WASHINGTON -- Hoping to shield his campaign contributors from prying eyes of Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, GOP congressional nominee Larry Hogan Jr. has suggested that potential backers donate $199 -- a dollar short of the threshold that would put their names on federal disclosure forms.
The proposal, in a fund-raising letter mailed to about 100 potential contributors last week, brought a stern reprimand yesterday from former Democratic Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who outlined the Hogan suggestion in a press release.
"Larry Hogan talks about cleaning up Congress," wrote the former governor, "but what he needs to do is clean up his 'D campaign fund-raising practices."
Federal laws require that donors of $200 or more be identified.
The Hogan campaign immediately faxed its explanation, claiming that the "contributor protection plan" had been "humorously created" but is necessary because Mr. Hoyer, the 5th District Democrat, has been using his powers of incumbency to "threaten and intimidate" potential contributors.
"We had gotten a lot of people calling, or telling me personally, they were afraid of pressure treatment from Steny Hoyer," said Mr. Hogan, a real estate broker.
Some contributors, he said, "personally talked to Steny Hoyer and he discussed the fact that he saw them on my contributor list."
"That in and of itself is intimidating to people in the business community."
fTC Mr. Hogan also charged that, after the National Association of Realtors endorsed him, one real estate broker told him that Mr. Hoyer was "raising all kinds of hell" and "threatening to kill legislation."
But John Harrison of Upper Marlboro, a member of the Maryland Association of Realtors PAC that recommended the Hogan endorsement, recalled only a somber Mr. Hoyer.
"He was disappointed. He felt that he's done quite a lot to help Realtors. . . . I never felt any intimidation on his part," said Mr. Harrison, adding that he has heard of no threats from the congressman.
Mr. Harrison has supported Mr. Hoyer in the past but said his group was "looking for a change."
Mr. Hogan said the fund-raising letter went out last week to about 100 potential contributors for an upcoming fund-raiser sponsored by Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall.
The letter notes that "friends . . . are afraid to contribute . . . becausethey feared the economic consequences if Hoyer learned of their contributions." The letter says "paper bags to wear over your head will be available at the door for those requiring further disguise."
Mr. Hogan said he has already received several $199 checks, and he brushed aside the Hughes broadside as "ridiculous and misguided."
But Mr. Hughes, now a Baltimore attorney, said the Hogan effort "is brazenly encouraging people to violate the spirit and intent of our campaign disclosure laws."
"[Mr. Hogan] suggests putting the bag on the wrong head. He should put it over his own head and hide in disgrace," wrote the former governor.
Mr. Hoyer, elected in 1980 and a member of the Democratic leadership, was redrawn into a more conservative district this year through the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts.