Interests Pick Sides in Governor's Race
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 18; Page A1
Campaigning for governor four years ago, Parris N. Glendening (D) promised labor leaders he would work to give state employees the right to bargain collectively. He delivered, despite the objections of furious state legislators and a legal challenge from Maryland business leaders.
As he runs for a second term, organized labor has poured at least $127,750 into Glendening's campaign fund and is spending much more on its own independent advertising campaign on his behalf. The governor's Republican rival, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, has not received a penny from unions.
But Sauerbrey has made her own political friends.
In March, after Glendening publicly abandoned his support for a major highway through Montgomery County to relieve Beltway traffic, Sauerbrey reiterated her plans to build the so-called Intercounty Connector. Since then, she has pledged to spend millions of dollars meant for public transportation on road building, and her campaign has received a fresh infusion of contributions from concrete and asphalt manufacturers.
Such is the way in which money and politics mix: Political donations can be as reliable an indicator of a candidate's intentions once in office as stump speeches and television commercials. But for years in Maryland, it's been difficult to decipher which interests are represented on a candidate's income ledger, largely because of the limited disclosure candidates are required to make under state law.
A computer-assisted analysis by The Washington Post of the largest contributions to the gubernatorial candidates over the last four years offers a clearer picture. Even as both candidates say they are unaffected by campaign contributions, the analysis highlights how their promises and decisions can reap huge windfalls when it comes to raising campaign money.
Sauerbrey is finding rich support from a collection of industries that embrace her call for lower taxes, fewer regulations and more state-financed roads. These include poultry interests, financiers, steel and chemical manufacturers, business trade groups and particularly real estate interests - the biggest source of her large campaign contributions.
"What I'm very happy about is that we have such a wide and broad base of donors," Sauerbrey said. "That correlates with the fact that my message is one of helping to stimulate Maryland business, to bring back manufacturing, and to help small businesses do better than they have been."
"Clearly, I am proud of the strong support we are getting," Glendening said in a statement. "Legal professionals are supporting us for our strong, successful efforts fighting crime. Working Marylanders are behind us because they know we support their hard work. Doctors, nurses, and health care professionals know we have passed model safeguards to ensure that our people have access to quality health care."
Dollars From Direct Mail
The Post analysis examined the campaign's largest contributions, those of $1,000 or more. As an incumbent, Glendening got off to an early fund-raising lead and has collected $1.3 million more than Sauerbrey in such donations. But Sauerbrey has remained competitive by reaching out to conservative, rural Maryland with a successful direct-mail campaign. She has raised 53 percent of her money in donations smaller than $1,000, almost twice as much as Glendening.
Among other findings:
Sauerbrey has picked up fund-raising momentum this year thanks to financial support from interest groups that backed Glendening early in his term. Bankers, doctors, developers and horse breeders in particular have essentially hedged the early bets they placed on the governor out of fear they may prove useless if he loses reelection.
Both candidates appear to have benefited from their specific policies or proposals. Long-distance companies with state contracts, high-tech firms that have received state development grants and a tourism industry pleased by his support have given generously to Glendening. Retirees have donated three times as much to Sauerbrey, who has proposed cutting taxes on retirement income.
Sauerbrey has raised more money in Montgomery County than Glendening, who won Maryland's most populous jurisdiction in the last election. Four years ago, Sauerbrey did not even bother forming a finance committee in Montgomery because of scant support. The county was one of only three Maryland jurisdictions she lost.
Sauerbrey has a far broader donor base than Glendening. She has received 18,015 individual donations, more than twice the number received by Glendening. Her average donation is $175 to Glendening's $548. Political scientists say such small GOP donors tend to be among the party's most conservative, motivated by ideological agreement with candidates.
Glendening and Sauerbrey have set a feverish fund-raising pace that will approach the $13.3 million record set in 1994 by a larger field of candidates. A dark horse then, Sauerbrey accepted public financing that limited her spending and lost to Glendening by fewer than 6,000 votes. Glendening spent $6 million compared with Sauerbrey's $1.8 million.
Under Maryland law, individuals and businesses are limited to giving $4,000 to a candidate, $8,000 to a gubernatorial ticket and $10,000 total during a four-year cycle. PACs can give $6,000 to a candidate or $12,000 to a ticket.
Unlike the federal government and many states, Maryland does not require political contributors to reveal their occupation or employer. As a result, what industries are behind the money is unknown, partly undermining a system based on the premise that a donation loses its power to buy influence when the public knows who is behind it.
To track the interests contributing to each campaign, The Post has worked to identify the professional affiliation of each donor who has given more than $999 at a time. The paper identified the sources of nearly four-fifths of the campaigns' largest contributions and the interest groups behind all PAC donations through the Sept. 4 campaign filing, which covered contributions made through Aug. 30. The analysis may have missed money from interest groups that came in donations smaller than that amount. The next financial disclosure is due Friday.
Working With Glendening
Many of Glendening's biggest supporters view Sauerbrey as a serious threat to their financial interests. Those backers include labor unions concerned by the prospect of Republican right-to-work legislation, trial lawyers concerned by Sauerbrey's vow to reduce litigation and companies that do millions of dollars annually in state business.
The health care industry, for example, is supporting the governor by almost 4 to 1 over Sauerbrey, and he has large financial advantages over his rival in virtually every category of the industry.
Members of the industry say the inherent power of incumbency influences health care giving because few industries are as affected by government regulation. Also, the industry believes Glendening has done good things for it by emphasizing a health care strategy that seeks to insure more people through HMOs. Last year, he ordered all of the state's almost 500,000 Medicaid recipients to enroll in managed-care organizations.
"Most of our contributions go to incumbents," said Jeff Valentine, director of corporate communications for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, whose employee PAC has given $1,500 to Glendening. "You are giving to people you work with."
Labor also has a lot at stake this election, and it is spending money to reelect a governor who has been a good friend. Sauerbrey has discussed making Maryland a right-to-work state, with union membership voluntary, but has said she would not propose such legislation if elected.
Glendening met repeatedly with top executives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees International union in the months before issuing a May 1996 executive order that gave 40,000 state employees collective bargaining rights. Most notably, Glendening met in his office with Gerald McEntee, the AFSCME International president, for an hour on March 26, 1996.
A few months later, state employees elected AFSCME to be their exclusive bargaining agent, a vote that has increased Maryland membership by 10 percent and boosted union dues from state employees to $5 million a year. Glendening's reelection bid has since been featured in national union newsletters as a must-win race for labor.
The governor received 89 percent of his labor money since May 1996, and donations have arrived from AFSCME affiliates from as far as Illinois. Moreover, the AFL-CIO, of which AFSCME is a member, has spent roughly $500,000 on its own this year to champion Glendening's record in television advertising.
In an interview, McEntee said he made no fund-raising promises to the governor during their meeting. But he said he is not surprised that some of AFSCME's members nationwide are chipping in to help Glendening get reelected.
"They hear about it through the newsletters, through our own reports and through meetings," McEntee said. "We think he lived up to his word."
Trial lawyers also have been among the governor's most generous donors, sensing that Sauerbrey might be more supportive of legislation to curb civil lawsuits filed against business.
Civil lawyers stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars representing the state in a suit brought during Glendening's term against tobacco companies. Just last week, Glendening announced that he would make it possible for patients to sue HMOs, a boon for plaintiffs' lawyers.
"There's a very clear choice between these two candidates," said Dan Clements, a big Glendening fund-raiser and chairman of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association PAC, which has given the maximum $12,000 to the governor's campaign. "Her friends are the antithesis of individuals out to protect the consumer, the environment and the user of health care."
Developers Back Sauerbrey
In addition to her broad base of small donors, Sauerbrey has tapped into several major industry groups to set state Republican fund-raising records. She has won generous support from the development community, the financial sector and the poultry industry, which was blamed by the governor for a toxic microbe outbreak in Chesapeake Bay tributaries last year.
"The first thing this governor does is look to a government solution," said Steve Salamon, a health insurance broker and major fund-raiser for Sauerbrey. "I'm tired of always having to oppose the government solution that the incumbents in power push."
After supporting Glendening four years ago, poultry mogul Franklin Perdue and his family have given more than $30,000 to Sauerbrey this time. Perdue held an August fund-raiser for Sauerbrey at his Ocean City apartment that raised $67,000 for the campaign, and his wife, Mitzi, frequently serves as a proxy speaker for the Republican before Eastern Shore groups.
Another poultry executive, Charles C. Allen III, is also giving money to Sauerbrey this year after the Glendening administration sued Allen Family Foods for allegedly violating water treatment regulations at an Eastern Shore processing plant.
"When these types of things occur, it makes you look for who has a better approach to the issues," Allen said. "That's why we support Ellen Sauerbrey. At least I know where she stands."
Sauerbrey is also benefiting from her success in public opinion polls, reflected in mid-course corrections by several industries. During the first two years of Glendening's term, five prominent banking PACs gave the governor $4,500. This year, four of those PACs gave $11,000 to the Sauerbrey campaign.
"I don't want to take sides on this," said John Councilman, chairman of the Maryland Mortgage Brokers Association PAC, which has given to both candidates. "Business just doesn't do that. I can assure you that both of these candidates are very sensitive about people taking sides."
The development sector, a broad industry that includes home builders, highway contractors and commercial real estate brokers, is Sauerbrey's biggest backer. The industry has donated $259,698 to the Republican, almost all of it in the last 18 months, after many builders and developers initially supported the governor.
The shift may stem from some decisions Glendening has made in office - pushing so-called Smart Growth legislation that could slow the pace of construction and withdrawing his support for the Intercounty Connector. The governor now says he could support a more limited road through Montgomery.
Sauerbrey received roughly three-quarters of the large contributions she took in from cement, concrete and asphalt interests after Glendening's March decision to oppose the connector road. Some of her money also has come from Northern Virginia developers who hope Sauerbrey would consider other major road projects.
"The funding support from our industry . . . has increased tremendously," said Russ Roeding, executive director of the Associated Building Contractors of Southern Maryland PAC, which has contributed to Sauerbrey recently after giving initially to Glendening.
Sauerbrey also has appealed to development interests with promises to trim real estate closing costs, now among the highest in the nation, and to eliminate redundant state regulations that are the bane of small contractors.
"Business is good, but I feel it could be much better, and compared to other states, it's embarrassing," said William Berkshire, a developer who raises money for Sauerbrey.
Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.
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