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Board of Elections issues guidance on fundraising

ANNAPOLIS — Candidates who are allowed to raise money during the legislative session can continue to do so, even if they are on a ticket with someone who is barred from fundraising during the 90-day session, the Maryland State Board of Elections said Thursday.

The guidance is relevant in the governor’s race because Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, is not covered by the fundraising ban because he is not a state lawmaker or statewide office holder.

Ken Ulman

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (The Daily Record Photo/Maximilian Franz)

Brown and Ulman’s opponents in the Democratic primary — Attorney General Doug Gansler and running mate Del. Jolene Ivey — both cannot raise money during the session, which runs from Jan. 8 to April 7.

Maryland’s primary was moved up in 2011 to June 24 in order to make sure that voters in the military and overseas have time to receive absentee ballots.

In a four-page memo, the board said a candidate not covered by the ban may raise funds as long as the candidate does not coordinate with the official who is banned during the restricted period.

“Fundraising is candidate-specific and not for a particular office,” the board wrote. “The purpose of the authorized candidate committee is to promote that individual’s candidacy.”

The purpose of the restriction on fundraising during the legislative session is to curtail corruption or the appearance of it by eliminating contributions in exchange for a vote on legislation.

Gansler’s campaign released a statement criticizing the guidance.

“It’s one campaign; you can’t draw a line down the middle,” the statement said. “We fully expect the courts will decide this is prohibited — but regardless, it’s clearly unethical for one member of a ticket to continue raising money when the other member is barred from doing so.”

Brown’s campaign responded to the board’s memo: “The county executive has said all along that he would follow the letter of the law as interpreted by the Board of Elections, regarding any fundraising he does during session.”

Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, expressed concern about the board’s memo.

“This guidance allows some elected officials to skirt critical ethics reforms intended to limit the corrupting influence of fundraising during the 90-day legislative session,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of the group in Maryland. “The decision rests on the assumption that one candidate can engage in fundraising without coordinating those activities with the other candidate. But corruption can occur even without coordination.”

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