Campaign notebook

August 09, 2006

Cardin criticized for Wal-Mart stance

The Maryland Republican Party is accusing U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of hypocrisy, raising questions about why the Baltimore County Democrat appeared at a rally last week demanding that retailing giant Wal-Mart change its business practices and improve employee health benefits after accepting money from the company's political action committee.

Federal Election Commission reports show Wal-Mart's PAC gave Cardin's campaign committee $1,500 in May 2001 and $2,500 in December 2003. Cardin is now running for U.S. Senate; the winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican.

Republicans also point out that Cardin has spent money at the store, as recorded in campaign expenditure reports.

"This is pure hypocrisy from Ben Cardin, and unfortunately exactly what you would expect from a lifetime politician," Maryland Republican Party chairman John M. Kane said in a statement. "He takes thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Wal-Mart and he shops there, but as soon as a bus comes through town beating up on them, he hops on board. This is Washington double-talk pure and simple."

Cardin, 62, is serving his 10th term in Congress. Oren Shur, his campaign spokesman, said the GOP is dodging a conversation about issues impacting Maryland residents.

"Is this seriously how Michael Steele and his allies are responding to Ben Cardin's call for universal health care?" Shur said. "Marylanders want a senator who will speak out on important issues like health care and workers rights, not simply launch petty political attacks."

Jennifer Skalka

Franchot is set to propose more school construction funds

Del. Peter Franchot, a Democratic candidate for comptroller, will call today for an expansion of the state's public school construction program to $500 million a year in 2008.

The Montgomery County lawmaker, who is battling incumbent Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens in his party's primary, said schools remain overcrowded in spite of this year's record school building budget of more than $300 million.

Allocating money for school construction is not a decision made by the comptroller, but Franchot said he would work with the next governor to achieve that spending level. He contended the state has sufficient unused borrowing capacity to increase spending to the half-billion-dollar level without additional taxes or other revenues.

Franchot is scheduled to hold two news conferences today to announce his plan - one in Baltimore County and one in Prince George's County.

Michael Dresser

Former aide to O'Malley joins family's travel agency

Jonathan Epstein, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's former campaign manager, is all but leaving politics to join his family's travel agency in Birmingham, Ala., according to an e-mail he sent to reporters and others in the region yesterday.

Epstein left the O'Malley campaign in May. He was replaced by Josh White, the former head of the Maryland Democratic Party.

In the e-mail, Epstein said he will also work with former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's political action committee, Forward Together. Warner is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008. Epstein gained attention in Democratic circles as a campaign operative by helping Sen. John F. Kerry win the Iowa caucuses in 2004.

It is not clear from the e-mail what role Epstein will play in Warner's campaign, and he did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

"This is an unbelievable and exciting challenge for us," Epstein wrote in the e-mail.

Epstein described the travel company, Celebrated Hotels Collection, as a luxury agency focusing on the United Kingdom and Ireland.

John Fritze

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