Md. governor campaigns pay for RVs, helicopters, trains

Gov. Martin O'Malley ponied up about $10,000 for a campaign trail recreational vehicle and $1,189 for Amtrak trips. Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. doled out about $20,000 for a fashion show that doubled as a gubernatorial fundraiser and $3,000 for helicopter travel.

Those items are among nearly $10 million in expenses for the two leading candidates for governor, documented in their final pre-election campaign finance reports made public over the weekend. Ehrlich, a Republican, reported spending about $3.5 million; O'Malley, a Democrat, about $5.8 million.

Media outreach such as television advertising made up the bulk of the costs. But the reports also reveal how the candidates have spent their past few weeks.

O'Malley's report includes payments for "The Katie," a rented green and white recreational vehicle named after the governor's wife, Baltimore District Court Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley. (She told a reporter she's not fond of having a large vehicle bear her name.)

The campaign has paid $9,395.39 to the Annapolis RV Center for the vehicle, which is covered with campaign slogans. The governor has been taking it to campaign events such as this month's two televised debates. Other travel costs include a $1,189 expenditure on Oct. 8 for Amtrak tickets to New York and Philadelphia fundraisers attended by O'Malley's finance director.

The governor is paying large bills to his polling firm, Peter D. Hart Research, based in Washington. The company took in $100,500 in the past six weeks. O'Malley paid nearly $450,000 in campaign salaries. Top earners are campaign manager Tom Russell, who makes about $5,300 every two weeks, and Peter O'Malley, a senior aide and younger brother of the governor collecting biweekly salary of about $4,200.

Aside from media, Ehrlich spent most of his money — about $400,000 — on salaries for campaign employees. De facto campaign manager and longtime aide Paul Schurick pulls in the most money at about $8,000 every two weeks.

Tucked in the salary expenditures is a late September payment of $18,528 to Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, the North Carolina law firm for which Ehrlich launched a Baltimore office after losing the 2006 election. He is on leave from the firm, as are several members of his campaign staff. Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said the payment was for "routine legal services they provided the campaign."

Another big Ehrlich expense was fund-raising itself, which accounted for about $125,000. A fashion show hosted by his wife Kendel Ehrlich this month at Martin's West fell into that category. Ehrlich cut a $20,000 check to Bettina Collections in the Village of Cross Keys, which produced the show, providing clothing and models. Tickets cost $125 apiece.

On Sept. 23, Ehrlich paid about $3,000 to Baltimore Helicopter Services for transportation. Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth described it as "travel within Maryland."

Contributions to O'Malley and Ehrlich also shed light on their campaigns. Ehrlich outraised O'Malley by about $1 million for the period, taking in $2.8 million. Ehrlich also had slightly more in the bank as of Oct. 17.

Ehrlich accepted more than $25,000 from Republicans in office — about $8,000 more than O'Malley collected from a much larger pool of elected Democrats.

One of the most generous donors was Republican Sen. David Brinkley of Frederick, at $5,000. The Michael Steele for Maryland Committee transferred $6,000. Top Democrats who contributed to O'Malley include Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who gave of $4,000.

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