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Top Annapolis lobbyist hosts $1K-per-plate Schuh fundraiser

County Executive Steve Schuh visits Fort George G. Meade. Wednesday he'll be at a $1,000 per plate fundraiser in Annapolis.
County Executive Steve Schuh visits Fort George G. Meade. Wednesday he'll be at a $1,000 per plate fundraiser in Annapolis. (Daniel Kucin Jr., Baltimore Sun Media Group)

As the saying goes, re-election campaigns begin the day a candidate takes office.

For Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, that has meant a couple of fundraisers since he was sworn in Dec. 1. His latest effort to raise money was at a private breakfast Wednesday that brought home the bacon starting at $1,000 per plate.

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The event was hosted by Maryland's top paid registered lobbyist Gerard Evans, who made $1.1 million in five months from some 40 clients, according to the latest filing with the state.

The force of Schuh's fundraising arm was demonstrated throughout the election where his campaign war chest consistently surpassed that of his opponents. During the general election, the campaign raised $500,000 in five days — two months before the election. Online invitations for Schuh fundraisers began popping up almost immediately after he took office.

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Tickets for the latest event in Annapolis ranged from $1,000 per plate to $6,000 for four tickets, according to an online invitation. At an inaugural fundraiser in January, tickets went up to $10,000 for a platinum couples sponsorship.

Schuh said his recent fundraising efforts were a way to keep the momentum going. He said the events are kick-starting three years of raising money for his re-election bid, which right now is at a "low boil rate."

His post-election debts include a nearly $400,000 loan to himself. He also has to pay campaign staff wages and consultant fees. The rest will go to building the campaign's bank account.

Evans said Tuesday he was paying for the breakfast but was not raising money for Schuh. It is illegal under state law for a registered state lobbyist to solicit money for campaigns where candidates are running for a state office. There are no provisions for lobbyists who raise money for candidates running for county office.

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The lobbyist said he viewed the event as a meet-and-greet so his business clients could get to know the new county executive.

Evans works on behalf of 40 groups at the State House, including Verizon, the Baltimore Orioles, Queen Anne's County Commissioners and the state's police and firefighter unions, according to the Ethics Commission.

He was the top paid lobbyist in the state, making $1.1 million from November 2013 to April 2014. The majority of that time was taken up by the General Assembly session.

About 20 clients that do business in Anne Arundel County were invited to the breakfast, Evans said. As a state lobbyist, he said he is supporting Schuh as a county official because he hopes his clients would lend their support to the Republican running  the Arundel Center.

"Business issues are 24-7," Evans said. "We need an advocate in that office."

Evans said he supported and worked with Schuh during his two terms representing District 31 in the House of Delegates.

Evans was convicted in July 2000 on 11 federal counts of wire and mail fraud for conspiring with a Baltimore delegate to drive up his lobbying fees with a proposed bill on lead paint that the delegate did not intend to introduce. He served 18 months in jail.

When Evans came back to Annapolis — eventually winning a case that reinstated his lobbying license in 2003 — he said he did not commit a crime and that a new state ethics law at the time did not apply in his case, according to archives of The Capital.

Schuh's latest campaign finance report for a period that covered Nov. 12 to Jan. 14 showed he had $225,000 cash on hand. The majority of post-election expenditures included more than $67,000 in wages to campaign staff.

Another $50,000 went to campaign materials, the bulk of which paid political consulting firm Scott Strategies for phone and robocalls described as "campaign final push."

Schuh beat Democrat George Johnson in November with 61 percent of the vote.

Campaign finance records previously analyzed by The Capital showed Schuh spent $2.2 million since 2011 and raised more than $2.5 million in his quest for the county's top political post.

When asked what he hoped to get out of Wednesday's fundraiser, Schuh's answer was simple: "money."

This story was updated with the following clarification: State lobbyists are barred from raising money only for candidates running for state office.

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