The commission, in response to a Public Information Act request, provided a complete list of scholarship recipients and the lawmakers from whom they received the money. By cross-referencing the list with a database of campaign contributors, the Washington Post identified dozens of probable matches, some of them confirmed by phone calls.
Nossel, a nursing student who received scholarships from Klausmeier, graduated in May from Villa Julie College in Stevenson, just outside Baltimore.
Sen. Paula C. Hollinger says need shouldn't be the only criterion.
Maryland Scholarship Recipients: Maryland's General Assembly is unique among state legislatures in giving taxpayer money to lawmakers for scholarships with few restrictions.
She said she worked two jobs in college and sought scholarships from various sources before receiving two $500 grants from Klausmeier's office. Nossel contributed a total of $65 to Klausmeier in 2001 and 2003, according to state records. Nossel family members, who live in Baltimore County, contributed more than $1,000 during that time, records show.
Klausmeier said in an interview that Nossel "works hard and deserves it."
"There's nothing saying that she can't" receive a scholarship, Klausmeier said.
Benjamin Pulz, a second-year law student at the University of Maryland, received several years' worth of scholarships from Sen. Philip C. Jimeno (D-Anne Arundel). His father, Stanley Pulz, has contributed at least $200 to Jimeno since 1999. His company, SPA Inc., contributed $475 between 2000 and 2004, records show.
"I've been fortunate enough to make enough money so that we as a family couldn't qualify for a lot of other scholarships, so that was the only other way out," Stanley Pulz said in an interview. "It helped [Ben] get through school."
Jimeno said that Stanley Pulz is "a personal friend" who has attended his fundraising events for years.
"I have no apologies and no regrets," Jimeno said. "The fact that [Pulz] contributes does not exclude his children."
Jimeno said a committee of his staff members determines who receives the awards based on recommendations from high-school guidance counselors. The counselors rate each applicant according to grade-point average, financial need and extracurricular activities.
"It's fair," Jimeno said. "Every student has an opportunity."
Critics say that with the limited amount of state money available for students who need help, arbitrary scholarships exclude those who truly need the aid.
"It's a relic of the political spoils system," said Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg), a Montgomery County Council member who headed Common Cause/Maryland when it did a detailed study of scholarship program in 1992. "It protects incumbents from competition. Over a long Senate career, a senator can literally award hundreds of scholarships to constituents, and that's remembered at election time."
Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) called the legislative scholarships a "disgrace" and "inherently unfair and wrong" at a recent hearing on his bill, which would end the program.
"This isn't our money. It's the taxpayers'," Brochin said. "People shouldn't be voting for us because they got a legislative scholarship."
Two days later, Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore) stood on the Senate floor and called Brochin's comments offensive.
"I think we really need to be careful," McFadden said, "We're not in keeping with the collegial atmosphere of this body."
The remarks were a rare rebuke of a colleague on the Senate floor, but the sentiment was not unusual.
"There's a lot of feeling of not wanting to change," said Sen. Sandra B. Schrader (R-Howard), sponsor of a bill that would take 70 percent of the money now given to legislators and give it to the state scholarship board to allocate. "I think there are some [senators] who believe in their heart of hearts that they want to make sure that people who really need the money are able to get it."
Research database editor Derek Willis contributed to this report.