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Hug, prolific Maryland fundraiser, dies at 78

Richard HugRichard E. “Dick” Hug, 78, a businessman and prolific fundraiser who advised Republican political candidates including  former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehlrich Jr. and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, died Saturday.

A 1956 graduate of Duke University, Hug was president, chairman and CEO of Environmental Elements Corp. from 1973 until 1995, when he retired and built a legacy as a tireless fundraiser for the Republican Party, leading gubernatorial fundraising campaigns for Ehrlich and Ellen R. Sauerbrey and presidential campaign fundraising efforts in Maryland for former President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“Some people wake up early to go hunting,” Ehrlich told The Daily Record in 2002. “Some people wake up early to go tee off. Hug gets up early to ask people for money. He loves it. It’s his hobby.”

Hug’s fundraising was not limited to candidates for elected office. Over the years, he was an active fundraiser while serving on boards for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Business for Responsive Government, Leadership Maryland, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Kennedy Krieger Institute the United Way of Central Maryland and others.

Hug’s first campaign was for the United Way of Central Maryland in 1979, when he helped gather $20 million. Over the next three decades he would also raise $40 million for the National Aquarium, $120 million for the University of Maryland Medical System, $6.4 million for Sauerbrey’s failed 1998 gubernatorial bid and more than $100,000 for Bush’s campaign.

“Dick Hug is just an incredible fundraiser. He understands the connections that you have to have to raise money,” Carol Hirschburg, a key aide to Sauerbrey during her campaigns for governor in 1994 and 1998, told The Daily Record in 2001. “You don’t just send out a fund-raising letter and get $4,000 contributions. You have to have peers asking peers.”

Hug also served on the University System of Maryland‘s Board of Regents, a post he held while raising money for Ehrlich. In 2006 the General Assembly passed what was called the “Dick Hug Bill,” legislation that barred members of the University System Board of Regents from political activity.

In a joint statement released Monday, the House of Delegates‘ new Republican leadership team of Minority Leader Nic Kipke and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga called Hug “a great Marylander.”

“Mr. Hug was a man of tremendous talent – in business, philanthropy, and politics.  You were fortunate to have just a conversation with him and honored if you were his friend,” the statement said. “Words fail to describe his impact on Maryland or to describe the void his passing will leave. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lois and their family. Mr. Hug’s legacy of dedicated community service will not soon be forgotten.”

(Photo: University System of Maryland Foundation)