- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

The majority of Maryland’s voters and lawmakers are Democrats, but the state has several residents who are top contributors to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Seven Marylanders have collectively raised at least $900,000 for the campaign and are listed on Mr. McCain’s campaign Web site by name, city of residence and amount of money contributed. Among them are a freelance writer, a former ambassador to Luxembourg, and the head of the Marriott hotel chain.

Potomac resident Gordon V. Smith is one such fundraiser, or “bundler.” The founder of Miller & Smith, a Virginia-based real estate firm, Mr. Smith raised nearly $100,000 for Mr. McCain.

Mr. Smith, 76, said that among the people he asked were friends, colleagues and people whom he had “done favors for.”

“Basically I called people I know, that I had worked with over a period of time,” he said. “I asked them to donate, and they donated.”

Government watchdog groups often criticize politicians for granting access and favors to top-tier fundraisers, but Mr. Smith said that is a slight exaggeration.

“You’re not going to get a direct line to the president unless you’ve raised a lot more than I did,” he said.

Mr. McCain, who accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night, lists more than 530 people who raised at least $50,000 for the campaign. There is no cap on the amount of cash fundraisers can bring in, although election law limits individual donors to $2,300.

Mr. McCain, 72, has a history of supporting campaign finance reform and ruffled conservatives by co-authoring the McCain-Feingold bill. Signed into law in 2002, the law bans soft money, or unlimited contributions made through political parties. It also restricts the ability of special interest groups to buy advertisements for or against particular candidates.

Mr. McCain’s Maryland bundlers, most of whom live in affluent Montgomery County, work in a range of industries and most are high-ranking executives.

John W. Marriott Jr., who raised at least $100,000 for Mr. McCain, is the chief executive officer of Bethesda-based Marriott International Inc.

Charles H. Salisbury Jr., who raised at least $50,000, is president of Salisbury Broadcasting, in Baltimore.

In addition, Peter Terpeluk Jr., a lobbyist with American Continental Group, raised at least $500,000. He was also a top fundraiser for President Bush and served as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg during Mr. Bush’s first term.

The other Maryland bundlers, all of whom raised at least $50,000 are: Sarah Mott Freeman, a freelance writer in Bethesda; Benjamin R. Jacobs, founder of JBG Holding Co., a District-based real estate firm; and Alex Johnson, an executive with Avalanche Advisors, a District-based lobbying group.

Only Mr. Smith could be reached for comment.

Raising large amounts of cash can be accomplished several ways, such as soliciting via telephone or inviting donors to a reception for the candidate.

Mr. Smith said such events are normally held at homes where donors mingle and munch on hors d’oeuvres. The candidate also typically drops in to make a brief speech, answer questions and pose for pictures.

“You stand in line” for the photo, Mr. Smith said. “It’s really artificial.”

State politicians also hold fundraising events, but the amount of cash involved is typically far less, said some Maryland legislators.

Delegate W. Anthony McConkey, Anne Arundel Republican, said his average campaign donation is $60. He spends $50,000 on a typical race and counts his mother and a childhood friend as two of his top donors.

“I hate fundraising,” he said. “Asking people for money is not very enjoyable.”

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