Cash pours into race Sauerbrey gets funds from several families, firms in legal trouble

Money hits record levels

Detailed reports show Glendening supported by labor

October 25, 1998|By Michael Dresser and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Michael Dresser and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

With Maryland's most expensive gubernatorial campaign entering its final week, the national Republican Party has opened its financial floodgates for Ellen R. Sauerbrey while organized labor has continued its strong backing of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

National Republican political committees and state parties contributed at least $54,000 to Sauerbrey during the past eight weeks as her fund raising reached new highs in September and October.

The cash-strapped national Democratic Party could provide little no money to Glendening, but union political action committees gave him at least $58,000.

The candidates' most recent campaign-finance reports were filed Friday, but a detailed list of the donors was not available until yesterday.

The reports showed that Sauerbrey has raised $1.73 million and Glendening $1.26 million from Aug. 31 to Oct. 18.

Their totals for the election cycle stand at $5.36 million for the governor and $4.95 million for his Republican challenger.

Both candidates, buoyed on the campaign trail yesterday by what each saw as a winning performance in Friday night's television debate in College Park, said they would be entering the final days of the campaign satisfied they would have enough cash.

"We will have what we need ," Glendening said. "We gauge what we'll need to win, and we will have that comfortably."

Sauerbrey noted that for a Republican to raise nearly $5 million in heavily Democratic Maryland "is phenomenal."

Companies' backing

Sauerbrey's report, released by the campaign yesterday, contained details that could prove controversial.

The report showed that Sauerbrey's campaign is receiving strong financial backing from several companies and families that have been in trouble with state and federal environmental regulators.

Among the contributors is the family of James J. Wilson, the multimillionaire real estate developer who was convicted in 1996 of felony charges of illegally filling wetlands in Charles County and sentenced to prison. The conviction, which was reversed last year and sent to a lower court for a new trial, became a national cause for conservative property rights advocates.

Wilson, the former chief executive of Interstate General Corp., is listed in the campaign report as giving $4,000 to Sauerbrey on Sept. 14. Four other people with the same surname listed at the same post office box in Middleburg, Va., also contributed $4,000 each to Sauerbrey for a total of $20,000.

A relative at Wilson's home said he was unavailable for comment.

Sauerbrey also received $5,750 from members of the family that controls Allen Family Foods Inc. on Sept. 3. The Maryland Department of the Environment brought suit against the Seaford, Del., company Aug. 13, charging that it willfully contaminated ground water at its chicken processing plant on the Eastern Shore.

The department is asking the Talbot County Circuit Court to fine Allen up to $10,000 a day -- or $3.65 million -- for more than a year's worth of continuous pollution violations.

The Allen family's financial support of Sauerbrey became a point of contention in Friday night's television debate when Glendening challenged her acceptance of earlier contributions from the Allens. Sauerbrey received $4,750 from John R. Allen, a family member, and two family-controlled businesses before Aug. 31, reports show.

An Allen family member reached last night declined to comment.

Sauerbrey also reported receiving $4,000 from an entity listed as "Tyson" of Springdale, Ark., the headquarters of Tyson Foods Inc., the giant chicken-processing concern with operations on the Eastern Shore. In July, Maryland environmental officials filed suit against the company, seeking nearly $536,000 in fines for allegedly putting chicken waste from its Berlin plant on an open field in Worcester County.

Two months earlier, Tyson agreed to pay $6 million -- the largest fine imposed in a Maryland water-pollution case -- for pollution from the plant when it was owned by Hudson Foods Inc., acquired by Tyson. The case was brought by the federal Environmental Protection Agency with help from Maryland environmental officials.

Tyson's headquarters were closed yesterday and no one could be reached for comment.

'Special interest money'

The Glendening campaign, which has dealt with several controversies over campaign contributions, pounced on the disclosure as vindication of its claims that Sauerbrey would be easy on polluters.

"It's been apparent for some time that Ellen Sauerbrey's campaign has been receiving a river of special-interest money from people who are opposed to strong efforts to protect our environment," said Peter S. Hamm, Glendening campaign spokesman.

Carol L. Hirschburg, Sauerbrey's campaign spokeswoman, said she has no knowledge of the contributions.

"I can only tell you that Ellen Sauerbrey has not made any commitments to anyone about what she might do or not do when she becomes governor," said Hirschburg.

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