Ehrlich set for $4,000-a-couple fund-raiser

Ari Fleischer expected at reception in Potomac

October 30, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is keeping his re-election fund-raising machine churning, with a $4,000-a-couple dessert reception tonight at a private home in Montgomery County.

The event at the Potomac home of party activist Michael Epstein could draw more than 200 people, said Ehrlich finance chairman John C. Reith, and is the governor's first such foray into the state's most populous county since his election.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is the scheduled guest of honor.

"We're interested in keeping our finance operation running, and the best way to do it is to do events," said Reith, adding that the governor was on pace to hold up to eight major fund-raisers this year.

Reith would not provide an estimate of how much money Ehrlich is expected to report in his next campaign finance report, due in January.

At the most recent fund-raiser - a fashion show Oct. 9 at the Baltimore Convention Center where first lady Kendel Ehrlich announced she was pregnant - the governor raised $150,000 for his 2006 race. Some top Republicans expect the governor to raise and spend up to $20 million on his re-election effort.

The governor's rapid money-raising pace is influencing others.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. expressed some regret over a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser that he held early this month, but said he was forced to seek donations because Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley had held $4,000-a-head functions.

State campaign finance laws limit donors to a maximum of $10,000 to all candidates, and $4,000 to an individual campaign, during the four-year election cycle that began in January.

"It wasn't that I really wanted to go back and have a fund-raiser again after only 10 months in office, but the reality is the election cycle may be effectively up in two years," Smith said earlier this month.

Said Colleen Martin-Lauer, a fund-raising consultant who works for O'Malley, Smith and others: "I think people have become a lot more sophisticated when it comes to fund raising, and campaigns cost a lot more money."

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