Steele Raised $1.3 Million in the First Quarter, Memo Says

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) will report raising $1.3 million during the first three months of the year, the highest quarterly haul to date of any candidate in Maryland's race for the U.S. Senate, according to an internal campaign memo.

Steele's fundraising clip is likely to match or exceed that of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore, who has far outpaced the other half-dozen Democrats in the race in raising money.

Cardin spokesman Oren Shur said Cardin's figure for the past quarter, which the campaign plans to make public today, will surpass the roughly $750,000 that the congressman raised during the final three months of last year. Cardin's strongest fundraising quarter came last spring, when he posted a little more than $1 million after entering the race.

Steele, an African American from Prince George's County, formally began his campaign in October and raised about $850,000 in the final three months of 2005.

A memo by Michael Leavitt, Steele's campaign manager, asserts that the lieutenant governor's momentum "is a clear indication of the unique candidate we have" and seeks to counter Democratic allegations that Steele is being propelled by Washington interests.

Steele spokeswoman Melissa Sellers declined to discuss the memo, which was sent yesterday to members of Steele's finance team, but confirmed its authenticity after The Washington Post received a copy.

The memo says that about three-quarters of Steele's contributors are Marylanders who have given an average of $120. That, the memo asserts, is "a sign of the lieutenant governor's broad grassroots network of support."

But the memo does not say what percentage of Steele's money has come from Maryland. Steele raised $500,000 in December at a fundraiser with President Bush and an undisclosed sum at an event last month with then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. Last week, he appeared at a fundraising event with Vice President Cheney.

Democrats have used these events to play up Steele's connections to the Bush administration, which remains unpopular in much of Maryland.

Steele's first campaign finance report, filed in the fall, also included contributions from political action committees affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Leavitt's memo says Steele finished the first quarter of the year with $1.76 million in the bank. At the end of last year, Cardin reported nearly $2.2 million in the bank.

Other Democratic candidates running to replace the retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D) said yesterday that they are not in a position to share fundraising totals. Reports covering the first three months of the year are due Saturday.

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