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Fundraising law handcuffs Gansler

Bryan P. Sears//Daily Record Business Writer//December 19, 2013

Fundraising law handcuffs Gansler

By Bryan P. Sears

//Daily Record Business Writer

//December 19, 2013

A four-page memo that spells out who is legally allowed to raise campaign money during the 2014 General Assembly session will most likely hurt one candidate — Douglas F. Gansler — more than anyone else who has declared for governor.

According to the memo, released Thursday by the Maryland State Board of Elections, state law bars the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and all 188 members of the House and Senate from soliciting or receiving donations or participating in the planning or promotion of events that would happen after the 90-day session ends.

On the surface, it would appear that this stops Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and Gansler, the attorney general, from fundraising activities.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

But the board’s memo also states that running mates who are not elected officials covered by the prohibition can raise money during the session — as long as they do not coordinate with their running mates.

For example, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a candidate for lieutenant governor on Brown’s ticket, is not covered by the prohibition. That means Ulman can raise money under his own campaign account — and later, he could legally transfer unlimited amounts of money from his account to the slate account he shares with Brown for the governor’s race. Brown and Gansler are opponents in the Democratic primary.

Mizeur’s fundraising efforts would be covered by the state’s public financing laws. That leaves Gansler out in the cold.

“It’s an egregious loophole,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.

On the Republican side, Harford County Executive David Craig can continue to raise money for his gubernatorial bid even though his running mate, Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is barred by state law.

Del. Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, is also prohibited from raising money for his own bid for governor. He has not yet announced for the race.

Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance for the state board, said the law allows this because it sees governor and lieutenant governor candidates as individuals.

“In Maryland, the campaign finance law is candidate specific, not specific to the office sought,” DeMarinis said.

This marks the first time that such a memo has been released in advance of the General Assembly session, DeMarinis said.

He said the timing of the session and the early primary in June as well as the large number of affected candidates running for other offices necessitated the release of the memo. DeMarinis also acknowledged that all of the Democratic candidate for governor expressed interest in the issue.

Bevan-Dangel said campaigns should “go out of their way to draw a bright line that shows there is no coordination” between respective running mates. She acknowledged that public perception may make it difficult to do so.

“There are ways to follow the law and keep it off the [running mate’s radar] but I agree very hard to do,” Bevan-Dangel said. “It’s easier for the campaigns to just not raise any money during the session at all.”

Mizeur is also covered by the prohibition while her running mate, Delman Coates, who is senior pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, is not covered. But a separate provision of the law governing candidates who seek public financing will allow Mizeur to continue to raise money during the session anyway.

Mizeur can continue to raise money in sums no larger than $250 total from any donor during the session. She cannot accept money from political action committees.

As for Gansler, he is barred from fundraising activities because he is the state’s attorney general. So is his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey, D-Prince George’s County.

Bob Wheelock, a Gansler campaign spokesman, acknowledged the effect it has on the campaign. Gansler will not ask anyone in the attorney general’s office challenge the ruling, Wheelock said, but the campaign held out hope that someone would take the ruling to court.

“Neither of our candidates can (raise money during the session) and if one of their’s can, it’s an uneven playing field,” Wheelock said. “You lose a quarter of the year. It’s a big disadvantage.”

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