Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has raised nearly $500,000 in a federal campaign account he created last year and has made his first effort at spreading the cash around in early presidential primary states, a pair of campaign finance reports released Wednesday show.
O'Malley, who has said he is considering whether to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, collected the vast majority of the contributions from Maryland donors. But the reports also show early signs of the national fundraising apparatus the term-limited Democrat is expected to build.
The money, an infinitesimal sum compared to what O'Malley will have to raise if he pursues the campaign in earnest, flowed despite uncertainty about whether heavy-hitter potential Democratic candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.
"The more people know about the governor's performance in office…the more people will want to take a look at him," said Terry Lierman, a former Maryland Democratic Party chairman who gave $5,000 to O'Malley's committee, the O' Say Can You See PAC. "He has a terrific network across the country."
O'Malley reported raising $164,076 in money that can be used to support candidates for federal office, according to the Federal Election Commission. He raised an additional $315,497 in non-federal money, which can be spent on gubernatorial and legislative candidates across the country.
That second stream of cash, reported to the Internal Revenue Service, is the first indication O'Malley intends to engage in those races beyond his role as finance chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. The account gives the governor a tool to establish himself with Democratic officials in early primary states such as New Hampshire and Iowa.
The reports cover the first half of 2013.
The federal PAC reported making a $2,500 contribution to Rep. Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democrat who announced this year he is running for the Senate in 2014. It also contributed $2,500 to former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, now a senator, who worked with O'Malley on Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign.
O'Malley and Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski held a fundraiser for Shaheen in May.
Speculation about O'Malley's national ambitions has percolated for years but has grown increasingly loud as he has checked off a series of liberal legislative accomplishments in Annapolis such as legalizing same-sex marriage, imposing tougher gun regulations and allowing immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at Maryland universities.
His second term expires in January 2015.
Early polling has placed O'Malley behind Clinton and Biden, underscoring that the governor is not well known outside Maryland. One percent of respondents chose O'Malley in a McClatchy-Marist Poll released last week, compared with 63 percent for Clinton, 13 percent for Biden and 6 percent for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Nearly one in five of those polled was undecided.
Republicans, meanwhile, have pounced on another piece of polling data — the fact that half of Marylanders say they would not support the governor for president. Only 21 percent of state voters said they would back O'Malley for the White House in a poll last year for The Baltimore Sun.
"If he'd done such a spectacular job, why do Marylanders feel they would not support him?" said state GOP Chairwoman Diana Waterman. "Maryland seems to be kind of forgotten by him unless he's trying to promote how wonderful he is."
The reports show a handful of prominent names giving to O'Malley, including former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings; attorney and fundraiser John Coale, who is married to Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren; April Delaney, the wife of Maryland Rep. John Delaney; and a former O'Malley aide, Matthew D. Gallagher.
"Governor O'Malley's grateful for the support he's received and will work hard to elect candidates who share his vision of creating jobs and expanding opportunity," O'Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
There is no limit on the size of the donations O'Malley can accept to the IRS account, but aides said he voluntarily capped contributions at $10,000. The report shows 11 donors gave that maximum donation — eight of whom are based in Maryland or Washington D.C. Aides said O'Malley did not solicit donations during Maryland's 90-day legislative session, which ended in April. Maryland law prohibits fundraising by state officials for state accounts during that time.
The governor remains heavily involved with raising money for the DGA, where he served as chairman for two years in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. The DGA reported raising $15 million over the past six months with O'Malley's help.
O'Malley is expected to travel to Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Florida, California and several other states to raise money for the DGA and individual candidates over the next several months.
An earlier version of this story misstated when Gov. Martin O'Malley's second term expires. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun