- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Republican Party has been forced to borrow at least $100,000 to cover 2006 campaign debts and daily operating costs.

The debt is just one of several financial problems the party faces after losing the governorship and more seats in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

“I was surprised to hear about it,” said former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, chairman of the state party from 1998 to 2002. “It potentially could be problematic. I don’t generally subscribe to parties having debt like that.”

The credit line was established a few weeks ago to cover operating costs after the 2006 election and day-to-day costs of keeping a campaign-season staff.

However, party leaders say establishing debt is a normal practice.

“This is nothing out of the ordinary,” Maryland Republican Party Executive Director John Flynn said yesterday. “We are going through financial restructuring right now.”

Leaders of the state party — including Mr. Flynn, Chairman James Pelura, treasurer Chris Rosenthal and representatives from Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions — were polled individually by phone, did not meet in person to debate the loan and a final vote tally was not made available to party members, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Flynn would not answer questions about the voting process, only saying it was “an internal matter.”

Republicans in November lost the governor’s office, six House seats and the fundraising edge that comes with controlling the governor’s office.

Republicans are preparing for their largest annual fundraiser — the Red, White and Blue Dinner, featuring anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist — but hopes are low since former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. lost his bid for a second term in November.

Sources say they expect the dinner to take in about one-quarter of the nearly $1 million it would raise annually when Mr. Ehrlich was in office from 2003 through 2006.

Mr. Ehrlich continues to raise money across the state, but neither he nor Mr. Steele, chairman the national conservative fundraising group GOPAC, has been asked by the state party leaders to help in fundraising.

“Getting those dollars in the door as early possible is critical for a party like ours on the heels of a devastating election,” Mr. Steele said, adding that the party has not held the same number of fundraisers as it normally does between January and May.

Many state party members were apprehensive to talk about the issue, but said the party needs to keep operating.

“What do you do, not let all of your bills get paid?” asked Tom Reinheimer, Montgomery County Republican Central Committee chairman and one of the members who voted to support the loan.

Mr. Reinheimer said many state Republican leaders are waiting on the income from the Red, White and Blue Dinner before making any hard decisions.

“We try to be conservative” with the dinner fundraising estimates, he said. “We’ll have to evaluate what’s going on with the staff.”

The party continues to pay for an executive director, events planner, political director and business manager during the off-election year.

Party leaders also removed their free legal counsel, Dirk Haire, and replaced him with paid counsel, T. Sky Woodward, former counsel to Mr. Steele’s unsuccessful Senate campaign.

The party does not pay a fee to Mrs. Woodward, Mr. Flynn said, instead paying her law firm, Miles and Stockbridge P.C. in Baltimore.

He did not say how much the party pays the firm.

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