Schaefer fund flow slows to a trickle

STATE DIGEST

August 16, 2006

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's fund-raising machine was barely operating this year as the incumbent added less than $21,000 to his coffers, a campaign finance report showed yesterday.

Schaefer, who is in a highly competitive three-way contest for the Democratic nomination, finished the reporting period that ended Aug. 8 with $419,129 in the bank. He had entered the reporting period, which began Jan. 12, with $496,786 raised in prior years.

One of the most prodigious fundraisers in Maryland history, the former governor did not hold a single large event during the period leading up to the deadline. Four years earlier, when he faced a less serious challenge, Schaefer raised $138,770 during the comparable period.

A Sun poll this summer showed Schaefer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor, with the support of less than a third of Democratic voters. He faces a Sept. 12 primary challenge from Montgomery County Del. Peter Franchot and Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Schaefer's lackluster fundraising this year left him with less than half the cash on hand reported by Franchot, who lent his campaign $750,000 and raised another $166,000.

Owens' campaign said her report was filed yesterday but as of the close of business it was not posted on the state election board Web site. Earlier, a spokesman said she would report about $240,000 in cash on hand -- with another fundraiser scheduled for last night.

Laslo Boyd, Schaefer's campaign spokesman, said the campaign held a successful fundraising event Monday.

Michael Dresser

Curran seeks firing papers

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. asked Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday to waive attorney-client privilege and allow the release of documents about the firing of a Democratic Baltimore County councilman from his state job.

In a radio interview this week, Ehrlich, a Republican, complained about his representation by Democrat Curran in a wrongful-termination suit brought by Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, which the state settled for $100,000.

Gardina's 2003 firing from Maryland Environmental Service is a key piece of evidence in Democrats' claims that Ehrlich has fired state workers for their political affiliation, which they have tried to make an issue in the fall campaign. Curran is the father-in-law of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who is challenging Ehrlich this fall. The governor and other Republicans have repeatedly suggested that Curran has not represented the administration's interests in the Gardina case and other matters.

Curran spokesman Kevin Enright said in an e-mail that the attorney general sent the letter to Ehrlich so that his office could "respond to questions and produce documents relating to the decision to settle, in light of the public interest generated by his comments."

Enright said Curran wants a response by the end of the week.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the governor has received the letter and is reviewing it.

Andrew A. Green

Site reveals campaign finance

Maryland voters who want to know who gives money to political candidates or what the money is used for have a new tool.

A voter Web site run by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County started operation yesterday. The site -- http:--mdelections.umbc.edu/ -- allows users to search and sort through political candidates using already available financial disclosure data in an easier-to-use format.

The Web site also gives candidates room to post a photo and short descriptions of their backgrounds and interests. Some candidates posted profiles on the Web site within an hour of its going live, said Donald F. Norris, a public policy professor at the university who oversaw the Web site's creation.

Voters can also find if they are registered to vote and get driving directions to their polling places.

"It's the only publicly available, publicly accessible Web site in the state that provides voters and citizens with information about campaign finances and also allows people to look up their voter registration status," Norris said. "It's a real tool."

Associated Press

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