Wide money trail in 1st District

Together, Harris and Kratovil have raised more than $4 million in House race, much of it from outside organizations

November 02, 2008|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,matthew.brown@baltsun.com

WASHINGTON - Between them, Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil have raised more than $4 million in pursuit of the seat now held by Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest. Add to that the outside money now flooding the 1st District, and Maryland's most competitive House race this year could be the state's most expensive ever.

So what does the anti-tax Club for Growth want in return for the $1.8 million it has sent Harris' way for the Republican primary and the general election this year? What price will the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee exact for spending $1.3 million to get Kratovil elected?

"Whoever is victorious will come to Washington owing some favors to the big money that has bankrolled their efforts," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. "That may or may not concern the voters, but they should be aware of it, and they should decide for themselves whether these interests represent them and their interests."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Sunday's editions that examined contributions to Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil in the 1st Congressional District broke down in-state and out-of-state donations from individuals, as analyzed by the web site CQ MoneyLine. The Web site does not have the numbers from political action committees, which would alter the percentages.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

Given the closeness of the race between Harris, a Republican state senator from Baltimore County, and Kratovil, the Democratic state's attorney for Queen Anne's County, the expenditures could play a key role in determining the winner. A survey of likely voters by the Olney firm Research 2000 last week showed the candidates in a statistical dead heat.

The Club for Growth and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are advertising heavily in the district that includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties. Now each campaign is going after the group supporting the other.

"The Club for Growth doesn't really care about Maryland's 1st District," Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor said. "They just want somebody else in there who takes that principle of less oversight and applies it to every single vote. [Harris] will be beholden to that."

On its Web site, the Club for Growth says its goals include making the Bush tax cuts permanent, cutting and limiting government spending, and what it calls "regulatory reform and deregulation." A spokeswoman said the organization, which backed the conservative Harris in his primary victory over the moderate Gilchrest, supports candidates based on records and philosophies.

"We expect someone like Andy Harris to vote and govern the way he did when he was in the state Senate," spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. "We have no doubt that that will happen, because he's a principled guy."

Harris' campaign manager says the goals of the group match those of the district.

In contrast, the Democratic campaign committee "is only in there to get Democrats elected and to help further the Democrats' agenda in Washington," Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins said. "So to claim you're going to be an independent after you've received ... assistance from the committee to help further Democrats is a little disingenuous, to say the least."

Kratovil has cast himself as a moderate who would be an independent voice in Washington. His spokesman said the fact that Democrats are supporting him was "hardly headline news."

"They're supporting very liberal candidates, they're supporting very moderate candidates, and they're supporting conservative candidates," Lawlor said. "People who are saying, you know, you're going to go to Washington and you're going to just follow liberal [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi around and her San Francisco politics like a family of ducks ... a lot of these people have never been to Washington or seen how Washington works. The fact is, anyone who thinks that Nancy Pelosi has the entire party at her beck and call is missing the fact that the Democrats actually have progressives, moderates and conservatives."

Money raised by the candidates themselves makes the 1st District contest one of the most expensive House races in Maryland history. Harris, a physician, reported raising more than $2.74 million through Sept. 30, with the health care industry the largest sector contributing. Out-of-state donors accounted for 41 percent of the contributions to Harris. Kratovil reported $1.54 million during the same period, with organized labor the largest contributor. Eighty-eight percent of his money came from Maryland.

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