appearance by U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich of Ohio. Here was one of those days when Hug could exceed his $300,000 monthly quota in a single night -- raking in $400,000.

Money goes out as well, of course. Cash outlays have drained half of the $1 million Hug has raised so far: $178,000 for salaries, $60,000 for rent, $28,000 for printing, $26,000 for direct-mail appeals and $181,000 to cover events such as the one at the Hyatt.

In the campaign's final days, when the mass of voters finally begins to focus on the election, television commercials will cost $500,000 per week, Sauerbrey estimates.

Possible difficulty

Despite the occasional big nights and Hug's cheery assessment of Sauerbrey's prospects, the $10,000-a-day task may be even more difficult to achieve than it sounds. Notwithstanding tales of million-dollar contributions ladled about in Washington, no candidate in Maryland can hope for the arrival of Daddy Warbucks in a generous mood given the state's campaign contribution limits.

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