Supporters of Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) are planning to raise as much as $1 million to splurge on his inauguration next month and are seeking an additional $500,000 to pay for the expenses of his government-in-waiting.
Although few details have been set, Ehrlich's aides are drawing up plans for an inaugural celebration that would last several days and include a parade, a concert, a children's festival and a gala at the Baltimore Convention Center.
Richard E. Hug, Ehrlich's campaign finance chairman, said a nonprofit inaugural committee would raise between $500,000 and $1 million for the event from private donors, mostly corporate sponsors.
"We're just developing the budget for that now," Hug said yesterday. "We're probably going to raise close to $1 million. If there's any leftover money, it goes to charity."
The cost of Ehrlich's extravaganza could surpass that of any gubernatorial coronations in Maryland.
The tab for Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening's parties to celebrate his 1998 reelection reached $865,000, about twice the bill for his inauguration four years earlier. Much of the money came from lobbyists and corporations with issues pending in the General Assembly and state government.
In comparison, former governor William Donald Schaefer (D) took a miserly approach. He nixed plans for an inaugural ball in 1987 and canceled three receptions after he won a second term, saying it wasn't right to spend frivolously when the state was wrestling with a $500 million budget deficit.
In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's inaugural committee raised $2.5 million after his election last year and wound up with a $1 million surplus, which was used to retire his campaign debt and set up a political action committee.
Republicans in Maryland said they were entitled to a little inaugural fun, given that 36 years have elapsed since they last won a governor's race. After an appearance in Towson yesterday, Ehrlich said he wants donors to subsidize the cost of his inaugural festivities so ordinary people can attend.
"We want to keep the tickets priced very affordably," he said. Organizers predicted the price of admission to the inaugural ball would be $125.
Ehrlich said he plans to "set some limits" on the maximum amount a single giver can contribute to avoid the appearance that a handful of big-money contributors or lobbyists are footing the bill.
"We do want to make it affordable, but then we're also sensitive to [the] appearance of big checks coming in," he said. "The way to get both is to have a lot of people contributing a reasonable amount of money."
The state covers only the cost of staging the Jan. 15 inauguration speech and swearing-in ceremony -- an expense that usually is less than $50,000. The nonprofit committee that will raise money for the inaugural parties and related events is not covered by any state campaign finance rules or guidelines.
James Browning, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, urged Ehrlich to voluntarily disclose the names of contributors to his inaugural fund and how much they donated.
"That's the number one concern: Who are these people?" he said. "What do they want, and what issues do they have before the General Assembly?"
Ehrlich aides said inaugural festivities will kick off Saturday, Jan. 11. Plans are underway for a prayer breakfast, receptions for lawmakers, children's events and a concert by the Spinners -- a personal favorite of Ehrlich's.
Meantime, Ehrlich's allies are planning a simultaneous effort to raise $400,000 to $500,000 for his campaign account -- on top of the record $10.6 million that he amassed during the race.
Hug said the extra money was needed to pay for staff salaries and other expenses that the Ehrlich camp expects to ring up during the two-month interregnum between Election Day and Inauguration Day. The state is providing $50,000 and free office space to Ehrlich's transition team.
Hug said campaign officials have scheduled three $1,000-a-person fundraisers this month and predicted that there would be no shortage of donors lining up to support the new governor. "I've got a lot of new friends," he said. "I don't need my old friends anymore, I've got so many new ones."
Ehrlich's success at the polls is also translating into unprecedented financial success for the Maryland Republican Party.
Wayne Frazier, a Baltimore contractor who headed up a group called Democrats for Ehrlich, said he and dozens of other black business owners have promised to raise $1 million in campaign contributions for the state GOP over the next four years.
Frazier said he already had $250,000 worth of pledges in hand.
He said many black Democrats wanted to send a message that they felt taken for granted by their party -- and also wanted to gain influence with the GOP, now that a Republican governor will run the state.
"I'm still a Democrat, and I still buy into Democratic principles," Frazier said. "But we want it to be understood in the black community that there is a two-party system in this country."
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.