Couldn't they drive something smarter?

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May 07, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

They hold news conferences at the pump. Issue hefty energy plans. Call for more fuel-efficient cars, lower gas taxes, investigations into alleged price gouging. One of them - the socialist running as a Democrat - is even pushing for nationalization of American oil fields.

We know what's on the Senate candidates' lips. But what's in their driveways? Do their wheels match their words?

Here's a rundown, assembled with help from The Sun's Andy Green, who drives a Hummer - oops, I mean Saturn:

Democrat Ben Cardin, the congressman who backs development of alternative energy sources: Chrysler Sebring (21 mpg city/28 highway).

Democrat A. Robert Kaufman, who calls for nationalization of the energy industry: Dodge Grand Caravan (18 mpg city/ 25 highway). He squares the gas-guzzler with his counter-culture leanings by noting that he needs it for his business, which involves buying stuff at yard sales and flea markets.

Democrat Allan Lichtman, who wants to increase fuel economy standards and develop renewable sources of energy: Honda Civic Hybrid (49 mpg city/51 highway).

Democrat Kweisi Mfume, who advocates fuel economy standards of at least 40 miles per gallon: "A beat-up old Jeep," he says (estimated 19 mpg city/22 highway).

Democrat Josh Rales, who also calls for higher fuel efficiency: Jeep Grand Cherokee (16 mpg city/21 highway).

Democrat Dennis Rasmussen, who's pushing fuel efficiency and energy conservation: Jeep Cherokee (17 mpg city/21 highway) and Jaguar (17 mpg city/24 highway).

Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, another guy for greater fuel efficiency: a state-issued Suburban (14 mpg city/18 highway).

Republican Daniel "The Wig Man" Vovak's solution is to "just tap into the Iraq oil. We took over the country. We're in charge." He once lived in a car dubbed Air Ford One, but doesn't own one these days. "In last week and a half, I've taken a [Zipcar, an auto-sharing service], I've ridden Greyhound, I've ridden Amtrak, I've been on the MARC train line, I've walked and taken city bus. ... It's funny, people on the Metro line don't complain about gas."

Third-party candidate Kevin Zeese, who promotes greater fuel efficiency and more diverse energy sources: Honda Civic hybrid (49 mpg city/51 highway). He says actual mileage is more like 35/40. "The manufacturer lies," he says. "It's a corporation, you know."

And the guy they're all trying to replace? Retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who has called for price-gouging legislation: Ford Five Hundred (21 mpg city/29 highway).

Couldn't he find another spot?

Will the owner of that bright yellow Hummer often parked in the lieutenant governor's spot at the State House please stand up? I've been assured it's not Steele's, but that's all his staff will say. Surely, somebody out there can solve this nagging political mystery. The license plate seems to contain a clue, having to do with Virginia Military Institute lacrosse: VMI LAX.

Couldn't he just tip them?

Quit your bellyaching about BGE! When your electric bill jumps 72 percent this summer, at least you'll know it's for a good cause. Lots of good causes, in fact. Like Caves Valley golf caddies. Olympic snowboarders and skiers. A land trust in Colorado, where a certain energy company exec has a vacation home. And a library on a little Maine island, where he has another vacation home.

Mayo Shattuck is promising to give an estimated $5 million to $10 million to his family's charitable foundation if Constellation Energy is allowed to merge with a Florida utility.

Shattuck, who could pocket tens of millions in the deal, is suddenly feeling the oblige half of noblesse oblige. How else to erase the specter of an incredibly rich guy growing incredibly richer while old folks, priced out of AC, expire in the summer heat?

There's no telling how the Shattuck Family Foundation would dole out the dough. But the foundation's most recent IRS filing shows what's near and dear to Mayo and Molly's hearts. It donated a total of $314,500 in 2004 to, among others:

Caves Valley Scholars Foundation, which gives scholarships to golf caddies at one of the area's most exclusive clubs. The awards must be academic, since at least one recipient lives on a Bel Air street with "estates" in the name. Looked like one winner might have more modest, rural roots, since his address had the word "farm" in it. But the state assessed his family's house, on Brook Farm Court in Cockeysville, at nearly $500,000.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, the national governing body for the Olympic sports. Mayo was once on the board. "He is a skier, as are many members of his family, and he is a great, wonderful supporter of ours," says Christine Toriello, a major gift manager with the organization. She adds, in case you're interested: "I've not skied with him personally, but rumor has it he's a very good skier."

Eagle Valley Land Trust, Eagle, Colo. See interest in skiing, above.

Chebeague Island Library, Chebeague Island, Maine. Library director Deborah Bowman says the Shattucks have been coming to the island - 10 miles north of Portland, but not too remote for Conde Nast Traveler to seek the place out - for generations. They don't put on airs, she says. "They're just Chebeaguers."

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