- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Maryland Democratic Party has a new fundraising campaign to compete with an event featuring President Bush to support Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele’s run for U.S. Senate.

“We need every Democrat in Maryland to stand up to George Bush and the national Republican machine,” Steve Jost, the party’s finance chairman, said in a letter to potential donors.

Mr. Jost also said the campaign is part of an “unprecedented drive” to transform how Democrats finance their party and that the campaign will “end the ‘boom and bust’ operations of the past, which gear up only a few months before Election Day.”

The Nov. 30 event with President Bush at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T; Bank Stadium and a previous fundraiser with presidential adviser Karl Rove in the District shows Mr. Steele’s “national right-wing allies” are attempting to “buy” a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, he also said.

Maryland has not had a Republican senator since former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. retired in 1986.

Steele campaign spokesman Leonard Alcivar said the new fundraising strategy shows Democrats are concerned about an upset.

“In the face of a voice that threatens to disrupt the stranglehold that [Democratic] Party bosses have had on voters, they changed their entire approach,” he said.

The change coincides with lagging donations to the Democratic National Committee, which this year has raised $42.4 million — about half of the $81.5 million collected by the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Jost told supporters they need to contribute year-round to defeat Republicans, whom he said would pump $15 million into Maryland to help Mr. Steele.

The event at the Ravens’ stadium alone could net more than $1 million for Mr. Steele, with supporters purchasing $125 and $500 tickets and paying $5,000 to get their photograph taken with the president.

Democratic contributors are being asked to pledge $30.41 a month, or a $1 a day, for the “Free State Democracy Bond,” according to the party’s Web site.

The site also states that for $6.15 a month, contributors can “join the fight to raise the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour;” for $20.06 a month they can “take back our State in 2006” or for $104.00 a month they can “elect 104 Democrats in the House of Delegates.”

Mr. Jost said the goal is to sign 1,000 monthly contributors to raise enough money to “finance our entire grass-roots field program for all of 2006.”

Audra Miller, Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman, said the new concept shows the state and national Democratic Party is struggling to raise money.

Derek Walker, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said the party is thriving.

“We are having tremendous success raising money and engaging supporters,” he said. “This is a way for people to show that they consider supporting the Democratic Party an investment in their future.”

He also said the state party has collected more than $1.5 million this year, which is the most it has collected in a midterm election year and three times the amount collected in 2003.

“The only trouble we are having is processing the checks fast enough,” Mr. Walker said yesterday.

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