THREE LITTLE words that politicians hate to hear when they call their business and lobbyist friends - "I'm maxed out" - become obsolete tomorrow.
Jan. 1 is the start of a fresh four-year fund-raising cycle under state elections law. That means deep-pocketed donors who rebuffed recent requests by claiming they had reached the maximum must concoct another excuse.
Maryland law limits corporations and individuals to giving a total of $10,000 to all candidates during a four-year period, with a $4,000 maximum to any single candidate or account. The new cycle runs until Dec. 31, 2006.
Many politicians aren't waiting long before asking for largesse.
Because delegates, senators and statewide officeholders are prohibited from raising money during the General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 8, the coming week will be busy for political players on the chardonnay-and-chicken kebab circuit.
Republican Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s schedule includes at least two fund-raisers: a breakfast Friday in Perry Hall for Del. Alfred W. Redmer Jr., the House minority leader; and a breakfast Jan. 7 in Annapolis for the Maryland Republican Legislators Committee.
Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele will be a guest at a breakfast Friday for Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Asked why he was bringing attention to Republicans, Rawlings said: "After the election, the most important party is being a member of the state of Maryland."
"We will disagree on issues that the Republican administration will be promoting," he said, "but it doesn't mean we won't work together."
Additionally, Rawlings said he "can't ignore the fact that [Steele's] election was historic for the state of Maryland," putting the first black elected official in statewide office.
Some of those holding fund-raising events before the start of the session have yet to serve a day in the General Assembly, much less cast a single vote.
Sen.-elect Rob Garagiola of Montgomery County is selling $100, $250 and $500 tickets to a reception Monday at Carroll's Creek restaurant in Annapolis.
Garagiola, a Democrat, said his successful campaign to defeat Republican Jean W. Roesser left him with a $50,000 debt.
"I hope to put a dent in it," he said. "My need is not so much prospective, but retrospective."
But even as an incoming member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garagiola said supporters have been slow to surface. "Because of the holidays, it has not been an overflow of people jumping," he said.
Sen.-elect Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, is also holding a $500-a-head fund-raiser Monday at Michael's Cafe in Timonium.
Brochin said his campaign debt reached $103,000. Since his election victory over Del. Martha S. Klima, he has been spending about half his time trying to raise money, and the remainder meeting constituents and studying issues. He'd rather devote all his time to the latter, he said.
"I would gladly eat my campaign debt in return for campaign finance reform," Brochin said. "I think money plays an inordinate role in policy-making. I haven't served one day yet, or cast one vote, but it takes too much of the process."
Brochin said the donation limits should be lowered to lessen the influence of money. He also supports public financing of legislative elections. But until the campaign finance system is reformed, "I'm going to play by the rules," he said.
"We are sacrificing public policy in order to raise money," Brochin said. "No one is immune from it, but it's something that needs to be changed."
So far, mum's the word on governor-elect's staff
This month, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley disclosed that his police commissioner, Edward T. Norris, was resigning to become state police superintendent. For more than a day, Ehrlich's staff wouldn't confirm the selection.
Now comes word that Ehrlich has hired a deputy chief of staff, Baltimore native Ed McDonald, to work with chief of staff Steven L. Kreseski. The hire was first reported by the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record on Dec. 12, based partly on a news release that McDonald wrote. The statement was approved by his old boss, Republican North Carolina Rep. Howard Coble.
Still, Ehrlich's aides remained mum yesterday. "We can't comment on personnel," spokesman Henry Fawell said yesterday.
A former print and radio journalist, McDonald had been chief of staff to Coble since 1988. In an interview yesterday from Ehrlich's transition office, he said he was reluctant to change jobs, but couldn't resist the chance to work in his home state.
McDonald, 47, was born in Edmondson Village and is a graduate of Franklin High School in Reisterstown and what is now Towson University. He'll be one of three deputies reporting to Kreseski; the other two haven't been hired yet, he said.
So if the trend continues, will Gov. Parris N. Glendening start announcing some of Ehrlich's Cabinet secretary appointments?
No, said Fawell: "You will be hearing a number of names beginning later this week, and they will come on Ehrlich letterhead."
Glendening gives plum role at Peach Bowl to Ehrlich
Glendening will forgo a trip to University of Maryland's bowl game this year, leaving top honors to Ehrlich.
The governor-elect has been vacationing in Florida since Thursday. He and his wife, son and a baby-sitter are chartering a jet to Atlanta for today's Peach Bowl, and will return to Maryland tomorrow.
Ehrlich is paying for the flights himself, and the game tickets were donated by the university system, his staff said.