The Republican primary race for the first congressional district showed no signs of slowing down this week, as an independent GOP advocacy group began running ads this weekend touting state Sen. E.J. Pipkin's past campaign donations to Democrats.
The Club for Growth, a political action committee that has thrown its considerable fund-raising weight behind state Sen. Andy Harris in the contest between those two lawmakers and incumbent Wayne Gilchrest, began a quarter-million dollar ad buy in the district this weekend. One of the radio ads notes that Pipkin and his wife contributed $1,000 each to the campaign of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat who lost the 2002 election to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
In a statement released yesterday by Pipkin's campaign, the senator noted that he made the donation while a "private citizen" fighting the efforts of Gov. Parris N. Glendening to dump millions of cubic yards of dredge spoil cleared from shipping channels in open water near the Bay Bridge. The episode led Pipkin, a former Wall Street junk bond trader, to enter politics.
"I attended an event that had the decision makers in the room," he said in the statement. "I made our case and they agreed that they dumping should not take place. I make no apologies for doing whatever it took to protect the bay. At the time, it was the most direct way to reach key leaders that were determining the fate of the dumping issue."
Chris Meekins, Harris' campaign manager, said their camp was "stunned" not only that Pipkin would have given money to Townsend, but that he apparently admits doing so with the intent to "exhert influence."
"Voters in this country are tired of the way politicians do business in Washington," he said. "The fact that E.J. Pipkin is willing to participate in the pay-as-you-play system is very disappointing."
Mike Brown, Pipkin's campaign manager, called the Club for Growth "an extremist group that is nothing more than a front organization set up to funnel money and skirt campaign finance laws. The fact that they are making a buy of this size just shows that they know the same thing we know, Harris is a pitiful candidate and is running an amateur campaign at best."