Outsiders Seek to Influence Maryland Politics with Campaign Contributions - Southern Maryland Headline News

Outsiders Seek to Influence Maryland Politics with Campaign Contributions

Even Steny Hoyer Contributed $3,000 to Candidate Who Represents Other District


WASHINGTON - The amount of out-of-state funding pouring into the campaigns of Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil and GOP state Sen. Andy Harris shows that the First District rematch is getting national attention.

Roughly half of the two rivals' campaign contributions this quarter have come from outside Maryland, according to a Capital News Service analysis of campaign finance reports.

Kratovil, D-Stevensville, got almost half of his $248,000 tally this quarter from special-interest PACs and other political committees. Harris, an anesthesiologist who has taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, raised $324,000, with help from his anesthesiologist colleagues around the country and a handful of Republicans already in Congress.

According to the CNS analysis, neither candidate battling to represent the district—which covers the Eastern Shore and parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford Counties—raised a majority of his funds last quarter from individual Maryland donors.

Candidates are only required to list geographic information about individual donors if the contribution exceeds $200 or if a donor has given a series of smaller donations that add up to more than $200.

According to the campaign reports, 65 percent of Kratovil's itemized individual contributions and 58 percent of Harris' identifiable individual donations last quarter came from Maryland residents.

That's lower than usual for Kratovil and about average for Harris when compared to the percentages for the whole 2010 electoral cycle. For the campaign to date, 79 percent of Kratovil's and 59 percent of Harris' itemized contributions come from in-state, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Figuring in all the money from political action committees, political parties, loans and interest, only 31 percent of Kratovil's funding and 33 percent of Harris' fundraising in the first quarter can be directly attributed to individual Maryland donors.

It's impossible to know exactly where the unitemized contributions of less than $200 came from, but even if it were assumed that they all came from Maryland donors, neither candidate would have collected more than half his total from Marylanders.

If Kratovil's $13,325 and Harris' $46,319 in unitemized individual contributions were assumed to be from Maryland donors, the in-state percentages would jump to 37 percent for Kratovil and 48 percent for Harris.

The Harris campaign sees those smaller donations as a good sign.

"That's definitely an indication of our strong grassroots support," said Bill Lattanzi, Harris' campaign manager.

Both campaigns received thousands in PAC contributions, money that comes from special-interest groups and other political committees. But, Kratovil's PAC funding totaled 45 percent of his first-quarter haul, while Harris' PAC collections made up 24 percent of his funding. While it's common for incumbents to collect more from PACs, Harris has often made it a political point.

The Maryland Republican Party, too, recently put out a statement knocking Kratovil for his reliance on PAC money instead of individual contributions.

"Ever since taking office, Kratovil has raked in the campaign cash from his special interest buddies, while voting for legislation the citizens of the First District oppose," said the statement by GOP Chairwoman Audrey Scott. "With yea votes for legislation like cap-and-trade and the so-called stimulus, Kratovil is in trouble this November and liberal special interest groups are trying to hold on to a Pelosi ally."

Jessica Klonsky, Kratovil's campaign manager, responded to the special-interest charge by pointing to the support Harris received in the last election from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, a national organization that spent more than $300,000 in 2008 to help Harris defeat moderate Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary.

"We fully expect that the same extremists who backed him last time are going to back him this time," said Klonsky.

Harris also benefitted from special-interest generosity this year, even though it wasn't always from an organized PAC.

Harris received 134 donations from people outside the state who listed anesthesiology as their occupation, including 10 from Texas, 12 from Florida and 26 from Tennessee. In total, Harris got almost $50,000 from other anesthesiologists, most of whom don't call Maryland home.

Both campaigns received donations from the leadership PACs of some of the top-ranking lawmakers in Washington, further evidence of the national interest in the race.

The Kratovil campaign received $3,000 from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, and $1,000 from Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington.

Harris got a $5,000 contribution from Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., the second-ranking Republican in the House.

Kratovil has $1,034,031 in cash-on-hand compared to $703,939 for Harris. Though Kratovil has more money in the bank, he's been outraised by Harris in two consecutive fundraising periods.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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