Because of a typographical error, a story in Sunday's editons incorrectly reported the amount of money raised at a recent fund-raising event by Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis, who is running for governor of Marryland. The correct amount is $79,900.
Esther Coopersmith, who has been raising money for Democratic for 25 years, shrugged her shoulders helplessly the other night. "If you've been active in Maryland politics for very long this is a very difficult time," she said. "Everyone is out looking for help."
Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III has asked her for money and help, she said, Atty. Gen. Francis B. Burch has asked for money and help. So has Baltimore County executive Ted Venetoulis. She expects that any day now she'll be hearing from State Senate President Steny Hoyer and State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.
All are running for the Democratic nomination for govenor. Lee is her favourite among them, Mrs. Coopersmith said but, asked is she'd contribute to the coffers of any of the other candidates, she replied:
"I will. What do you do when you have so many good friends running? They're all super guys.
Her dilemma isn't an unusual one this month. Everyone in the state seems to be out shaking the politcal money tree, dispite ther fact the primary election isn't until Sept. 12, 1978.
If one believes the estimates that candidates are throwing around, it is leading up to the most expensive election in Maryland history, a Democratic primary that could easily cost almost $3 million.
The problem is a simple one. There is no clear-cut front-runner among the half dozen Democrats vying for the governorship and there are a limited amount of people who traditionally contribute to campaigns.
In effect, all the candidates are dipping their buckets into the same money well at the same time. Each is trying to raise as much money as early as possible, hoping to dry up the well for other candidates and maneuver them out of the race. Competition is fierce. Democrates have scheduled a total of nine fund-raisers between April 25 and June 17, Republicans two.
With the election a full 16 months away, the smart-money men are hedging their bets, giving a little - but nowhere near their legal limit of $2,500 - to several candidates. They don't want to get caught with a candidate who might not even be in the race a year fromnow.
"An awful lot of people are going to be buying an awful lot of tickets," says Hoyer, a Prince George's County Democrat. "They want to cover their bases. They want to see and be seen."
Lobbyist, contractors, state regulated industries and appointed state officials are among the first bit. Col. 2>
"I'm on all the mailing lists," says Maryland's most successful lobbyist James Doyle Jr., who represents hospital, public utility, insurace, race track and other interests. "My feeling is whatever tickets I by are part of the cost of doing business.
Although Doyle insists "I'm not what you'd call a big, fat cat ticked buyer," he has already contributed to three campaigns this spring (Lee's Venetoulis' and a fund to elect Republican legislators) and plans to give to Hoyer, Burch and Baltimore City Council President Walter S. Orlinsky's, if asked.
"It's easy to jump on these fellas and say they shouldn't take money from us, but with campaign costs what they are what are they suppose to do?" Doyle adds. "If you eliminated all the people they turn to first for money, their campaigns wouldn't get off the ground."
"This is all a political fact of life," say nursing home industry lobbyist, Malcolm Rodman. "Candidates need money to run for election. It's just they way you play the game. As long as it's open and above board, I don't see anything wrong with it."
Rodman is executive director of the Maryland Health Facilities Association and represents nursing homes and other interest which are regualted by the state. It is customary, he says, for most candidates for state wide office to pick up the list of registered lobbyist from the Maryland Secretary of State and solicit from everyone on the list.
How does someone like himself decide what candidates to contribute to? "Very subjectively," Rodman says. "What's the old saying, you reward your friends and punish your enemies . . . In case like the governor's race, e might support the two or three leading candidates to be safe."
Burch, the attorney general, is the candidate putting the biggest rush on mony men, and is thought to be leading the financial sweepstakes. He's ben selling tickets to an already controversial fund-raiser in the cavernous Boltimore Civic Center May 31 for three months.
It is modeled after a fund-raiser Gov. Marvin Mandel held in the same location four years ago, which raised more than $900,0OO.
Burch refuses to publicly state a goal for the fund-rasier, although at one point two monthes ago he indicated he had already sold about $250,000 worth of tickets.
"The dinner is very important to us," said Burch's unofficial campaign manager Phil Altfeld. "If we do well, it will make other candidates re-evaluate their positions. They'll have to decide if they want to stay in the race for the governorship, or get on someone's ticket for another office. If we flop we'll be in trouble.
No one really knows how much money each candidate has raised or who they are raising it from. Under state law, they aren't requiredto disclose their financial backers until shortly before the primary.
The Lee camp claimed it raise $84,000 at a Montgomery County fund-raiser week last Thursday. The Venetoulis camp says it grossed $19,900 at a $100 a-couple fund-raiser April 25,and $7,000 at an earlier $15-a-person event. Hoyer says his share of a Prince George's Democratic fundraiser several months ago was about $25,000, and he's scheduled additional fundraisers June 6, June 14 and June 17.
Orlinsky says he's raised $24,500 at a series of smaller fund-raisers, including a "St. Valentine Massacre Party" where gin was served out of a bathtub. Two other potential candidates - Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and state comptroller Louis Goldstein - say they haven't raised any money.
There's little doubt that the campaign will be the most expensive in the state history. Orlinsky estimates his effort will cost $250,000. Venetoulis advisors say their candidate will need about $400,000. Lee, Burch and Hoyer forces estimate their efforts will cost between $700,000 and $850,000 each.
Each candidate is sensitive about money, and the rhetoric runs thick on the issue. Orlinsky, for instance, claims his fundraising, geared to smaller, colorful events, is different than the other candidates. "I'm not going to the Civic Center and go the arm twisting, shake down and route with soggy hors d'ouvres and watered down drinks," he says. "I've never been a $200,000 man and I won't be in this race."
Each candidate is keenly aware of the potential of campaign contributions becoming an issue in the race. Each knows his opponents aren't above making political hay over his mistakes. This has already begun to happen. The dinner is very important to us," said Burch's unofficially.