After complaining for years about aggressive fund-raising by the General Assembly's Democratic leadership, Maryland's Republican legislators said yesterday that they will follow suit and attempt to raise an unprecedented $1 million for GOP candidates in 2002.
The Republican lawmakers, who have raised no more than about $100,000 in past campaigns, said they had no choice if they are to remain competitive. Democrats waged a concerted fund-raising drive last year and added six legislative seats.
"The Republican caucus feels very, very strongly that it's important to respond to that," said former Del. John S. Morgan, chairman of the GOP legislators' fund-raising effort. "We can't go into the next election cycle with only one bullet in our gun."
The Republicans said they might follow the example of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who exploited a loophole in state campaign-finance laws last year to create a statewide "slate" of Democratic Senate candidates for fund-raising purposes.
GOP leaders sharply criticized Miller's tactic, but they said yesterday that they might have no choice but to do the same, a move that would allow unlimited spending on behalf of any of their candidates.
Without such a slate, the GOP's political action committee could transfer no more than $6,000 to any candidate.
"We learned in 1998 that the Democratic leadership was willing to raise money to go after Republicans. That's a fact of life," said Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, a Montgomery County Republican. "This is an effort to create a level playing field."
Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat, expressed surprise at the Republican plan, given the criticism of his use of a statewide slate.
"They said what bad government it was, anti-democracy," Miller said. "I thought the idea had been put to bed."
Miller said he has not made plans for 2002 fund raising on behalf of other Democrats.
Maryland Republican officials said yesterday that the party will help Baltimore mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro by paying for a $4,000 mailing to city Republicans urging them to vote for GOP candidates.
Spokeswoman Vicki Cox said the state party might provide additional financial help to Tufaro as the election nears.
Funds raised by the Maryland Republican Legislators Committee would supplement those raised by selected GOP challengers and incumbents with the toughest races, lawmakers said.
Miller's slate never said which candidates were being helped by its spending of more than $653,000. Republican leaders said they will disclose exactly how they are doling out their money.
The GOP legislators were joined yesterday by their party's gubernatorial candidate in the last two elections, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who raised a record $6.4 million for last year's race.
Sauerbrey said she will help raise money for the legislative candidates, as did her chief fund-raiser, Baltimore businessman Richard E. Hug.
"If we are going to continue to grow the party in this state, we have to have the fund-raising," Sauerbrey said.
Carol Arscott, a consultant who has worked for Republican candidates, said the GOP will have to work hard to reach its fund-raising target.
"If they're successful in soliciting the help of people who aided Sauerbrey, they could go a long way towards hitting that goal," Arscott said. "They've routinely been raising $100,000 without working too hard at it and with no staff."