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No action likely on complaint on Gansler event

Brown’s camp had called fundraiser notice a violation

ANNAPOLIS — Civil penalties are unlikely in a case involving allegations that Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler violated state law prohibiting elected state officials from conducting or soliciting campaign donations during the 90-day General Assembly session.

In a memo, Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance, told the Maryland State Board of Elections that he “does not have sufficient evidence to warrant issuing a civil penalty because the ‘save-the-date’ notice was not identified as a fundraising event at the time of its distribution and therefore complied with past informal advice rendered.”

At issue was an April 1 email sent by fundraising consultant firm Rice Consulting LLC that included a save-the-date notification on behalf of the Gansler campaign for governor. The notice did not identify the dates as fundraising events nor did it solicit donations.

The Gansler campaign later acknowledged to the elections board that the event noted in the email was a fundraising event.

Under state law, the 188 members of the House of Delegates and Senate as well as all other statewide elected officials are prohibited from holding campaign events or even soliciting or accepting donations while the General Assembly meets.

The Gansler campaign and DeMarinis noted that Gansler’s fundraisers relied on informal advice previously given by the board of elections in other campaigns that allowed such notifications.

The board took up the issue after a complaint was filed by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown’s campaign. Brown and Gansler are both running for the Democratic nomination for governor in the June 24 primary.

DeMarinis noted that the board would seek to formalize a written policy on save-the-date notices for future General Assembly sessions.