Clinton speaks at Balto. Co. event

The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley helped Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton raise nearly a half-million dollars for her presidential bid last night at a Baltimore County fundraiser that attracted some of the region's most notable Democratic contributors.

The event was held on a day that the New York senator picked up her latest high-profile Maryland endorsement. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat, announced yesterday that he is backing Clinton's bid.

Clinton, in turn, praised Ruppersberger, along with O'Malley and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who also attended the dinner, before telling the crowd of 300 that the country needs a leader "that sets goals for America again."

Clinton's fundraising swing through Maryland comes as all presidential contenders seek to collect as much money as possible before a fundraising deadline that arrives at the end of the month. The leader in early polls, Clinton narrowly bested her Democratic rivals in first-quarter fundraising - widely watched by political observers as a barometer of early campaign strength. But some analysts speculate that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has raised more money in recent months, making O'Malley's assistance even more critical.

The governor endorsed Clinton earlier this year and recently traveled to the early-primary state of New Hampshire to speak on her behalf at a widely publicized state party dinner. Last night, he accompanied her to a VIP reception at the Martin's West banquet hall in Woodlawn, where guests had their pictures taken with the senator.

Ticket prices started at $1,000, the Clinton campaign said, but those who attended said that many husband-and-wife teams gave the maximum federal donation of $2,300 each for the primary and general elections, for a total of $9,200. The governor told the audience that he had helped Clinton raise nearly $500,000, more than the roughly $300,000 he had hoped for.

In addition to O'Malley supporters such as John Coale, the wealthy plaintiff's attorney married to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, the event also attracted business and political leaders tied to William Donald Schaefer, former state comptroller, governor and Baltimore mayor. Among those were Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. head Willard Hackerman, businessman and fundraiser Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr. and former Schaefer aides Lainy Lebow-Sachs and Bob Douglas.

The Clinton campaign is arranging two additional Maryland fundraisers in coming weeks, spokesman Blake Zeff said. They are to be hosted by Montgomery County businessman John K. Delaney and former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Thomas L. Siebert, an Annapolis resident. Dates have not been set, Zeff said.

As contributors arrived at the banquet hall last night, they were greeted by a handful of protesters demonstrating against O'Malley and Clinton. Green Party activist Myles Hoening held a sign urging the governor to "give back your BGE bribes," a reference to the double-digit electric rate increases that hit more than a million utility customers this month despite O'Malley's campaign pledge to reduce rates.

Hoening's wife, Brandy Baker, held a sign that said "Hillary Clinton: Neo-con." Baker chastised Clinton's 2002 war authorization vote, and said "her opinions are for sale to the highest bidder."

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