MD 1st: Spending in Kratovil-Harris Race Tops $7.5 million

October 24, 2010

By Lou Peck
Contributing Editor, Cecil Times/CongressDaily

As the hotly contested rematch between Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil and Republican challenger Andy Harris enters the homestretch, total spending by candidates and outside groups has passed the $7.5 million mark and is still climbing– guaranteeing it will be among the most expensive congressional contests in Maryland history.

Through the middle of October – with nearly three weeks to go until Election Day — the Kratovil campaign had spent just over $2.2 million in operating expenses, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The Harris campaign expenses came to about $1.8 million, for a total of $4 million spent so far by the two campaign committees.

But direct spending by the Kratovil and Harris committees tells just part of the story.
As of this weekend, with Nov. 2 still 10 days away, so-called independent expenditures by outside groups had hit $3.3 million in Maryland’s 1st District, according to the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation. A substantial amount of this money has gone for “attack ads” being aired constantly on Baltimore TV stations.

The Sunlight Foundation compilation does not include spending by a group called the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity – which was formed as a non-profit entity under Internal Revenue Service regulations, and is not required to disclose its donations or expenditures to the FEC. (According to estimates provided by Democratic sources to the Baltimore Sun, this group spent about $270,000 to air a recent ad on Baltimore TV.) The ad in question sought to utilize humor in taking a swipe at Kratovil, depicting him in Rockette-style dance line, linking arms with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Factoring in that expenditure, spending by all outside groups for and against Kratovil and Harris now tops $3.5 million – and, when added to the $4 million spent directly by the two campaigns, brings total spending on the contest to more than $7.5 million.

In addition, the Kratovil and Harris campaign committees had nearly $575,000 in the bank as of mid-October — $331,000 for Harris and jut over $242,000 for Kratovil – and have continued to raise money since. Kratovil is holding a fundraiser this Thursday, five days prior to the election, at the home of Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Susan Turnbull, with Vice President Joe Biden due to make an appearance.

Meanwhile, recent donations to Kratovil include a well-known Cecil County name: Brian Lockhart, president of the county’s Board of Commissioners, who contributed the legal maximum of $2,400 on Oct. 13. On the Republican side, J.L.Aughenbaugh of Rising Sun donated $1,000 to Harris this month.

The Kratovil and Harris committees could be on track this year to exceed the combined $5 million they spent in 2008, when Kratovil edged out Harris by less than 3,000 votes. Harris spent about $3 million two years ago, in comparison with $2 million for Kratovil. This includes the cost of competitive primary contests for both of them in 2008 – particularly for Harris, who ousted then-GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest. This year, Kratovil was unopposed for renomination and Harris spent a limited amount in turning back a primary challenge from businessman Rob Fisher.

Consequently, as compared to 2008, nearly all spending by Kratovil and Harris this year is focused on the general election contest.

In 2008, spending by outside groups to support or oppose Harris and Kratovil totaled $2.925 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That amount already has been exceeded this year by several hundred thousand dollars – although, in 2008, another $825,000 was spent in the Republican primary by outside groups to support or oppose Harris’ two opponents, Gilchrest and state Sen. E. J. Pipkin.

Of the more than $3.5 million spent so far this year by outside groups, Kratovil seems to have the advantage. About $2 million of that amount has been spent to boost his candidacy, largely through pro-Kratovil and anti-Harris TV ads.

The largest chunk of outside spending has come from the House Democratic and Republicans campaign arms. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent almost $1,119,000 on behalf of Kratovil, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has responded with nearly $840,000 to boost Harris.
Other outside groups coming to Harris’ aid include the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which has spent $212,000 on TV and radio ads; Harris is an anesthesiologist by profession who has been affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore.

In addition, a new group called the Concerned Taxpayers of America has spent in excess of $175,000 on ads critical of Kratovil. The majority of the funding for the latter group has come from Baltimore county businessman Daniel Schuster, whose family is also the top individual contributor to Harris’ campaign committee.

Outside groups on Kratovil’s side include America’s First Families Action Fund, a group funded by several wealthy out-of-state Democrats and the International Association of Firefighters, which is spending $400,000 on ads critical of Harris; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has put nearly $388,000 into ads supporting Kratovil – one of several conservative Democrats nationwide to get the business group’s endorsement; and Defenders of Wildlife, an environmental group that has spent more than $75,000 on TV advertising.

The First District includes the entire Eastern Shore along with portions of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.


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