Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. collected $100,000 for his re-election campaign at a private fund-raiser held by a business partner of construction company owner Willard J. Hackerman this month, at the same time the governor's aides were contemplating the sale of state preservation land to Hackerman at a below-market price.

Ehrlich raised the money Nov. 4 at the Owings Mills home of Howard S. Brown, a developer and president of David S. Brown Enterprises. Brown and Hackerman's Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. are partners in a project to build a $220 million town center at an Owings Mills Metro station parking lot that would include a library and university building.

The much-delayed project is stuck in litigation in which the state and the Brown and Hackerman team are joint plaintiffs against the former owner of the lot, and the town center will rely on a variety of state approvals to be completed.

Four days after the fund-raiser, Hackerman bowed to criticism and abandoned his plan to purchase the 836-acre forest in Southern Maryland for the same price paid by the state. Hackerman stood to gain up to $7 million in federal and state tax breaks if he preserved the land, but according to documents released last week, he intended to build homes with a water view there.

Repercussions from the aborted deal are continuing. Yesterday, state Sen. Roy P. Dyson, a Southern Maryland Democrat, asked state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. for an investigation "to see if there was any criminal misconduct" involved in the proposed St. Mary's County transaction.

"I believe it is up to the attorney general's office to investigate this matter," Dyson said in a letter.

Some observers say the appearance of Ehrlich at the fund-raising event illustrates the unsavory role of money in politics and state affairs.

"I would say that sends a message that if you help raise money for the governor, you may get special treatment when it comes to bidding on state properties," said James Browning, executive director of the campaign finance watchdog group Common Cause/Maryland.

"Tragically, it is the way the system works," Browning said. "It suggests that raising money for a candidate is the price of doing business ... It is expected that you help out the campaign with one hand, while you are buying land from the state with the other hand."

Ehrlich, through a spokesman, would not comment yesterday on the fund-raising event. Brown and Hackerman did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

John Reith, Ehrlich campaign finance director, said the event at Brown's home was attended by 100 people who paid $1,000 each for the opportunity to meet the governor and view the developer's collection of modern art.

Brown had previously supported Democratic candidates, Reith said, and is part of a growing number of Jewish leaders who appreciate Ehrlich's support of Israel. The event's co-host was Hanan "Bean" Sibel, a retired food broker who has been a leading financial backer of U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat.

"We're an equal opportunity fund-raiser," Reith said. Hackerman did not attend the function, he said.

Brown and Hackerman are partners in the development group that was selected in 2002, prior to Ehrlich's election, to build on a parking lot at the Metro station. Their group was not chosen through a bidding process but was tapped after another firm withdrew from the project.

While the parking lot is owned by the state, prior owners are fighting to get the land back, claiming they have the right to reclaim the property. The state and Hackerman and Brown are partners in a lawsuit to allow the project to proceed.

Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Richard Scher said the Ehrlich administration supports the Owings Mills project and is pleased with the development team.

"The development process is headed in the direction that the MTA wants," Scher said.

The governor's office also would not comment yesterday on Sen. Dyson's request for a criminal investigation into Hackerman's negotiations to purchase a protected St. Mary's County forest.

Deal questioned