The winner of the Booz Allen Classic, which gets underway today, will take home $810,000. But the real money will be spent on the sidelines, where state and local politicians will be wining and dining Maryland's corporate titans under the guise of economic development.

If Baltimore has the Preakness for this purpose, Montgomery County's schmooze-fest is at the PGA event formerly known as the Kemper Open, being played at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel.

Both Montgomery County and the state of Maryland will spend between $20,000 and $50,000 on "sky boxes," where County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. each expect to mingle with about 150 CEOs and political heavyweights.

Unlike at the 2003 Preakness, where Ehrlich's political allies formed a nonprofit corporation and sought to pay for the governor's activities with private donations, the state's tent at the Booz Allen Classic will be taxpayer-financed. There will also be a political tent, where Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane will hold a series of fundraisers, with Ehrlich as the main draw.

The governor will be able to share the intricacies of the course with guests, having played in the Pro-Am event this week.

While Kane's aim is to bring Maryland donors under the GOP tent, the state's goal is geared toward luring big business to Maryland, said Dennis Castleman, Maryland's assistant secretary of economic development for tourism, film and the arts. He called the golf tournament a "great network event" and said it is well worth the investment.

"One relocated company with 300 jobs pays for that hundreds of times over," Castleman said.

Castleman did not provide the names of those being invited by the state.

But Montgomery County did fork over its guest list, and it reads like a who's who of Maryland business. For Saturday's festivities, J.W. Marriott Jr., CEO of the Bethesda-based hotel chain, made the invite list, as did John S. Hendricks, founder and chairman of Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications (and longtime Duncan campaign supporter). Also on the list are Special Olympics chairman Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Adventist HealthCare CEO Bill Robertson.

On Sunday, Montgomery will have 117 guests, nearly all from the biotech industry.

Although Duncan aides consider the event a perfect opportunity to try to persuade companies to move into the county, there remain those who say the money invested in entertaining millionaires could be better spent elsewhere.

"I just think there are needs that are greater than this, especially now," said County Council member Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring). "We just have way too many programs that are in dire need of funding. I appreciate the adage that you have to spend money to make money. But we've done this event year after year, and I've never seen any evidence that there's a return on the investment."

On the Cover

In a candid moment while strolling home from the office last week, Ehrlich was puzzling about his photo on the cover of the July issue of Baltimore magazine.

Inside the magazine is a revealing story about first lady Kendel Ehrlich and her efforts to turn the 54-room Government House into a livable home for her husband and two children. The governor makes a brief appearance in the article, defending his stance that the family's interior decorators find a place for his beloved, green leather couch. But he was saddened to see his wife bumped off the cover by a photo of him breaking open a crab.

"Somehow, I wind up on the cover," he said. "I don't get it."

Max Weiss, the magazine's senior editor, said the decision boiled down to which of the Ehrlichs "would sell more magazines."

"We put celebrities on the cover a lot, because they sell for us," Weiss said. "He's got a recognizable face, a little more so than Mrs. Ehrlich. I hate to say it, but it's true."

Weiss said the article was modeled after a story written about Jackie Kennedy in Life magazine in 1961, in which she outlined her plans to renovate the White House.

In the Baltimore magazine article, the first lady reveals how odd it was to move from a three-bedroom house in Baltimore County to a mansion with 13 fireplaces and nine bathrooms in the private quarters. Their first night in the kitchen, the governor's chef asked the Ehrlichs what they wanted for dinner and, Kendel said, the family froze.

"We were looking for a menu or something -- it was just very strange," Ehrlich told the magazine. "The chef, who had been here for many years, said, 'Well, everyone seems to like the crab cakes.' So we said, 'That sounds good to us. Let's have the crab cakes.' Bob and I looked at each other like, 'What are we doing here? This seems so unreal.' "

Kendel Ehrlich does take a swipe at the decor that cost the state $72,000 in 1995, when first lady Frances Anne Glendening took her stab at redecorating. "It was a little duller than I would have liked," Ehrlich says. "And it looked dated. It looked like what I would describe as a grandmother's home."

But mostly, she tells Baltimore magazine about making the mansion work for a young family. She says hers is the first family with a toddler to live in the house since 1939. She insisted, for instance, on installing a regular-size refrigerator where the Ehrlichs' elder son, Drew, could get his own sodas or ice pops.

"The last thing I wanted was a child who is ringing a bell!" Ehrlich says.

Campaign Cash

Maryland may not be in play for the 2004 presidential election, with the latest polls pointing solidly to a Democratic victory. But it is very much in play where campaign cash is concerned.

Democrats raised a reported $750,000 for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, at the Chevy Chase home of former bond trader, treasury official and political strategist Gary Gensler and his wife, photographer Francesca Danieli, on June 15. Three days later, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) arrived in Prince George's County with what appeared to be his vice presidential campaign in tow. The former presidential candidate was officially in town to raise money for Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), his biggest cheerleader in Maryland during the presidential primary.

But he sounded a lot like a man still on the stump. And Wynn still sounded like his biggest supporter.

"I'm pushing to see if we can help him be the next vice president of the United States," Wynn said. "That choice, of course, is not in our hands. This is someone who has a lot to say and a beacon of the Democratic Party."

As Edwards walked out of the $1,000-a-head fundraiser at Martin's Crosswinds, it was pretty clear who many want Kerry to select.

Among some of those spotted at the event: Montgomery County Executive Duncan (D), Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), Prince George's developer Gary Michael, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and lobbyists Wayne Clarke and David Jacobs.

And this week, the Republicans got in on the act, with Vice President Cheney scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday night in Baltimore County at the Lutherville home of developer David Cordish. That event was expected to raise about $500,000 for President Bush.

Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.