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As Long as We Remember...

June 11, 2003

Governor Ehrlich: The $16 Million Dollar Man

John P. Snyder

Maryland Democrats certainly had their knickers in a twist when they saw the Governor take in over $1.5 million in fundraisers after the legislative session. Amid high minded complaints about government access for sale was the stark realization that Gov. Robert Ehrlichís team will suck up all of the available cash in the state and leave some challenger financially deprived.

That apparently won't be Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who had a fundraiser at the Ravens stadium that netted $1.6 million for his campaign.

Itís quite an early start for the Ehrlich team, whose announced financial goal of $16 million raised for the 2006 election is simply off the charts compared to past elections.

In 1994 Parris Glendening had the field to himself when challenger Ellen Sauerbrey took the $1 million in state financing for her campaign. He amassed a $4 million war chest that, at the time, seemed way too much. Things heated up in 1998 when Mrs. Sauerbrey actually raised slightly more than incumbent Glendening. Total spending between the two was roughly $12.5 million.

Total spending for last yearís donnybrook was $25 million.

Anyone thinking of challenging Bob Ehrlich should have a promissory note for no less than $18 million attached to themselves at all times.

Some see this as a deterioration of our election process. To them, the 24/7 fundraising makes candidates less concerned about issues and more about their benefactors.

Government to the highest bidder! Baloney!

Governor Ehrlich and every Republican has to have the means to get their message out.

They cannot rely on The Washington Post or The Baltimore Sun to make his position clear, he has got to do it himself. Further, the Baltimore and Washington TV stations spend less time on politics as each year goes by. They rely on focus groups for direction, and statewide politics is not on the top five issues of interest.

Money is the motherís milk of politics. The Supreme Court has ruled that political contribution is a form of free speech. Attempts to regulate or limit the amount of spending in a campaign are freedom repressed.

In Pennsylvania, there are no limits to the amount of money you can give. In Maryland, the maximum amount is $10,000 in any election cycle, with $4,000 being the maximum for any one candidate. These guidelines were set in the mid-70's, after Watergate.

There needs to be a reevaluation of the rules. People should be able to give money as they see fit without restrictions.

The Governorís determination to be well-heeled during coming elections will help further Maryland's march to a two-party system.

The alternative is to rely on a grass roots movement. Having sampled both, Republicans prefer to have the money.

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