Vice President Al Gore made a brief foray into Maryland last night to tap into the wealth of the state's well-heeled Democrats and came away with an estimated $600,000 for the party's coffers.
Megan Jones, deputy press secretary at the Democratic National Committee, said the money raised at the $25,000-a-couple dinner party will go to the party "for electing Democrats at all levels."
The presumed Democratic nominee for president delivered a standard stump speech, praising the robust economy and denouncing Texas Gov. George W. Bush and other Republican leaders.
"Here come the leaders of their party and they say let's abandon what has worked so spectacularly well," Gore told four dozen big-money contributors and about a dozen Maryland politicos.
Gore congratulated Gov. Parris N. Glendening on the General Assembly's passage this week of the first state law in the nation to require built-in locks on handguns.
The event was held at the Annapolis home of Wayne L. Rogers, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. Guests dined on beef tenderloin, asparagus and a raspberry dessert while hearing speeches by Rogers, former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, who is chairman of the DNC, and Gore.
Plenty of the region's heavy hitting Democrats were on hand, including Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and U.S. Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Albert R. Wynn. State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. also attended the event at the sprawling brick home of Rogers in a neighborhood where homes can sell for upward of $1 million.
The fund-raiser drew a select list of heavy Democratic contributors, such as venture capitalist Michael Bronfein, developer Bill Struever and trial attorney Steve Snyder.
Rival racetrack owners William H. Rickman Jr. of Delaware Park and Joseph A. De Francis of Pimlico sat at separate tables -- Rickman next to Glendening and Townsend next to De Francis.
The event raised a combination of "hard" money -- limited by federal law to $1,000 per person -- and unregulated "soft" money. In the past, both parties have used soft money to run ads that are ostensibly about issues but are geared toward the campaign of the presidential nominee.
Rick Hess, another DNC spokesman, said the Gore campaign has pledged not to use soft money for issue ads "unless and until" the Republican Party does.
Top Democrats have not made many campaign stops in Maryland, which they regard as part of their electoral base, but the appearances they have made have been lucrative. In September, Gore raised $400,000 for his campaign at a Baltimore event.
President Clinton raised $500,000 in soft money for the DNC at Harbor Court last month.
Fund raising has been a sensitive subject for Gore, who has acknowledged his aggressive solicitation of donations in the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign went too far. He was particularly embarrassed by reports about his appearance that year at a Buddhist temple in Southern California.
To counter the blows to his image, Gore has positioned himself this year as an advocate of campaign finance reform who has learned from his mistakes.