Editorial: Putting the loot in lieutenant

Daily Record Staff//December 26, 2013

Editorial: Putting the loot in lieutenant

By Daily Record Staff

//December 26, 2013

Maryland’s campaign finance laws are something of a rabbit warren, a maze of tunnels leading to different destinations depending on the election cycle, the “campaign finance entity” on the receiving end and the donor’s total contributions to all such entities, separately defined.

One campaign finance rule, though, was so clear it could be summarized in five words: No fundraising during the session.

Now, the State Board of Elections has blown an escape hatch through that particular wall. If you’re a state official running for governor, the right running mate — one who is not also a state official — will get you out of the 90-day fundraising jail for free.

The best that can be said of the board’s Dec. 19 guidance is that it hews to one part of the black-letter law. The ban applies to state officials running for office (which includes members of the General Assembly), not to county officials or private citizens.

However, the ban also applies to anyone working on behalf of a state official’s campaign. It applies to other campaign entities “operated in coordination with” the state official’s campaign. Still another section of the law spells out that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are considered a “unit” and that a vote cast for one is a vote cast for  the other.

The board considered all those things, yet it decided that a would-be governor and lieutenant governor are separate candidates and that a fundraising prohibition on one does not extend to the other. Not surprisingly, a legal challenge to that interpretation has just been filed.

Whatever the courts determine, though, the board’s interpretation of the law is bad policy. It constitutes an end-run around the transparency the law is intended to serve. As The Daily Record’s Bryan P. Sears reported, there is nothing to stop the lieutenant governor’s campaign from transferring every dime raised to the gubernatorial campaign.

Simply put, the ban on raising campaign funds during the legislative session is designed to curtail corruption as well as the appearance of corruption. Having a running mate collect the loot does nothing to protect the system and does much to harm the public’s faith in it.

If the Board of Elections has read this law right, then the law itself is wrong.


Networking Calendar

Submit an entry for the business calendar