O'Malley relies more on out-of-state giving

Maryland Votes 2006

August 17, 2006|By ANDREW A. GREEN | ANDREW A. GREEN,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, facing a wide fundraising gap in his race to beat Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in November, relied on out-of-state donors significantly more than the incumbent.

O'Malley, who traveled in recent weeks to Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta for fundraisers, collected nearly $1 million outside of Maryland in the past seven months, or just under a third of his total. Ehrlich, who has shattered state fundraising records with a steady stream of parties in supporters' homes, has gone out of state less and has raised $375,000 from non-Marylanders.

"This is what Democrats have to do to compete with George Bush and the Republican fundraising machine," said O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese, who noted that the president, first lady Laura Bush, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Republican luminaries have helped Ehrlich raise money.

The Ehrlich campaign, expecting O'Malley would have tapped more donors from elsewhere, went on the offensive about the mayor's travels before it even knew the details of the finance report, which was filed with the state this week. In announcing the governor's totals, his campaign trumpeted in the headline of a news release that 97 percent of individual donations came from in state.

Although true, that claim underrepresents how significant out-of-state dollars have been to the governor. Those donors wrote much larger checks than Marylanders did (three times bigger, on average), so his contributions from elsewhere make up about 13 percent of the cash he raised this year.

Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said the disparity in where the candidates get their donations shows that Ehrlich is better in tune with Maryland voters and their concerns.

"This is an indication that O'Malley's political interests might one day exceed Maryland, just as they have Baltimore City," DeLeaver said.

James G. Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park, who co-wrote a paper on the "political geography" of campaign fundraising, said it is common for members of both parties to solicit funds from across the nation, in particular taking advantage of pockets that are full of affluent donors.

Gimpel said his research showed that the geography of votes and the geography of cash aren't the same, which explains why Ehrlich has been able to raise more money than his Democratic rival in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1.

The top sources of out-of-state money for the two candidates are similar, with both getting large amounts from the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia. O'Malley also got significant contributions from two of the Democrats' biggest strongholds: New York and California.

O'Malley has been active in the National Conference of Mayors and has used his connections to build financial support nationwide. He's also managed to attract some big names from his party, including former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger and former White House chief of staff John Podesta, all of whom served in the Clinton administration. He got checks from Hugh Rodham, who is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's brother, and Thurgood Marshall Jr., son of the late Supreme Court justice and once an aide to former President Bill Clinton.

Although Ehrlich is a former member of Congress, he has done less national networking. However, he did get four-figure checks from vice presidential nominee and former Rep. Jack Kemp - who spoke at the governor's 2003 inauguration - and the Republican National Committee.

Candidates routinely raise the source of their opponents' donations as an issue, but Gimpel said it generally doesn't decide elections.

"Many of the voters who would care about this issue are already solidly in one camp or another," he said. "Republicans who are committed Ehrlich voters would probably make a very big deal about it, while Democrats who are committed O'Malley voters would probably dismiss it. But that's just partisanship talking."

andy.green@baltsun.com

Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

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