`Evening With Dutch' to cost $1,000 a ticket for private reception

Ruppersberger benefit reinforces higher office bid

March 14, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Only a handful of personalities can command top ticket prices on the strength of one name.

Cher. Madonna. Cal.

Add a newcomer to the list: Dutch.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger is charging $1,000 a ticket for a 90-minute private reception tonight.The event is being billed as "An Evening With Dutch."

The price of attending what is traditionally Ruppersberger's largest fund-raiser has doubled since last year, giving more credence to speculation that the executive -- who is prevented from serving a third term in Baltimore County -- is seeking higher office in 2002.

"He's obviously running for governor, and would like to build his kitty," said Dorothy Foos, chairwoman of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee.

That might be, but the tickets contain only the ambiguous message: "Leader of the Future."

Ruppersberger aides say they hope to take in at least $400,000 from the event, to be held at Martin's West in Woodlawn. The cash would supplement the $1.05 million in his campaign account as of November, the most recent reporting period.

By holding his main fund-raiser in March, Ruppersberger, a Democrat, doesn't have to share the spotlight.

State politicians are prevented by law from raising money during the 13-week General Assembly session.

"It happens to work out just fine," said Robert J. Barrett, a special assistant to Ruppersberger. "You don't want to compete against them."

But Jeffrey R. Getek, a member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said Ruppersberger should voluntarily abide by the restriction "to show that he is in good faith with the fund-raising laws that the General Assembly applies."

Ruppersberger spends much of the spring in Annapolis, lobbying for school construction funds and other issues on behalf of Baltimore County.

His 2000 legislative wish list asks for $68.6 million in state funds for education and community projects, and many of the political leaders who could help fulfill those requests will receive complimentary tickets to the event, as they have in the past.

A year ago, Ruppersberger charged $125 for the general reception and $500 for a private reception preceding it. This year's prices are $150 and $1,000, respectively.

"I've always found it interesting that the Republican Party is branded the party of the rich," Getek said. "I don't know how many average citizens could afford a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser."

As in past years, Ruppersberger's fund-raiser will be attended by the attorneys, contractors, consultants and business leaders who do business with or have offices in the county.

Ruppersberger allies have long shown a propensity for helping him amass a hefty campaign treasury, and the coming year should prove more fruitful as the 2002 election draws closer.

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