Republican underdog state Sen. E.J. Pipkin has spent $889,000 in personal funds since late March in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, including a half-million dollars of his own money in the past two weeks on a television ad blitz.
Aides to Pipkin refused to disclose the exact cost of the current advertising campaign, which has propelled the once-quiet race into the living rooms of Marylanders.
But spokeswoman Carrie Gentile said one Pipkin television commercial appears every 20 minutes in both the Baltimore and Washington media markets. One commercial introduces Pipkin as a family man. Others criticize Mikulski's votes on taxes and defense spending. "It's pretty steady," Gentile said.
Dundalk native Pipkin is a wealthy former junk-bond trader serving his first term in the state Senate, representing the Eastern Shore. His heavy spending has triggered a "millionaires' amendment" that is new to federal election law, meaning Democrat Mikulski can now receive three times the usual $2,000 maximum donation from contributors.
Pipkin filed documents with the Federal Election Commission last week showing he has spent $889,000 in personal funds since late March, with $500,000 spent on the campaign since Sept. 23.
Mikulski, too, has picked up the pace in her bid for a fourth Senate term, and is currently spending $100,000 a week on television ads in the Baltimore region, her campaign says.
The Pipkin ads reflect a vigorous effort to criticize Mikulski's record. One commercial says Mikulski "voted for higher taxes more than 350 times," including higher taxes on gasoline, Social Security payments and the incomes of married couples.
A second ad accuses Mikulski of voting against pay raises for the military and against the F-18 fighter jet and B-2 bomber programs.
Mikulski said the attacks were part of a national effort against Democrats.
"They engage in deception to create misconception," she said during a campaign stop last weekend. "Then they take your greatest asset and try to dilute or diminish it. Then they engage in politics of personal deconstruction."
Mike Morrill, a Mikulski campaign spokesman, said the tax-vote figure was fiction.
"It's a made-up number that Republicans are using from here to Washington state, in races against Democrats who have all been in [office] a different length of time, but all get charged with the same number of votes," Morrill said. Mikulski has voted 17 times to increase military pay, he said.
Pipkin campaign spokeswoman Aileen Kelly said all the votes had been documented, and provided some examples last night. Several appeared to be procedural steps in the legislative process.
The advertisements cite "congressional record" as their source, rather than specific bills.
Mikulski, who is ahead in the polls, is airing commercials stressing, job creation, health care and her support of veterans and soldiers
The "millionaires' amendment" was a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which also triggers rapid notification to Mikulski and other candidates when an opponent passes certain spending thresholds. Mikulski's campaign said yesterday that it had not received the required notification.
It seems unlikely that Pipkin will outspend Mikulski despite his infusion of personal funds. Morrill said the campaign raised $5.5 million through the end of last month, and was expected to have $2.5 million available entering the final month of the race.
Pipkin would not release similar numbers, but his aides said he raised $600,000 from donors. Records show he has lent himself $1.2 million, when primary election figures are added, for a total of about $1.8 million raised.