Big money on more than one side

Thus far in the 2008 GOP primary election here in the First of Maryland we’ve had a number of complaints and cross-complaints, including a pair of insinuations of illegalities by Andy Harris’s campaign. One is guilt by association because Harris uses a media consultant company called Jamestown Associates, while the other is an FEC suit brought by attorney and E.J. Pipkin backer James Braswell. For his part, Braswell claims that he’s not necessarily against the Club For Growth philsophically, but doesn’t condone their attempts to influence the primary and “buy” a Congressman. Quoting from Braswell’s website, The Bully Pulpit:

In my opinion, Andy Harris is being bought by the Club for Growth. If it wasn’t for the Club for Growth, Andy would not stand a chance in this race. If Andy goes to Congress, he will just be another typical politician who will put the best interests of his campaign slush fund ahead of the citizens he represents.

Fair enough – obviously this post is my opinion as well. And yesterday I received word that the group Republicans Who Care received a big contribution from an interesting source to run a new commercial calling both Harris and Pipkin big spenders. In a press release the group claims:

Today, the Republicans Who Care Fund unveiled a new television advertising campaign in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District (the ad can be seen on the Republicans Who Care website – “Andy Harris and E.J. Pipkin have voted to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on wasteful projects, and the voters deserve to know the truth about their dismal legislative records,” said Kirk Walder of Republicans Who Care.

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Harris and Pipkin are Maryland State Senators currently challenging Congressman Wayne Gilchrest in the Republican primary.

The new television ad, entitled “Can’t Afford Him,” is on the air in the Baltimore and Salisbury, Maryland markets. The ad points out that Harris and Pipkin voted for millions in wasteful spending in the state legislature – including money for a cow museum, money for a dance hall in Montgomery County, and money to redecorate offices in Annapolis. “Talk is cheap, especially from politicians in the middle of a political campaign. The truth is that neither Andy Harris nor E.J. Pipkin are committed to reigning in wasteful spending, indeed their records make it clear that they are responsible for millions in wasteful spending,” said Walder.

“With politicians like Harris and Pipkin in Annapolis, it’s no wonder that Maryland voters are faced with an ever increasing tax burden,” continued Walder.

“The message of our ad is clear – Andy Harris and E.J. Pipkin have done enough damage already to the taxpayers of Maryland. Maryland taxpayers can’t afford to be represented by politicians like Harris and Pipkin,” concluded Walder.

Obviously the RWC group backs Gilchrest in the race, which is fine. I’d love to see the citations on these accusations – more likely than not they’re simply because Harris and Pipkin have voted in favor of the overall state budget in the past. Be that as it may, it looks like someone at the Club For Growth (yep, those guys again) did a little digging in the FEC files, and here’s what they found. I also have the .pdf file documenting the transfer here. Pay attention to pages 4 and 5 for the phrases that pay.

So why is a union that doesn’t even have a local unit on the Eastern Shore interested in this race? Perhaps they see Harris and Pipkin (particularly Harris) as a threat to their major goal of health care “reform” (read: HillaryCare.) The SEIU also has an “independent” health care site where they extol their legislative victories, chief among them Maryland’s infamous “Fair Share” bill. This is the group who is backing Gilchrest in the primary – I’m not holding my breath they maintain the stance in the general election even if Gilchrest wins. Check out some of the First District Democrats’ stances on health care and you’ll see how they all align much closer to the SEIU’s stand.

While Pipkin was a subject of the RWC attack ad he’s chosen to take it to Harris in his response, part of which was detailed on the PolitickerMD site today. (I must have made the Pipkin camp mad, I didn’t get that press release. Generally they’ve put me on the list.)

It’s also worthy of mention that the Chris Meekins quote in the post about Pipkin’s self-financed campaign is borne out by the FEC – most of E.J.’s funds come courtesy of a loan from himself. One may argue that by Pipkin risking his own capital he’s not beholden to anyone; on the other hand, both Gilchrest and Harris can boast of hundreds of individual donors showing their support.

Regardless, using just the three main GOP contenders as a yardstick, through last week almost $1.7 million had been spent pursuing the seat and there was almost $900,000 left in their coffers – not counting the $180,000 going to the Gilchrest-backing RWC or any additional Harris cash from the Club For Growth. It shows why we have the most-watched GOP primary race in the country.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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