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Steele's Conservative Contributors

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has sought to move to the middle as he runs for election in a state where Democrats hold a nearly two-to-one advantage in party registration.

But Democrats have been quick to point out that dozens of campaign contributions steered to Steele's campaign have come from a group that supports only conservative Republicans.

In the final quarter of 2005, Steele's campaign received 115 donations steered his way by the Madison Project, a group that, according to its Web site, endorses only "Republicans who clearly demonstrate their conservatism. ..... Our values are pro-life, pro-family, limited government, defenders of religious freedom."

John Wagner

The Madison Project screens Republican candidates and provides assessments to its members across the country, who in turn determine whether to make donations. Most of the contributions to Steele were for $100 or less.

Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, argued that the donations showed that Steele is out of step with Maryland.

"Michael Steele [is] trying to hide the fact that he's George Bush's ideological soul mate," Singer said. "He doesn't want Maryland to know that he is too conservative for the state."

Steele's campaign referred questions to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which dismissed the issue as a distraction.

"Apparently the DSCC has replaced the researchers who stole the lieutenant governor's credit report, and they're at work trying to divert attention from the Democrat primary their party bosses were unable to prevent," said NRSCC spokesman Dan Ronayne.

He was referring to an episode last year in which a pair of Democratic researchers resigned after using Steele's social security number to access Steele's credit report without authorization.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  February 4, 2006; 11:15 PM ET
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